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WeWork's CFO says it will generate $2 billion in profit on the desks it's opened this year, and it shows the importance of the 'space as a service' model

Wed, 05/15/2019 - 6:06pm  |  Clusterstock

  • WeWork's focus on attracting larger companies to its spaces is a key part of its growth strategy, co-president and chief financial officer Artie Minson told Business Insider.
  • The firm's revenue doubled year-over-year to $689 million last quarter.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

WeWork doubled its revenue in the first quarter, and it's gearing up for even more growth. 

The company now has $3.4 billion in multi-year agreements with big companies, a major revenue driver as it moves away from overseeing coworking spaces for small startups and into managing office space for big companies.

For the first time, that figure is now bigger than its total run-rate revenue of $3 billion – a key sign of how important its enterprise business is, chief financial officer Artie Minson told Business Insider in an interview. 

WeWork wants to be seen as more than a traditional landlord by offering a variety of services, from networking groups to tech-driven insights about space utilization. With its enterprise business, WeWork could oversee a company's real estate footprint across the world.

 WeWork is different from its co-working competitors because of its focus on this "space as a service" model for larger companies, vice chairman Michael Gross told Business Insider. 

In the first three months of the year, revenue more than doubled year-over-year to $728 million, according to an earnings presentation reviewed by Business Insider.

We Work also added 82,000 desks during that time. The company says those desks will generate $9 billion of revenue over their life and $2 billion of profit.

See more: WeWork's CEO explains why he thinks his $47 billion company is recession proof, and how he keeps his ego in check as a young billionaire

"We fundamentally believe we're at a paradigm shift on how physical space is being consumed. The world is never going back to 250 square feet per employee," Gross said 

WeWork's international presence is an increasingly key growth driver, too. However, it's driving average revenue per membership down – to $6,340 last quarter – as the company opens in cheaper locations, such as China and Latin America, Minson said. He added that membership revenue city-by-city is up, though the overall figure declined year-over-year.

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Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway reveals $904 million Amazon stake for the first time (AMZN)

Wed, 05/15/2019 - 5:49pm  |  Clusterstock

  • Berkshire Hathaway disclosed in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission Wednesday that it bought 483,300 shares in the first quarter, worth about $904 million.
  • CEO Warren Buffett told CNBC earlier this month Berkshire had been buying Amazon shares, but didn't reveal how much.
  • Watch Amazon trade live.

Investors knew Berkshire Hathaway was buying up Amazon. Now they know just how much.

Warren Buffett's conglomerate revealed in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission Wednesday that it bought 483,300 shares in the first quarter.

With Amazon's closing price Wednesday of $1,871.15 a share, that puts the value of the stake at just over $904 million. Berkshire Hathaway's position may have changed since the end of the first quarter.

Amazon's stock rose modestly in late Wednesday trading.

Buffett first said earlier this month in an interview with CNBC that Berkshire was buying up Amazon, but that he wasn't doing the purchasing himself.

"One of the fellows in the office that manage money ... bought some Amazon so it will show up in the 13F," he told the network just before the Omaha giant's annual shareholder meeting kicked off.

Read more coverage from Markets Insider and Business Insider:

Death, Wells Fargo, and the most 'fun' investment: Here are the biggest things you missed from Berkshire Hathaway's annual gathering

Warren Buffett says Wells Fargo 'incentivized the wrong behavior,' and Charlie Munger says he wishes Tim Sloan was still CEO

Warren Buffett says the US won't 'go into socialism in 2020, or 2040, or 2060'

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Warren Buffett, the third-richest person in the world, is also one of the most frugal billionaires. Here's how he makes and spends his fortune.

WeWork is setting up a $2.9 billion fund to buy buildings that it will lease to itself

Wed, 05/15/2019 - 5:32pm  |  Clusterstock

  • WeWork has set up a new fund to purchase commercial properties that it will then lease.
  • The move is a change from its traditional strategy of leasing space from other building owners.
  • Most of the money in the fund will come from outside investors, but WeWork will have majority control over it.
  • CEO Adam Neumann plans to sell to the fund properties he's purchased stakes in that WeWork has leased space in.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

WeWork CEO Adam Neumman has a new plan for the $47 billion office-sharing company: Instead of subleasing space in other people's buildings, he wants WeWork to buy its own buildings.

WeWork announced Wednesday that it has set up an investment fund called ARK that will be used to purchase commercial properties that the fund will lease to WeWork. The fund will be separate from WeWork and most of the money it will invest will come from outside sources, according to Bloomberg Businessweek, which first reported the new fund. But WeWork will be the majority owner of ARK, the company said in a statement. 

ARK will have $2.9 billion in cash to invest, $1 billion of which will come from Ivanhoé Cambridge, a Canadian real estate company, Neumann told Business Insider.

Read this: WeWork's CEO explains why he thinks his $47 billion company is recession proof, and how he keeps his ego in check as a young billionaire

"Now that people believe in us and are willing to give us money to buy [properties], we're very happy to have [partners] like Ivanhoé Cambridge," Neumann said. "We have some of the largest institutions of the world, and we will not let them down."

ARK represents a change of strategy for WeWork

Prior to the launch of ARK, WeWork has generally focused on leasing space from traditional property owners rather than buying and leasing out its own properties. The company typically subdivides the space it leases and sublets it to other companies, mostly startups.

With that strategy — and with plenty of backing from venture and other investors — WeWork has become a major player in the real estate market. It now has some 45 million square feet of office space around the world, about the same amount in all of downtown Philadelphia, according to a separate Bloomberg report

But the company's massive expansion has come with major costs. It lost $1.9 billion last year and has repeatedly had to raise new funds to replenish its coffers.

Neumann has generated controversy by personally purchasing stakes in properties that then lease space to WeWork. Although the transactions have been legal, he's been accused of engaging in a kind of self-dealing that raises questions about conflicts on interest.

Neumann is selling properties to ARK

As part of establishing the new fund, Neumann plan to contribute his interest in those properties to WeWork, Neumann told Business Insider. He'll sell them to ARK basically for the price he paid for them, he told Bloomberg Businessweek.

"Whatever I own that has any WeWork tenancy in it is moving to WeWork," he told Business Insider. "I'll lose money on that transaction, but the reason that's not a problem is because I'm a large shareholder of WeWork. WeWork is me; I am WeWork.

"If it's good for WeWork, it's good for me. The only vision moving forward is one aligned strategy."

To be sure, transferring the property to ARK doesn't eliminate the conflict of interest concerns, as Bloomberg Businessweek noted. What's good for the outside investors in ARK — such as which buildings to buy, which potential tenants to lease to, and the rental rate to charge — may not be good for WeWork and vice versa.

Although WeWork will control the fund, it will be overseen by Steven Langman, who will serve as its chairman, Neumann said. Langman and his team will run it to the benefit of the fund's investors, he said.

"They have fiduciary duties toward the people they raise money from," Neumann said. "It's their job to buy real estate that is going to make a return for their investors."

Got a tip about WeWork or another tech company? Contact this reporter via email at, message him on Twitter @troywolv, or send him a secure message through Signal at 415.515.5594. You can also contact Business Insider securely via SecureDrop.

Read more:

SEE ALSO: WeWork has raised $6.1 billion and pioneered the co-working movement — but it increasingly looks like it doesn't understand commercial real estate

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We got our hands on filings that show $3.2 billion health-insurance startup Oscar Health is plotting an expansion into another city

Wed, 05/15/2019 - 5:19pm  |  Clusterstock

  • Oscar Health just posted its financials for the first quarter of 2019.
  • The company said Wednesday that it had taken in $354 million in gross premium revenue. 
  • According to filings reviewed by Business Insider, Oscar has filed as an insurer in three new states: Illinois, Georgia, and Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania, plans to operate plans in Philadelphia and Delaware counties.  
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Oscar Health is headed for another metro area. 

The startup health insurer, which currently sells insurance on the individual exchanges set up by the Affordable Care Act and to small businesses, has filed to be an insurer in another new states for 2020.

Documents reveal the company plans to operate in Philadelphia and nearby Delaware county in Pennsylvania next year. Business Insider previously reported that the company planned to enter Illinois and Georgia, too. 

A spokeswoman for Oscar said in a statement that the company is laying the groundwork to operate in new markets, but that the company won't necessarily sell health plans in all three states in 2020.

This year, Oscar offers health-insurance plans in nine states: Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Texas, and Tennessee.

Read more: $3.2 billion startup Oscar Health is plotting its expansion into new states as it moves into a competitive insurance plan market

"Oscar is committed to expanding our footprint so we can offer our tech-driven, consumer-facing health insurance to more people across the country," the spokeswoman said. "There are regulatory requirements with which we need to comply and licenses we need to obtain in order to operate in new markets. These new entities are merely preparatory and, pending approval, we will announce our 2020 footprint and the products we will offer in each market later this year."

Oscar has said that it's planning to offer a new type of health insurance as well. In 2020, Oscar will start offering private health-insurance plans to seniors, which are known as Medicare Advantage plans. The company hasn't yet said where it will sell those plans.

Read more: We got a look at $3.2 billion startup Oscar Health's latest enrollment numbers, and they show why the company is pursuing a new strategy for growth

Oscar in August 2018 raised $375 million from Google's parent company Alphabet, and said it would use the funds to bring its tech-backed health insurance plans to more people, including in Medicare Advantage. In total, the company has now raised more than $1 billion.

On Wednesday, Oscar provided reporters with a summary of its financial results for the first quarter of 2019. The company said it took in $354 million in gross premium revenue, and that it generated a gross underwriting profit of $82 million. The company said it spent about 70% of its members premium dollars on medical care. 

The gross profit figure doesn't include spending on investment the company is making in hiring new people or building out its technology, nor its marketing costs to get the word out about the plans. The gross revenue figure adds back in funds that Oscar sends to insurance giant Axa as part of a reinsurance deal.

A portion of the premiums that Oscar collects are sent to Axa, and in return Axa agrees to share a portion of Oscar's profits or losses. 

Business Insider reviewed Oscar's financial filings to gain a more complete view of the company's results.

Oscar took in about $198 million in premiums in the first quarter of 2019, according the company's filings. The figure excludes funds sent to Axa. The filings also leave out some members in New Jersey. The company posted a net profit of $24 million, according to the filings.

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7 reasons the Chase Sapphire Preferred is worth it — even though the card doesn't come with as many flashy perks as the Sapphire Reserve

Wed, 05/15/2019 - 5:16pm  |  Clusterstock

Business Insider may receive a commission from The Points Guy Affiliate Network if you apply for a credit card, but our reporting and recommendations are always independent and objective.

When Chase released its popular Sapphire Reserve credit card in 2016, the new offering generated a lot of buzz. With a high sign-up bonus, plus an annual $300 travel credit, 3x points on dining and travel, access to Priority Pass airport lounges, and many of the same benefits — in some cases enhanced — as its older sibling, the Chase Sapphire Preferred, the card offered more than enough value to make up for its hefty $450 annual fee.

That fee, however, is still a lot of money to have to pay up front. Plus, while the Reserve is excellent, the older Sapphire Preferred is still a useful card with rich rewards and valuable benefits. In fact, there are a few reasons you may want to consider signing up for that older card, the Sapphire Preferred, instead.

Read on to see reasons that you may want to go for the Sapphire Preferred instead of the Reserve.

Click here to learn more about the Chase Sapphire Preferred from Insider Picks' partner: The Points Guy.

Keep in mind that we're focusing on the rewards and perks that make these two cards great options, not things like interest rates and late fees, which can far outweigh the value of any rewards.

When you're working to earn credit-card rewards, it's important to practice financial discipline, like paying your balances off in full each month, making payments on time, and not spending more than you can afford to pay back. Basically, treat your credit card like a debit card.

1. The Sapphire Preferred has a (much) lower annual fee

I often argue that the Reserve's $450 annual fee is actually just $150. That's because each card-member year with the Reserve, you'll get $300 of statement credits on travel purchases. In other words, the first $300 of travel purchases you make, whether one big purchase or a lot of smaller ones, will be canceled out by the credits. It's basically a rebate of $300 of the annual fee.

Still, $150 is still a decent bit of money. And though you'll get value back in the form of travel statement credits, you'll still need to pay $450 for the fee on your first statement, and not everyone has that amount of cash to float or is willing to put up that much.

The Sapphire Preferred, on the other hand, has an annual fee of $95, a relatively standard fee for a rewards card.

Looking at the fees over the first 24 months makes the differences even clearer — you'll pay $900 for the Sapphire Reserve (with up to $600 in statement credits) compared with just $190 for the Sapphire Preferred.

Read more: 8 lucrative credit-card deals new cardholders can get this month — including up to 75,000 Delta SkyMiles

2. The Sapphire Preferred has a higher sign-up bonus

Though the Sapphire Preferred has a much lower annual fee, it offers a higher sign-up bonus than the Sapphire Reserve — 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months. When you have the Sapphire Preferred, that's worth $600 as cash, $750 as travel booked through Chase, and potentially even more when you transfer those points to a hotel or frequent-flyer partner.

For comparison, the Sapphire Reserve offers only 50,000 points when you meet the same spending threshold.

Read more: 5 reasons the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a powerhouse within the increasingly competitive credit card space

3. The Sapphire Preferred has fewer perks than the Reserve but offers many of the same crucial benefits

The Sapphire Preferred doesn't come with the more premium Reserve's airport-lounge access, concierge service, or a credit to cover the cost of enrolling in Global Entry/TSA PreCheck, but other than that the two cards have almost the same benefits — that's impressive, considering the Preferred's much lower fee.

Both cards offer trip-delay insurance. If you're traveling by common carrier — airplane, train, ferry, bus, and similar public forms of transportation — and your trip is delayed, you can be covered for up to $500 of expenses, including a change of clothes, hotel room, toiletries, and meals. Both cards' trip-delay insurance kicks in when the delay forces an overnight stay, or, if you aren't stuck overnight, the Preferred's coverage kicks in after 12 hours, and the Reserve's after six hours.

Similarly, both cards offer primary rental-car damage/loss coverage, trip cancellation/delay insurance, lost-luggage insurance, and various purchase protections. There are minor differences in some of those benefits between the cards, but for most instances, they're effectively identical.

4. You'll still earn bonus points on dining and travel with the Preferred

There's no question that the Sapphire Reserve's earning rate of 3x points on dining and travel makes it easy to earn points quickly. But you'll still earn bonus points on the same categories with the Sapphire Preferred, even though they won't add up as fast. For every dollar you spend on dining and travel, you'll earn 2x points, and 1x point per dollar on everything else.

These categories are particularly useful because of how broadly they're defined. Dining includes restaurants, bars, cafes, bakeries, ice-cream shops, fast-food stands, brewery tap rooms, and delivery services like Seamless and Grubhub.

Travel, similarly, includes just about everything, big or small. You'll earn 2x points on taxis, Uber/Lyft rides, subways, commuter trains, parking, tolls, rental cars, airfare, hotels, cruises, and tours.

5. The Chase Sapphire Preferred has access to the same great transfer partners as the Reserve — and offers similar flexible ways to redeem points

As with the Sapphire Reserve, Ultimate Rewards points earned with the Sapphire Preferred can be exchanged for cash back, with each point worth $0.01, or points can be used to purchase travel through Chase. When you do that, you'll get a 25% bonus, effectively making your points worth $0.0125 each (the Sapphire Reserve offers a 50% bonus, making points used to purchase travel through Chase worth $0.015 instead).

Much more value could be gleaned from points, however, by transferring them to one of Chase's nine partnering airline frequent-flyer programs or four hotel loyalty programs. The two cards have access to the same transfer partners.

While this is more complicated, you can generally get more value by booking frequent-flyer award tickets than you can by using your points as cash or through Chase. You can even book flights in business or first class for fewer points than it would cost if you used them as cash or through Chase's website to buy the flights. For example, my wife and I used the points from our Sapphire Preferred cards to fly to Japan in first class for our honeymoon.

You can read more about why transferable points are so valuable here.

6. The card doesn't charge a fee for authorized users

If you're planning to add a partner, a child, a friend, or anyone else as an authorized user on your account, you may be better off with the Sapphire Preferred. That's because you can add as many users as you want to your account free. You'll even get 5,000 bonus points if you add an authorized user and they make a charge within your first three months. The Sapphire Reserve, on the other hand, charges $75 for each user you add. Those users will get access to Priority Pass lounges, at least.

7. It's easier to get approved for the Sapphire Preferred

While there's no official publicly available formula for how banks approve credit cards, common knowledge is that the Sapphire Reserve — which is a Visa Infinite card — has higher standards for approval than the Sapphire Preferred — a less-exclusive Visa Signature card. You'll still need a solid credit score for the Preferred, but you have better odds of getting approved if you have a shorter credit history.

The bottom line

Regardless of which card you choose, both offer class-leading value.

Though the Sapphire Reserve is an excellent card — I personally went with the Reserve over the Preferred — the annual fee is a lot to stomach. Depending on your cash flow, how you budget, or how you view these benefits and rewards, the Sapphire Preferred may be a better option for you.

Don't forget to also check out the reasons you may want to consider the Reserve over the Preferred, instead.

$95 annual fee: Click here to learn more about the Chase Sapphire Preferred card from Insider Picks' partner The Points Guy. $450 annual fee: Click here to learn more about the Chase Sapphire Reserve card from Insider Picks' partner The Points Guy. For more about the Chase Sapphire Preferred:

SEE ALSO: The best Chase cards you can sign up for right now

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In #BurkinaFaso : Alepa -A corn processing company

Wed, 05/15/2019 - 5:14pm  |  Timbuktu Chronicles
From Agribusiness TV:In Loumbila, located some 20 km from Ouagadougou, the capital city of Burkina Faso, Euloge Tapsoba is processing corn into different products.

Euloge founded his company, ALEPA, in 2007 when he was still a student. At the beginning he was just buying and selling the corn. But later, he realised that he was losing an opportunity by not processing the corn. Processing would add value to the product, and also create more jobs, which is his objective. He then ventured into corn processing and it worked well. However, he was not able to meet the demand of the market. Through the support from the Danish project PCESA, he was able to scale up his business and increase his production capacity...[more]

We took a look at the latest financial results for health insurer Clover Health, which raised $500 million in January and laid off 25% of its staff in March

Wed, 05/15/2019 - 4:57pm  |  Clusterstock

Clover Health seems to be holding steady even as it goes through some big changes.

For the first quarter of 2019, Clover generated $115 million in revenues across its health plans in seven states, according to two regulatory filings. The company sells private health-insurance plans for seniors, a market known as Medicare Advantage.

Clover lost $9.3 million in the first quarter, according to state insurance filings reviewed by Business Insider. That's down from the $14.7 million the company lost in the first quarter of 2018.

The company paid out $109 million in medical expenses for its customers over the quarter, or about 95% of the premium revenue it took in, similar to its results from 2018.

Read more: We just got our first look at health-insurance startup Clover Health's financials since it raised another $500 million

Clover got its start selling Medicare Advantage plans in New Jersey, which remains the company's main market. The company also operates in Pennsylvania, Texas, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, and Arizona.

Founded in 2014, Clover said it hoped to use data captured through its technology to improve patients' health. But pulling that off hasn't been easy.

When people in the US turn 65, they can choose to be part of either traditional Medicare or Medicare Advantage, which is operated through private insurers. It's a big market for startups like Devoted, Clover Health, and Bright Health — and soon, Oscar Health — but it's also a market with entrenched insurers like Humana, UnitedHealth Group, and CVS Health.

Clover had 40,137 Medicare Advantage members at the end of the first quarter, up from 32,425 at the end of 2018.

Over the years, Clover has raked in $925 million in funding from investors, including a $500 million round in January.

In March, the company said it was laying off 25% of its workforce, or about 140 employees, as part of a restructuring. Clover said it would open a new office in Nashville, Tennessee, which is known for being a hub for expertise in health IT and health insurance, to tap into a talent pool that fits the skill set it's looking for better than what's in the tech-focused Bay Area.

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In #Benin: Processing to reduce post-harvest losses

Wed, 05/15/2019 - 4:48pm  |  Timbuktu Chronicles
From Agribusiness TV:In Kpomassè, 60 km from Cotonou, Euphrasia DASSOUNDO has set up a processing unit for vegetables. She wants to reduce post-harvest losses. Euphrasia started her company with 30,000 FCFA in 2013, and her main activity was to process tomato into paste. Her first challenge was to get people to accept the product which was quite new, and it took a lot of patience and perseverance to keep going. Slowly, the product has been approved and ginger and onion into paste. "Our main goal is to help reduce post-harvest losses," said Euphrasia.

Markets Live: Wednesday, 15th May 2019

Wed, 05/15/2019 - 6:08am  |  FT Alphaville

Live markets commentary from

Continue reading: Markets Live: Wednesday, 15th May 2019

GrainMate Grain Moisture Meter from Sesi Technologies #Ghana

Wed, 05/15/2019 - 6:00am  |  Timbuktu Chronicles
Innovation-village reports:
Sesi Technologies’ GrainMate Grain Moisture Meter (Kumasi, Ghana) is a low-cost grain moisture tester that helps grain farmers reduce post-harvest losses by making it easier to accurately measure grain moisture content before storage. At $100, the GrainMate is more than four times cheaper than conventional grain moisture meters and Sesi Technologies claims it offers superior accuracy.

800 hospitals are joining forces to make their own drugs and upend the generic pharma business. They just revealed the 2 treatments they plan to make first.

Wed, 05/15/2019 - 12:01am  |  Clusterstock

  • A group of 800 hospitals created a nonprofit generic drugmaker called Civica Rx.
  • The hope is to make generic drugs that are in short supply or have artificially high prices, based on what the hospitals need. 
  • On Wednesday, the organization picked a supplier and two antibiotics to start with in its plan to upend the generic pharma business. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Hospitals have a creative plan to tackle the high price and frequent shortages of generic drugs. 

The nonprofit company, dubbed Civica Rx, was first announced in early 2018, and has gained a lot of attention for its promise of a cheaper and more reliable supply of crucial medicines. In total, 800 hospitals from more than 20 health systems have joined the effort.

Now, Civica has picked its first supplier: Xellia Pharmaceuticals. Xellia, based in Copenhagen, will make antibiotics for the hospitals in Civica's network, including vancomycin and daptomycin, according to a statement. Overall, Civica has committed to making 14 different drugs this year. 

The hospitals that are part of Civica agreed to purchase the drugs for five years from Xellia, and will receive the drugs by the third quarter of this year. The antibiotics business can be difficult for manufacturers if they're not sure how much of their products hospitals will want to buy.

"What we offer these manufacturers is certainty,"  Civica CEO Martin VanTrieste told Business Insider.

Read more: Hospital groups and the VA are trying to upend the generic drug business

Civica's priorities include making essential medicines that have been on the FDA drug shortage list and taking on decades-old drugs that have artificially higher prices because there's no competition to make them. 

In some cases, companies made business choices that led to shortages, such as giving up on unprofitable drugs. Other drug shortages are related to manufacturing problems. In other cases, a drug is only being produced by a single manufacturer, which can lead to price hikes. There's also been a consolidation of the manufacturers that produce generic drugs.

For years, health systems have been on the hook for skyrocketing drug prices for injections or drugs delivered through IV solutions. As of Tuesday, there were 205 drugs currently facing shortages, according to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. Those shortages include everything from bags of saline solution to common antibiotics — including vancomycin and daptomycin — and a type of epidural used for pregnant women during childbirth

Vancomycin and daptomycin can be given through an IV and are used to treat potentially deadly infections. Civica has given a commitment to Xellia that it'll purchase the antibiotics for its member hospitals for the next five years. 

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Uber riders can now ask their drivers to be quiet directly from the app, but you'll pay extra for that convenience (UBER)

Tue, 05/14/2019 - 11:40pm  |  Clusterstock

  • Uber is rolling out a new quiet mode for riders who want to keep conversation between themselves and their drivers to a minimum.
  • The ride-hailing service is offering the option to users who choose the Uber Black and Uber Black SUV services, starting May 15.
  • Those rides will come with some additional perks, including the option to select an ideal interior temperature for your ride, luggage service, and a little extra time to find your driver's car after it has arrived.
  • It's part of Uber's effort to draw users back to its pricier Uber Black service. The ride-hailing company has not yet made a profit, despite its multibillion-dollar valuation. It will likely seek additional roads to revenue after a disappointing stock market debut last week.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Uber is offering some added perks for users who choose its pricier Uber Black and Uber Black SUV service.

Riders who want to keep conversation between themselves and their drivers to a minimum can select "quiet mode," and they can enjoy other perks like luggage service, freedom to choose a specific interior temperature, and extra time to find their driver's car after it has arrived.

Users also get access to a dedicated customer-support line and what the Uber bills as "professionalism" and "consistent quality" — meaning Uber is promising there's a commercially licensed driver behind the wheel, who is showing up in the kind of vehicle one would expect when using a luxury car service.

Read more: Uber isn't screwed. There are a ton of ways it could become a profitable monster

Uber's senior product manager Aydin Ghajar said in a press release on Tuesday the company understands that riders who choose the Uber Black and Uber Black SUV service "want a consistent, high quality experience every time they ride."

"With these new features and more to come, we're excited to ensure that our riders can arrive relaxed and refreshed, wherever they're headed," Ghajar said.

The features come online May 15. They are part of Uber's effort to draw users back to its pricier Uber Black service.

The giant ride-hailing company has not yet made a profit, despite its multibillion-dollar valuation. It will likely seek additional roads to revenue after a disappointing stock market debut last week.

SEE ALSO: Sure, Uber didn't leave any money on the table, but its IPO was nothing to celebrate and it could haunt the company and its execs for years to come

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NOW WATCH: We rode in a self-driving Uber — here's what it was like

Blended finance funds impact African agriculture - @Incofin supports smallholder farmers and agribusinesses with finance and technical assistance

Tue, 05/14/2019 - 8:29pm  |  Timbuktu Chronicles
Spore reports:
Impact investment funds are fast becoming the vehicle of choice for governments and donors looking to invest in African agriculture and encourage private sector investors to do the same.

Investments in African agriculture are rising faster than ever before, with a new wave of blended finance impact investment funds leading the way. But, while these are helping to harness private sector capital – including from African commercial banks and corporates – the bulk of initial donor and government money comes from overseas. Still, the impact of such funds on the lives of smallholder farmers is increasingly well documented and demonstrates that investing in African agriculture can be profitable for private sector players, as long as the right projects are financed and risk is well managed...[more]

The vast majority of Republicans support Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders' plan to cap credit-card interest rates at 15%

Tue, 05/14/2019 - 8:02pm  |  Clusterstock

  • The vast majority of both Republican and Democratic primary voters support Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders' plan to cap credit-card interest rates.
  • Nearly 70% of Republican primary voters and 73% of Democratic primary voters said they either support or strongly support the proposal, according to a new INSIDER poll.
  • Overall, about 68% of respondents said they either support or strongly support the plan and 10% oppose the rate-capping component of the Loan Shark Prevention Act.
  • The two progressive lawmakers rolled out their legislation last week. The bill would set credit-card interest rates at 15%, about 6% lower than the current median interest rate.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The vast majority of both Republicans and Democrats who said they plan to vote in the 2020 presidential primary support legislation rolled out by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders last week that would cap credit-card interest rates at 15%.

Nearly 70% of Republican primary voters and 73% of Democratic primary voters said they either support or strongly support the proposal to cap rates at 15%, according to a new INSIDER poll. Just over 60% of respondents who don't plan to vote in the 2020 presidential primaries also said they support the bill, known as the Loan Shark Prevention Act.

Just 13% of GOP primary voters were opposed to the idea, while 7% of Democratic primary voters were opposed.

Read more: Here's how Americans rank the 2020 presidential candidates on the political spectrum

INSIDER specifically asked Americans whether they support or oppose a law that would cap credit-card interest rates at 15%, noting that the current median interest rate for a credit card is about 21.36%.

Overall, about 68% of respondents said they either support or strongly support the plan and 10% oppose it.

Support for the cap was consistent across income levels, but higher-income respondents appeared to support the proposal more strongly than the average respondent — though the sample size was too small to draw any specific conclusions.

Read more: 57% of Americans who've already paid off their student loans support Elizabeth Warren's plan to cancel 42 million Americans' college debt

Under the proposed law, the annual percentage rate applicable to any extension of credit would be capped at 15% on "unpaid balances, inclusive of all finance charges" or "the maximum rate permitted by the laws of the State in which the consumer resides."

In short, the bill would impose the cap on credit-card interest rates at the federal level and allow states to establish even lower interest rates. The bill would also give the Federal Reserve flexibility to allow lenders to charge higher rates if it's determined the federal cap "would threaten the safety and soundness of financial institutions."

The median credit-card interest rate was 21.36% as of last week, compared with 12.62% a decade ago, according to Meanwhile, Americans collectively hold more than $1 trillion in credit-card debt, according to the Federal Reserve.

The law would implement a 15% interest-rate cap on all federal loans and also institute postal banking — allowing the US postal service to offer banking services as an alternative to payday lenders and commercial banks.

SurveyMonkey Audience polls from a national sample balanced by census data of age and gender. Respondents are incentivized to complete surveys through charitable contributions. Generally speaking, digital polling tends to skew toward people with access to the internet. SurveyMonkey Audience doesn't try to weight its sample based on race or income. This survey had a total 1,127 respondents, a margin of error plus or minus 3.12 percentage points with a 95% confidence level.

SEE ALSO: Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are introducing a radical plan to cap the credit-card interest rate at 15%

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Mark Cuban slams Silicon Valley VCs over Uber's awful IPO and says it could be a wake up call for Valley employees (UBER, LYFT)

Tue, 05/14/2019 - 6:58pm  |  Clusterstock

  • Mark Cuban says that Uber's IPO is a warning sign for Silicon Valley that the whole unicorn thing wasn't a good plan.
  • Uber, he says, "isn't a growth company" making its stock a hard sell to investors looking at its losses and mounting debt.
  • He blames the VCs, who coached CEOs to wait too long before going public.
  • He suggests that late-stage startups recruiting employees might have a harder time of it.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Uber's IPO was a flop, even though their bankers were using every trick in the book to keep the stock price from crashing on day 1, including reportedly buying shares themselves in a tactic called the 'naked short.'

But investors who were looking at Uber's revenue, burn rate, mounting debt, growth rate weren't biting and now billionaire Marc Cuban has weighed in saying he's not surprised at the rough time Uber had.

He told CNBC on Tuesday that he blames the Silicon Valley venture capital industry.

Read: 3 reasons why Uber had such a 'weird' and terrible IPO, according to a portfolio manager who wouldn't buy the stock

"It's not a growth company. It's a brand. They just waited too long. There's nothing exciting about it," Cuban said.

"The reality is you're nine years in and you're still having to buy your revenue? That's not a good sign," said Cuban, who is an investor in ride-sharing rival Lyft.

Many young-ish Silicon Valley companies go public when they are unprofitable but make investors comfortable with the all the red ink by showing how the current spending will translate into explosive growth down the road.

While Uber's bankers and executives are pitching Uber as the next Amazon, the numbers tell a different story. Amazon went public in 1997 after it grew its revenues from $511,000 to $15.75 million in one year. True, it also grew losses from $304,000 just under $6 million but everything about Amazon's business is different from Uber's.

Blame the VCs

"You're nine years in, and the gig economy is challenged when the unemployment is low and the overall economy is growing, because it's a not a primary job for most people. It's a job of last resort," said Cuban. (Technically, Uber was founded in 2009, so it's 10 years old, but it launched its first beta black-car ride hailing service in 2010.)

To be fair, Uber's revenue rose in 2018 over 2017, as did its expenses. And although it's the market leader in ride share, it has other promising businesses, like food delivery. 

But Uber only showed a profit in 2018 because it sold one of its business units. That's not the typical sign of a growth a company. 

Read: Here's who's getting rich on Uber's massive IPO

Cuban blames the Silicon Valley VC system, the love of unicorns that keeps companies private during their biggest growth years, concentrating huge returns to the early investors and growth-fund investors.

"I just think we're seeing a reflection of the Silicon Valley ethos in the public market. The whole attitude was wait, wait, wait, wait. You don't want to deal with IPO. But at some point, all of those VCs need a liquidity event. It also suggests that they are not very good at valuing companies."

Many of those investors sold portions of their stakes at the $45 IPO price and still did well with the IPO.

But most of them still have the majority of their stakes locked up for at least six months before they'll be allowed to sell. And, while they'll all make money on stock they bought for as little as 33 cents to $3.50 a share, they'll obviously do better if the public stock does better.

"Obviously, the didn't listen"

Cuban is an investor in Lyft and wasn't thrilled with Lyft's IPO, either.

"I'm still up a little bit on my stock. It was $1 million position, so it was big but not huge for me. No, I haven't bought any more. When I bought in Lyft it was four years ago, and I've been pushing for them to go public from that moment on. Obviously, they didn't listen."

While Uber's sagging stock price still turned the company's founders, early investors and top executives into very wealthy people, it's harder on the rank-and-file employees. In Silicon Valley, many people get a chunk of their compensation in stock.

In 2017, with the company's value soaring, Uber granted 2.9 million stock options and 41.2 million shares known as restricted share units in 2017 at an average strike price of $41.39, as Business Insider's Troy Wolverton reported. RSUs are typically tied to performance expectations and unlocked over time. Shares that employees bought at that price, or must buy at that price as their shares unlock, are now under water with Uber's trading well under $40.

Employees that joined, or were issued stock, in 2018 are in a little better shape. Uber's valuation dropped, thanks to its much publicized board room brawls that included Softbank buying a large stake at a discount. Employees options from 2018 have an average strike price of $33.45, while the restricted shares had a grant value of $36.73 per share. 

At Uber's current under $36-$39/share stock price, those shares will not generate employees much of a return.

Read: The woman who rang Uber's IPO bell is Austin Geidt, whose life is the stuff of Valley legend

The company no doubt hoped for a far better IPO. It offered CEO Dara Khosrowshahi an enormous bonus worth over $100 million if the company's valuation hit a lofty $120 billion and stayed there for three months. He's not close to meeting that figure yet, but the board will be likely be happy to honor it if he can pull it off sometime in the future.

So the unicorn waiting game isn't really paying off for almost anyone who joins these companies late.

"It's not a very efficient market when it comes to late-stage companies in evaluating IPOs," Cuban said. While the profitable Zoom did well, "Pinterest, Lyft, Uber all of them, I think its a real challenge."

Cuban hopes these difficult IPOs will change the mindset of investors in the Valley, many of whom are not jumping in early to invest in young companies, but "prefer to invest later, and later and later," he said because when "you have a bunch of unicorns, even if it's paper unicorns, it looks good in your portfolio."

He says the sad IPOs of 2019 could serve as a wake-up call for CEOs and, especially, employees who are recruited by later stage companies and offered stock as part of their pay. They will be asking themselves if their stock will make them any money.

Here's the full interview with Cuban:


SEE ALSO: The woman who rang Uber's IPO bell is Austin Geidt, whose life is the stuff of Valley legend

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: We unboxed the $1,980 Samsung Galaxy Fold — here's what comes inside

The Trump administration is preparing tariffs on $300 billion worth of Chinese goods. Here are all the products that will get hit.

Tue, 05/14/2019 - 6:20pm  |  Clusterstock

  • The Trump administration is preparing to place tariffs on all remaining Chinese imports.
  • That would affect about $300 billion worth of products.
  • This round of duties would include significantly more everyday products, from phones to clothing. 

The Trump administration is preparing to place tariffs on all remaining Chinese imports, about $300 billion worth. Here is a list of the major categories, which include significantly more everyday products than previous duties.

Electric machinery: A wide range of electronics including telephones for cellular networks or for other wireless networks, telephone sets, food grinders and processors, headphones, recorders, microwave ovens, electrothermic appliances such as hairdryers, lithium-ion batteries, video monitors, television accessories

Machinery and mechanical appliances: Ceiling fans, burners, dryers, furnaces, dishwashing machines, dryers, parts of fire extinguishers, ovens, cooking stoves, lawnmowers, printers, snowplows, cranes, brewing machinery, baking instruments, knitting and weaving machines, chainsaws, keyboards, scanners, cash registers

Live animals: horses, mules, cows, buffalo, swine, sheep, goats, chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, primates, whales, dolphins, porpoises, manatees, dugongs, seals, sea lions, walruses, camels, rabbits, hares, foxes, mammals, reptiles, birds of prey, bees, live insects other than bees

Meat: Cuts and carcasses of cattle, pigs, lamb, sheep, goats, horses, chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, guineafowls, primates, whales, dolphins, porpoises, manatees, dugongs, seals, seal lions or walruses, camels, reptiles

Fish and seafood: Cod, haddock, Alaska pollack, salmon, Bregamacerotidae

Other animal products: Eggs, milk and cream of various fat contents, yogurt, sour cream, buttermilk, other dairy products and spreads, fats and oils derived from milk, a wide range of cheeses including American, cheddar, gouda, romano, colby, swiss, cheese substitutes, hair, guts, bladders, stomachs, feathers, animal feed

Plants: Live plants and bulbs of tulips, lilies, roses, orchids, and various other flower types, foliage, branches, mosses and lichens

Vegetables: Potatoes, tomatoes, brussels sprouts, head lettuce, other lettuce, Witloof chicory, cucumbers, lima beans, chickpeas, pigeon peas, asparagus, eggplants, spinach, artichokes, olives, pumpkins, lentils, fiddlehead greens, brussels sprouts, olives, truffles, capers, dried seeds, yams, an assortment of canned vegetables

Fruit and nuts: Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, kola nuts, areca nuts, pignolias, plantains, avocados, grapefruit, lemons, various types of limes, citrus fruit not elsewhere specified or included, grapes, watermelons, cantaloupes, melons, papayas, apricots, sour cherries, plums, prunes and sloes, raspberries and loganberries, blackberries and mulberries, kiwi, durians, other cherries, canned juices of various fruits

Coffee, tea and spices: Caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee, black tea, green tea, pepper, paprika, cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, mace, cumin, ginger, saffron, turmeric, thyme, bay leaves, curry, dill

Grains: Durum wheat, seed of wheat and meslin, rye, seed corn, rice in the husk, fonio, triticale, pasta, couscous, biscuits, waffles, wafers

Oil seeds and miscellaneous grains: Peanuts, cotton seeds, palm nuts and kernels, castor oil seeds, clover seeds, fescue seeds, Kentucky bluegrass seeds, hop cones, tonka beans

Oils and fats: Olive oil, soybean oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil, palm oil, cottonseed oil, corn oil, sesame oil, castor oil, nut oils, jojoba oil, rapeseed oil, various waxes

Sugars and candies: Cane sugar, beet sugar, maple sugar, glucose, syrup, fructose, gum and candy not containing cocoa, certain types of chocolate and cocoa powder

Other food items: Condiments including ketchup, mustard, and more

Alcohol and mixers: Wine, vermouth, brandy, scotch, whiskey, rum, gin, vodka, liqueurs, bitters, tequila

Tobacco products: Various preparations of tobacco, including that to be used in cigarettes

Salts and minerals: Sulfates

Ores, slag, ash, mineral fuels: Ash and residues from the incineration of municipal waste, various types of waste oils including from fuel

Inorganic chemicals: Uranium, radioactive elements, arsenic acid, oxides, hydroxides and peroxides of barium, artificial corundum, aluminum oxide, complex fluorine salts, vanadium chlorides, chloride oxides and chloride hydroxides other than of copper or of vanadium, sodium bromate, cyanides and cyanide oxides, except those of sodium, spent fuel elements of nuclear reactors

Organic chemicals: A wide variety of organic chemicals including pesticides and their derivatives. See the full list here.

Tanning and drying extracts, dyes, and paints

Essential oils and perfumes: Various types of oils, including eucalyptus, peppermint and those made of fruits

Candles, tapers and the like

Glues, adhesives, and enzymes

Explosives: Fireworks, signaling flares, matches, safety fuses

Plastics: Dispensers, plates, cups, saucers, soup bowls, cereal bowls, sugar bowls, creamers, gravy boats, serving dishes and platters, of plastics, trays, tableware and kitchenware articles, nesoi, of plastics, nursing nipples and finger cots, curtains and drapes, incl. panels and valances, napkins, table covers, mats, scarves, runners, doilies, and like furnishings, picture frames, household articles and toilet articles, doors, windows, and their frames and thresholds for doors, of plastics, blinds, shutters, office or school supplies, of plastics, gloves, handles and knobs for furniture, fittings for furniture, buckets and pails, nursing products, handbags made of beads, bugles and spangles, imitation gemstones, photo albums, frames or mounts for photographic slides, clothespins, spring type, of plastics, inflatable mattresses and waterbeds

Rubber: Strips for tires, medical gloves, erasers, inflatable articles, household articles, handles and knobs, caps, lids, seals, stoppers and other closures, toys for pets

Raw hides and leather: Skins from various animals including sheep, buffalo, and cows; Heads, tails, paws and other pieces or cuttings of raw furskin

Wood: Finished products made from wood, such as doors, frames, tableware, blinds

Paper: Newspapers, books, maps, postcards, calendars, pictures

Clothing: A wide array of consumer garments including coats, suits, pants, shorts, overalls, dresses, skirts, blouses, shirts, underwear, bathrobes, sweaters, and baby garments, winter gear, accessories, sports gear, hair nets, safety headgear and various types of footwear

Materials and textile products: Cotton, yarn, woven fabrics, bed sheets, blankets, table cloths, curtains, bags, backpacks, camping goods, drapes and furnishing materials

Miscellaneous accessories: Umbrellas and umbrella parts, walking sticks, human hair wigs

Ceramic and glass products: Porcelain and china, kitchen and household wares, drinking glasses, other glassware, watch glasses, glass eyes

Stones and jewelry: Natural pears, diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds and other stones, gold and silver jewelry parts, toy jewelry, imitation jewelry, rosaries, coins other than gold

Iron and steel and products including rods, bars, wires, tools, knives, and razor blades

Copper: Copper alloy for table, kitchen, household articles and parts; pot scourers, scouring and polishing pads, gloves

Aluminum: bars, rods, wires, tubes, pipes, foil, kitchenware

Tools: Knives, razors, scissors, cutlery, padlocks, keys

Vehicles and parts: Snowmobiles, golf carts, motorcycles, parts for those vehicles and bicycles, baby carriages

Ships, boats, and aircraft: Warships, balloons, dirigibles and non-powered aircraft, gliders and hang gliders, floating docks and structures

Optical products: Contact lenses, glasses frames, lenses, sunglasses, binoculars, telescopes, cameras along with assorted parts and accessories

Clocks and watches

Arms and ammunition: Military weapons, shotguns, rifles and other firearms, bombs, grenades, torpedoes, mines, missiles, swords

Furniture, bedding, mattresses: Aircraft seats, sleeping bags, pillows, quilts

Miscellaneous manufactured items: Toys, games and sports requisites, merry-go-rounds, boat-swings, shooting galleries and other fairground amusements; traveling theaters; brooms, brushes, paint, travel items, pens, pencils, ribbons, cigarette lighters, smoking pipes, cigars, combs, hair accessories, vacuum parts, feminine products, baby products including diapers, paintings and antiques

SEE ALSO: Trump just ramped up tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods. Here are all the products that will get hit.

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: The legendary economist who predicted the housing crisis says the US will win the trade war

'Death by Amazon': 20 once thriving companies that find themselves in the e-commerce giant's crosshairs (AMZN)

Tue, 05/14/2019 - 6:16pm  |  Clusterstock

  • A new "Death by Amazon" index released by the investment-research firm CFRA tracks the stocks its analysts believe could be short-seller targets given their vulnerabilities to competition from Amazon.
  • The index is full of home goods and electronics retailers like Party City and Bed Bath & Beyond, some of which have seen their entire market value wiped out in recent years.
  • Visit Markets Insider's homepage for more stories.

Investors are familiar with the Amazon effect by now.

The e-commerce juggernaut announces that it is preparing to enter into an industry — be it medication, brick-and-mortar grocery, entertainment, or others — and the stocks of companies in the new target market fall as jittery investors are struck with the fear that irreversible disruption is coming.

So the investment-research firm CFRA created a new index, "Death By Amazon," that tracks the stocks its analysts think are particularly vulnerable to Amazon's expansion and offerings.

"The equally weighted index serves as a retail performance benchmark and short-selling idea generation tool for our clients," CFRA analysts Camilla Yanushevsky and Todd Rosenbluth wrote in a report to clients earlier this month.

To pinpoint the 20 constituents the analysts believe are poorly positioned to compete against Amazon's efforts in various industries, they evaluated the companies' "Share of Voice" data that comes from web-traffic analytics company Alexa Internet (which is owned by Amazon as its other Alexa-named product).

That measure shows the percentage of searches for a keyword across major search engines in the past six months "that sent organic traffic to the respective site."

For example, the analysts compared how much traffic was going to a national jewelry retailer's website when consumers search for the term "jewelry" versus how much traffic was going to Amazon for the same search term.

With this kind of analysis, you get an index full of brick-and-mortar retailers whose products are available on Amazon — and apparently less popular through online searches — from floor tiles to party supplies.

To be fair, it's not the first Death by Amazon index. Bespoke Investment Group had already created its Death by Amazon index, tracking the same theme.

Here are all the stocks listed, in alphabetical order, with how their "Share of Voice" scores for various products stack up against Amazon:

At Home Group

Ticker: HOME

1-year performance: -40%

% below all-time high: -46%

Share of Voice score for "seasonal decor": 4.2%

Amazon's Share of Voice score for "seasonal decor: 19.6%

Share of Voice source: CFRA analysis

Barnes & Noble Education

Ticker: BNED

1-year performance: -38%

% below all-time high: -74%

Share of Voice score for "textbook": 1.3%

Amazon's Share of Voice score for "textbook": 6.9%

Share of Voice source: CFRA analysis

Barnes & Noble

Ticker: BKS

1-year performance: -0.1%

% below all-time high: -84%

Share of Voice score for "books": 23.2%

Amazon's Share of Voice score for "books": 12.2%

Share of Voice source: CFRA analysis

Bed Bath & Beyond

Ticker: BBBY

1-year performance: -16%

% below all-time high: -80%

Share of Voice score for "cookware": 2.4%

Amazon's Share of Voice score for "cookware": 23.3%

"Our negative investment view reflects our belief that BBBY's shares (up 50% year-to-date) have raced far ahead of purported turnaround narrative and a compelling Sell opportunity exists," the analysts wrote.

Share of Voice source: CFRA analysis

Best Buy

Ticker: BBY

1-year performance: -14%

% below all-time high: -19%

Share of Voice score for "electronics": 1%

Amazon's Share of Voice score for "electronics": 8.1%

"Our negative investment view reflects headwinds we see as the U.S. smartphone market approaches oversaturation," the analysts wrote.

Share of Voice source: CFRA analysis

Big 5 Sporting Goods

Ticker: BGFV

1-year performance: -71%

% below all-time high: -88%

Share of Voice score for "fitness equipment": 0%

Amazon's Share of Voice score for "fitness equipment": 11%

Share of Voice source: CFRA analysis

Big Lots

Ticker: BIG

1-year performance: -6.5%

% below all-time high: -41%

Share of Voice score for "cookware": 0%

Amazon's Share of Voice score for "cookware": 23.3%

"Beyond the first quarter, we're wary BIG can achieve gross margin expansion in FY 20," the analysts wrote.

"BIG said the expansion rests on the assumption that Furniture, Seasonal, and Soft Home will outperform; however, we see intensifying pressures in these categories not only from Amazon, but also from Walmart's recent launch of a digital home brand, moDRN."

Share of Voice source: CFRA analysis

Dick's Sporting Goods

Ticker: DKS

1-year performance: +15%

% below all-time high: -43%

Share of Voice score for "sports deals": 18.7%

Amazon's Share of Voice score for "sports deals": 24.5%

"Our Hold rating reflects headwinds we see for DKS in FY 20 from the phasing out of hunt and electronics segments," the pair of analysts wrote. "That said, we expect them to meaningfully abate and be a long-term positive for margins in FY 21."

Share of Voice source: CFRA analysis


Ticker: GME

1-year performance: -31%

% below all-time high: -87%

Share of Voice score for "video games": 7%

Amazon's Share of Voice score for "video games": 17.1%

"Our negative investment view reflects Jan-Q's disappointing performance and our uncertainty of GME's future direction," the analysts wrote.

Share of Voice source: CFRA analysis


Ticker: KIRK

1-year performance: -49%

% below all-time high: -81%

Share of Voice score for "home decor": 5.4%

Amazon's Share of Voice score for "home decor": 10.8%

Share of Voice source: CFRA analysis

Office Depot

Ticker: ODP

1-year performance: -19%

% below all-time high: -95%

Share of Voice score for "office supplies": 33.1%

Amazon's Share of Voice score for "office supplies": 9.8%

"Our negative investment view reflects severe operational challenges we see from ODP's growth-by-acquisition strategy," the analysts wrote.

They added: "We also see gross margin deterioration and languishing comps driven by customer migration to Amazon."

Share of Voice source: CFRA analysis

Ticker: OSTK

1-year performance: -67%

% below all-time high: -86%

Share of Voice score for "dresser": 1.3%

Amazon's Share of Voice score for "dresser": 9.9%

Share of Voice source: CFRA analysis

Party City

Ticker: PRTY

1-year performance: -49%

% below all-time high: -65%

Share of Voice score for "party supplies": 22.5%

Amazon's Share of Voice score for "party supplies": 13.2%

Share of Voice source: CFRA analysis

PetMed Express

Ticker: PETS

1-year performance: -40%

% below all-time high: -60%

Share of Voice score for "pet supplies": 5.1%

Amazon's Share of Voice score for "pet supplies": 13.7%

Share of Voice source: CFRA analysis

Pier 1 Imports

Ticker: PIR

1-year performance: -65%

% below all-time high: -97%

Share of Voice score for "home decor": 8.3%

Amazon's Share of Voice score for "home decor": 10.8%

Share of Voice source: CFRA analysis

Signet Jewelers

Ticker: SIG

1-year performance: -49%

% below all-time high: -87%

Share of Voice score for "jewelry": 3.8% for, 2.9% for, and 0.12% for

Amazon's Share of Voice score for "jewelry": 10.7%

"Our negative investment view reflects SIG's over-reliance on store closings (150 announced for FY 20 after 262 in FY 19) and increased promotions to clear excess inventory (up 4.7% in Jan-Q), which, we forecast, will result in further brand erosion," the analysts wrote.

Share of Voice source: CFRA analysis

The Michael's Companies

Ticker: MIK

1-year performance: -43%

% below all-time high: -67%

Share of Voice score for "drawing supplies": 13.1%

Amazon's Share of Voice score for "drawing supplies": 24.5%

Share of Voice source: CFRA analysis

Tiffany & Co.

Ticker: TIF

1-year performance: -5%

% below all-time high: -31%

Share of Voice score for "jewelry": 6%

Amazon's Share of Voice score for "jewelry": 10.7%

"Our Hold rating reflects our wariness on TIF's decision to lower prices in China, forex headwinds in 1H FY 20 (from a stronger U.S. dollar), offset by rich brand heritage and strong partnerships with key influencers," the analysts said.

Share of Voice source: CFRA analysis

Tile Shop Holdings

Ticker: TTS

1-year performance: -36%

% below all-time high: -85%

Share of Voice score for "tile": 2.1%

Amazon's Share of Voice score for "tile": 22%

Share of Voice source: CFRA analysis

Williams Sonoma

Ticker: WSM

1-year performance: +7%

% below all-time high: -42%

Share of Voice score for "cookware": 16.7%

Amazon's Share of Voice score for "cookware": 23.3%

Share of Voice source: CFRA analysis


Uber and Lyft drivers reveal the things you should never do while taking a ride

6-year courtships, misplaced briefcases, and ‘damned frustrating’ vacancies: How Evercore assembled a dealmaking A-team and started challenging Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan

Tue, 05/14/2019 - 5:45pm  |  Clusterstock

  • Since Ralph Schlosstein joined it almost exactly 10 years ago, the independent investment bank Evercore has produced a nearly 600% total return and grown its advisory revenue to $1.74 billion from $180 million.
  • No publicly traded competitor — bulge bracket or boutique — beats Evercore's performance over the past decade.
  • But can an independent investment bank ever truly contend with the industry titans Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, and Morgan Stanley?
  • Subscribe to BI Prime and read the full story here. 

Late last November, an Evercore dealmaker named Paul Stefanick opened his inbox to find it had been hit by a crush of emails.

Not long before, news crossed the wire that United Technologies, an industrials and aerospace conglomerate with $66 billion in sales, would split itself into three separate companies in one of the largest corporate breakups in history.

Stefanick and Roger Altman, the legendary Wall Street rainmaker and Evercore founder, had pulled off the deal together. The effort had sucked up most of Stefanick's year, and it was the first mammoth transaction he'd spearheaded since joining a little over a year earlier from Deutsche Bank, where he was chairman of the German lender's global corporate and investment bank.

The wave of messages flooding into his inbox, he realized, were congratulatory notes from the firm's nearly 100 senior bankers.

"That just doesn't happen anywhere else. It was very touching," Stefanick, who spent two decades rising the mergers-and-acquisitions ranks at Merrill Lynch before his eight-year ride with Deutsche Bank, recently told Business Insider.

For Stefanick and Evercore, the megadeal was validation of what had been a long journey. The charm offensive waged by Altman and CEO Ralph Schlosstein to hire Stefanick — encompassing airport phone calls, numerous lunches and dinners, and one forgotten briefcase — lasted more than six years.

That kind of patience has been emblematic of Schlosstein's tenure as CEO at Evercore. The long-term vision extends beyond the dozens of bankers he's hired, permeating the attitude toward clients.

And it's helped transform Evercore over the past decade from a plucky boutique into a credible challenger to the world's top investment banks.

SUBSCRIBE TO READ: Evercore has torched competitors with the best returns on Wall Street over the past 10 years. Now it's setting its sights on Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan.

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WisdomTree is seeing results in using big data to target the $6 trillion financial advisor market, as fund managers look for creative ways to win back assets

Tue, 05/14/2019 - 5:22pm  |  Clusterstock

  • Asset managers are trying more creative and tech-enabled ways to pitch financial advisors, who control $6 trillion of client money in North America. 
  • WisdomTree, a $57.2 billion asset manager, found success using artificial intelligence to reshape how its sales team reached out to brokers. 
  • For example, just 20% of a random group of financial advisors responded to a cold call about a product, but that percentage tripled when salespeople used a list of specific advisor targets generated by big data techniques. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Financial advisors receive more than 50 cold calls a week from asset managers pitching a variety of products. It's not surprising that these funds struggle to stand out from the crowd.

WisdomTree is trying to fix that. The asset manager is integrating big data techniques and new technologies to target specific advisors who might be interested in particular products. Early results have been promising so far,  the firm's former head of data intelligence and strategy Peter Watson said this week at the Digital Wealth Conference in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. 

Financial advisors control $6 trillion in North America alone, according to a McKinsey study last month. As investors flee actively-managed, higher revenue products in favor of passive funds, asset managers need a smarter sales strategy than the cold calls and steak dinners of the past, executives said. 

See more: Vanguard's CEO just revealed it's in the early stages of building a new tech platform for wealth advisors as it goes head-to-head with BlackRock's Aladdin

$57.2 billion WisdomTree piloted using an artificial intelligence-driven list of financial advisors who, per multiple data metrics, seemed much more receptive to particular products. Half of a sales group pitched that list, while the other half used a randomly-generated list. The group that used the artificial intelligence-generated list talked to about two-thirds of their target advisors, whereas those calling random names talked to only 20%. 

"It's not 100% for sure, but certainly using some of the trigger-based things as well as the data we had on people enabled us to significantly improve the quality of our outbound calls," Watson said.

In a separate effort, he said that the firm used segmented email campaigns to better target advisors. If someone engaged around a specific subject, WisdomTree identified the next email campaigns they were likely to be interested in, which increased email engagement by 130%. 

Meanwhile, Nuveen, the $989 billion asset manager, built a tool to both help advisors and feed more data back to its sales team. The firm created a platform for advisors to compare funds, both from Nuveen and from other managers, said Natalie Rubenoff, the firm's customer experience manager in digital strategy.

Right now, the platform can send aggregated data on which funds are being compared – and therefore which might be particularly hot – back to the sales team. Longer term, the sales team could see what individual advisors are comparing and call them about those products.

"I really think not only does it provide valuable data to the firm, it also provides valuable data to the advisor," Rubenoff said. 

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Facebook poaches 2 veteran compliance experts from Coinbase as rumors swirl about its blockchain project (FB)

Tue, 05/14/2019 - 5:07pm  |  Clusterstock

  • Facebook has hired two veteran compliance experts from blockchain startup Coinbase.
  • The two hires come as reports swirl that Facebook is preparing to announce a product from its secretive blockchain team.
  • The $515 billion company will want to take a careful approach in the experimental industry, to avoid the kinds of scandals that the crypto space is notorious for.
  • Facebook is also hiring for around two dozen roles on its blockchain team, significantly increasing its numbers.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Facebook has poached two long-time employees from buzzy blockchain startup Coinbase who focus on compliance, as rumors swirl about the social networking giant's blockchain plans.

Mikheil Moucharrafie and Jeff Cartwright both joined Facebook in May, according to their LinkedIn profiles, where they will focus on compliance issues — an area that both specialized in during their years at Coinbase, a San Francisco-headquartered crypto startup privately valued at $8 billion.

Moucharrafie was at Coinbase for almost four years, most recently as a risk manager and before that as a compliance manager where he "led [a] team of compliance analysts"; he now works as a Compliance Officer, Blockchain at Facebook. Cartwright, meanwhile, was Coinbase's director of regulatory risk and exams, and its head of internal audit as well as working on compliance management before that. He is now working for Facebook as a Policy and Compliance Manager; his LinkedIn profile doesn't specify blockchain, but it seems likely given his professional background and the timing of the hire. 

There have been numerous leaks about Facebook's secretive efforts in recent months that indicate the company is building a cryptocurrency that will power payments on its WhatsApp messaging service. Most recently, Bloomberg reported that the team now has 50 employees, and could finally announce a product publicly in the third quarter of 2019.

The two compliance hires suggest that as it prepares to launch, the $515 billion company is looking to experts elsewhere in the industry to ensure its blockchain efforts comply with relevant regulations governing a still-nascent industry that is notorious for scandals and regulatory missteps  — and to try and prevent its plans from being marred by the kinds of crises that have beset other areas of Facebook's business in the last two years.

A Facebook spokesperson declined to comment.

Facebook has also looked to other companies to build out its compliance expertise. The head of enterprise risk and compliance on the blockchain team is Mandeep Walia, who joined in November 2018 after serving as LendUp's chief risk and compliance officer, and PayPal's senior director of global risk and compliance before that.

Meanwhile, Facebook is currently trying to hire for around two dozen new roles in its blockchain team, and a review of its job listings hint at the company's plans and priorities. 

It is searching for people to fill two communications rolls on the team, a communications director and a communications manager, as well as other public-orientated roles like a brand strategy and insights manager and community, media and web manager — suggesting it is gearing up for a public launch.

Facebook is also creating multiple legal and regulatory-related positions, notably lead counsels to focus on commercial, international, and product — as well as directors of SEC reporting and technical accounting & SEC reporting whose briefs will touch on blockchain.

The job ads suggest that as well as payments, Facebook is exploring blockchain's applications in more experimental areas like healthcare and communications: "Our ultimate goal is to help billions of people with access to things they don't have now — which could be things like healthcare, equitable financial services, or new ways to save or share information," one ad reads.

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