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A Trump executive order geared toward addressing allegations of anti-conservative bias on social-media services like Twitter and Facebook is reportedly in the works

Wed, 08/07/2019 - 5:50pm  |  Clusterstock

The White House is reportedly floating several drafts of an executive order directed at tech giants like Facebook, Google, and Twitter.

The executive order, which was first reported on by Politico, is said to be "in flux," but its objective is clear: to address the allegations of anti-Trump and anti-conservative bias that President Donald Trump has repeatedly made regarding social-media companies.

"There's no doubt in my mind that I should have millions and millions of people," Trump said in mid-July at an event billed as a White House social-media summit. "But I know that we've been blocked. People come up to me and say, 'Sir I cannot follow you' … They make it absolutely impossible."

Trump has yet to present any evidence to back up these claims.

It's not clear if the executive order would address those allegations directly or how it would address the alleged bias in services owned and operated by private corporations. Sources with knowledge of the executive order's drafting told Politico that such an order shouldn't be expected "imminently."

When reached for comment, the White House press representative Judd Deere told Business Insider, "The President announced at this month's social-media summit that we were going to address this, and the administration is exploring all policy solutions."

He wouldn't confirm the report but did point to Trump's quotes at the social-media summit. "Today, I'm directing my administration to explore all regulatory and legislative solutions to protect free speech and the free-speech rights of all Americans," Trump said in July. "Big tech must not censor the voices of the American people."

SEE ALSO: Trump accuses Twitter and Facebook of censoring him and conservative commentators during bizarre 'social-media summit'

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AMG is offloading its majority stake in struggling hedge fund BlueMountain for $91 million

Wed, 08/07/2019 - 5:49pm  |  Clusterstock

  • Affiliated Managers Group sold its majority stake in Andrew Feldstein's BlueMountain Capital to Assured Guaranty, a Bermuda-based municipal bond and infrastructure insurer, for $91 million.
  • The deal is expected to close at the end of the year, and Feldstein will net $22.5 million in shares of Assured Guaranty as a part of the deal. 
  • BlueMountain's performance struggles this year forced AMG to write-off a $415 million loss earlier this year, and the hedge fund recently lost its head of fundamental credit. 
  • For more stories like this, visit Business Insider's homepage

For $91 million, Affiliated Managers Group has sold its share in Andrew Feldstein's struggling BlueMountain Capital roughly 12 years after buying it. 

The deal, which was reported by Bloomberg on Wednesday and then confirmed by a statement from AMG, will close at the end of the year, when Assured Guaranty, a Bermuda-based insurer of bonds and infrastructure, will take control of the credit-focused hedge fund.

Assured also bought out the partners at BlueMountain, leaving Feldstein with roughly $22.5 million in Assured shares and a new title of CIO and head of asset management.

Feldstein's co-founder Stephen Siderow will keep his title as co-president of BlueMountain. 

"We are pleased to have had a good partnership with BlueMountain over many years, and also that we worked closely with our long-term partners at BlueMountain to achieve an outcome that is in the best interests of BlueMountain's clients and employees and AMG's shareholders," said AMG CEO Jay Horgen in the statement. 

See more: BlueMountain's flagship fund is losing money so far this year even as the rest of the industry surges, and it's just the latest blow for the hedge fund

BlueMountain's tough run to start 2019 was not easy on its performance or its biggest backer. The firm's flagship fund, the Credit Alternatives fund, faltered as others in the industry notched impressive returns, and AMG was forced to take a $415 million write-down on its BlueMountain stake.

The hedge fund was working to meet profitability targets that AMG was pushing for by the end of year, which included cutting the firm's long-short equity and systematic equity strategies. The firm was also tied up in the utility PG&E, which was found to be at least partially responsible for some of California's deadly wildfires in 2017 and 2018.

BlueMountain decided to axe the two equity strategies and focus on its strengths, such as the credit investments the firm made its name on. But the firm's head of fundamental credit, Omar Vaishnavi, left just a month after giving an investment pitch on the fund's behalf at a New York conference. 

See more: BlueMountain's head of fundamental credit is leaving the firm. Here's one of the last investments he pitched.

Assured will hold its second-quarter earnings call on Thursday morning. The company plans on spending $90 million on BlueMountain's operations within a year of the deal closing, and will invest another $500 million into BlueMountain products over three years.

"We have been searching for the right asset management platform for over three years, and we found it in BlueMountain, a seasoned asset management firm with a compatible credit culture, complementary market knowledge and the scale to make a material contribution to Assured Guaranty's profitability," Dominic Frederico, Assured Guaranty's chief executive officer, said in the statement.

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CASE STUDY: Interview with PayPal COO Bill Ready on how Venmo evolved from a P2P powerhouse into a full-suite commerce engine (PYPL)

Wed, 08/07/2019 - 5:00pm  |  Clusterstock

PayPal has long been a commerce enabler, offering highly popular services like PayPal OneTouch, a buy button with a wide reach in addition to loyalty and conversions that far surpass the competition's.

But it's also a leader in the digital peer-to-peer (P2P) payments space, as a wider set of users turn to PayPal apps, including Braintree-owned Venmo, for fast, simple, and convenient ways to pay their friends and family.

As digital P2P grows, and users continue to spend and buy online more than ever, PayPal has identified an opportunity to grow its commerce presence onto another platform, expand the services it offers, and better serve its customers in a time where returns and margins are shrinking across the payments space.

Business Insider Intelligence spoke to PayPal COO Bill Ready about how the firm is working to evolve Venmo — one of the most "beloved" apps in the millennial demographic and a P2P market leader — from a P2P offering to a full suite commerce engine.

Simply click here and enter your email address to receive a download of our full Venmo case study completely FREE!

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Instagram's lax privacy practices let a trusted partner track millions of users' physical locations, secretly save their stories, and flout its rules (FB)

Wed, 08/07/2019 - 4:56pm  |  Clusterstock

  • A buzzy San Francisco startup has been secretly saving what appears to be millions of Instagram users' stories and tracking their locations.
  • The marketing firm Hyp3r has been scraping huge quantities of data off the Facebook-owned app and using it to build up detailed profiles of people's movements and interests.
  • The situation highlights how Facebook is still struggling to protect users' data and oversee developers accessing its platform, more than a year after the Cambridge Analytica scandal revealed important privacy lapses.
  • Instagram has now issued Hyp3r a cease and desist, kicked it off its platform, and made changes to its platform to protect user data.
  • EDITOR'S NOTE: This story would normally be exclusive to BI Prime members. However, because of the public interest in this reporting, we're making this story free to read for a limited time.

A combination of configuration errors and lax oversight by Instagram allowed one of the social network's vetted advertising partners to misappropriate vast amounts of public user data and create detailed records of users' physical whereabouts, personal bios, and photos that were intended to vanish after 24 hours.

The profiles, which were scraped and stitched together by the San Francisco-based marketing firm Hyp3r, were a clear violation of Instagram's rules. But it all occurred under Instagram's nose for the past year by a firm that Instagram had blessed as one of its preferred "Facebook Marketing Partners."

On Wednesday, Instagram sent Hyp3r a cease-and-desist letter after being presented with Business Insider's findings and confirmed that the startup broke its rules.

"HYP3R's actions were not sanctioned and violate our policies. As a result, we've removed them from our platform. We've also made a product change that should help prevent other companies from scraping public location pages in this way," a spokesperson said in a statement.

The existence of the profiles is a stark indication that more than a year after revelations that Facebook users' data was exploited by Cambridge Analytica to fuel divisive political ad campaigns, Facebook's struggles in locking down users' personal information not only persist but also extend beyond the core Facebook app. Instagram, which is owned by Facebook but operated as a mostly separate business, has been largely insulated from the privacy backlash and scrutiny that has rocked its parent company.

But the wealth of the data contained in people's fleeting Instagram activity, from family-vacation snapshots to restaurant appetizer photos, can provide valuable fodder for a variety of outside actors, who can repurpose the information in ways users never expected or agreed to.

Business Insider spoke with multiple former employees of Hyp3r to learn about its practices and reviewed public documents and marketing materials that outline its capabilities.

The total volume of Instagram data Hyp3r has obtained is not clear, though the firm has publicly said it has "a unique dataset of hundreds of millions of the highest value consumers in the world," and sources said more than of 90% of its data came from Instagram. It ingests in excess of 1 million Instagram posts a month, sources said.

Data scraping is a persistent problem across the web for open platforms. Instagram is not the only service to have been affected over the years, and Hyp3r is almost certainly not the only business scraping its data. But the nature of Hyp3r's activity raises significant questions about the extent of the due diligence that Instagram and parent company Facebook conduct on partners using their platform, as well as on their own procedures to safeguard user data.

"For [Instagram] to leave these endpoints open and let people get to this in a back channel sort of way, I thought was kind of hypocritical," one former Hyp3r employee said. It takes very little effort for Instagram to protect the location data accessed by Hyp3r, they said: "Why they haven't done it remains a mystery."

Hyp3r denied breaking Instagram's rules, essentially arguing that accessing public data on Instagram in this way is legitimate and justifiable, and saying it was confident that any issues with Instagram would be resolved shortly.

CEO Carlos Garcia said in an emailed statement: "HYP3R is, and has always been, a company that enables authentic, delightful marketing that is compliant with consumer privacy regulations and social network Terms of Services. We do not view any content or information that cannot be accessed publicly by everyone online."

'A location-based marketing platform'

Hyp3r, founded in 2015, describes itself as "a location-based marketing platform that helps businesses unlock geosocial data to acquire and engage high-value customers."

In simpler terms: Hyp3r is a marketing company that tracks social-media posts tagged with real-world locations. It then lets its customers directly interact with those posts via its tools and uses that data to target the social-media users with relevant advertisements. Someone who visits a hotel and posts a selfie there might later be targeted with pitches from one of the hotel's competitors, for example.

To provide some of these capabilities, Hyp3r made unauthorized use of Instagram data in three key ways:

  1. It took advantage of an Instagram security lapse, allowing it to zero in on specific locations, like hotels and gyms, and vacuum up all the public posts made from the locations.
  2. At these locations, it systematically saved users' public Instagram stories — a type of content designed to vanish after 24 hours —including the individual photos that users shared in the stories, in a clear violation of Instagram's terms of service.
  3. It scraped public user profiles on a broad basis, collecting information like user bios and followers, which it then combined with the other location information and data from other sources.

It also uses image-recognition software on users' posts it collects to automatically analyze what they're depicting.

Hyp3r did not access any nonpublic data from Instagram users who set their profiles' privacy settings to "private."

The result of the public information it gleaned was a sophisticated database about Instagram users, their interests, and their movements that Hyp3r openly touted to customers as one of its key selling points, despite the fact that Instagram's policies were structured so that such a thing would not be possible.

Hyp3r's data scraping was a response to post-Cambridge Analytica changes

Hyp3r is not a shady boiler-room operation.

The buzzy startup has raised tens of millions of dollars, including a $17.3 million funding round in September from backers such as Silicon Valley Bank and Thayer Ventures. It has won multiple awards — including a "Most Innovative Company" accolade from Fast Company in 2019 and 2018, and a Cannes Lions award in 2017. It counts marquee brands like Marriott International, Pepsi, Hard Rock, and 24 Hour Fitness among its clients, and Jim Messina, a former Obama aide, sits on its board.

Some of Hyp3r's behavior was once permitted by Instagram. 

Like many big platforms, Instagram has an API, or application programming interface, that allows developers to build services that can interact with its platform. (They're the reason you can save files to Dropbox from Microsoft Office or see your Facebook friends on Spotify, for example.)

But revelations in March 2018 about the political-research firm Cambridge Analytica's misappropriation of 87 million Facebook users' data — data which was originally collected via a quiz app built on top of Facebook's API years prior — prompted a sea change for Facebook, including at Instagram.

Before the scandal broke, Instagram's API allowed developers to search for public posts for a given location. But in the aftermath of it, Instagram began to deprecate (i.e. switch off) a bunch of its API's functionality, including location tools — causing chaos for companies, like Hyp3r, that had been relying on it.

Publicly, Hyp3r welcomed Instagram's API changes, writing a worthy blog post in which it said it "understand[s] and welcome[s] the changes that Facebook is making to protect the privacy of all of us," and promising its data would never be used for political purposes.

But behind the scenes, the company got to work building a system that could disregard Instagram's decision and keep on harvesting data anyway, sources told Business Insider.

Hyp3r geofenced thousands of locations around the world, then slurped up public posts

Hyp3r created a tool that could "geofence" specific locations and then harvest every public post tagged with that location on Instagram.

The result is a database of thousands of locations, including "hotels, casinos, cruise ships, airports, fitness clubs, stadiums and shopping destinations across the globe," as well as hospitals, bars, and restaurants. 

If a user makes a post at one of these locations, it is, unbeknownst to them, saved to Hyp3r's systems indefinitely, sources said, along with other information including a link to their profile picture, their profile bio, and their number of followers.

Ordinary users' Instagram stories — posts that are supposed to disappear after 24 hours — have never been available through Instagram's API. But Hyp3r built a tool to collect them too, sources said, saving the images indefinitely, along with the associated metadata. (The official API allows access only to stories of business accounts and creator accounts, a tiny fraction of the Instagram population, and these are not surfaceable by location.)

The posts and stories Hyp3r collected were available publicly — but viewable only as single pieces of content. By harvesting them systematically from popular locations, Hyp3r became able to build up detailed profiles of huge numbers of people's movements, their habits, and the businesses they frequent over time.

Imagine visiting a new city and sharing a geotagged story with friends of the hotel you visited. By itself, it doesn't tell viewers much about you.

But combine it with the story you posted from the hospital you visited for a checkup, and the selfie you made the next day at a sports stadium, and the story from the vegetarian restaurant you ate at, and so on, and an intimate picture of your life and interests begins to emerge over weeks and months.

The collection and preservation of stories in particular appears to defy Instagram users' expectations. People share stories with the understanding they will disappear in a day's time; instead many are being saved indefinitely by a company without their knowledge and used to profile them.

Hyp3r said that because the data it collects is already public, it does not require consent from Instagram users to harvest it, and that companies have legitimate business needs that justify knowing what is being shared from their properties.

How Hyp3r uses its data

Hyp3r has put this treasure trove of data to work in multiple ways.

First, it lets customers easily engage with users that are at their properties via the app, using its tool "Engage." It means Marriott, for example, can see every post tagged at a Marriott hotel via the Hyp3r app, including comments and likes, and respond to them where it wants to. This is not possible for apps built on Instagram's official API.

It can also target people with ads, based on their interests and the locations they've visited. Businesses can ask Hyp3r to geofence their rivals' locations, then subsequently target people who have visited those rivals with ads on Facebook.

The harvested Instagram data can also be combined with data collected elsewhere on platforms like Salesforce and Adobe — creating ever more detailed profiles about the people whose information is being scraped.

Salesforce and Adobe did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment on how they vetted Hyp3r before partnering with the startup. 

Why didn't Instagram spot this?

Hyp3r has made no attempt to hide what it does.

The company's iOS App Store listing shows screenshots of an Instagram post in its app that it says it collected from a specific location — a capability that Instagram does not allow — and in its release notes from December, it references adding "support for Instagram Stories across the app."

It publicly promises its customers features that far exceed what is available through Instagram's API, saying it "surfaces all public social activity from a location — regardless of hashtags and mentions — so you never miss an opportunity to dazzle your customers." (Instagram's current API allows users to view public posts if they have been mentioned in them, or retrieve some hashtagged posts subject to stricter limitations, but not because of their location.)

However, Facebook included Hyp3r on its exclusive list of Facebook Marketing Partners — a directory of vetted companies that "can give you superior insights and data for better marketing decisions." 

A spokesperson for Instagram said the company periodically reviews Facebook Marketing Partners to ensure compliance.

Hyp3r's scraping appears to violate Instagram's rules on multiple points, including a requirement to store or cache content only "for the period necessary to provide your app's service" (Hyp3r stored user data indefinitely, according to multiple sources), and a prohibition on "reverse engineer[ing] the Instagram's APIs" (Hyp3r deliberately rebuilt its own version of an API that Instagram shuttered after Cambridge Analytica).

Similarly, Facebook's Automated Data Collection terms say: "You will not engage in Automated Data Collection without Facebook's express written permission."

Instagram also bans data from being transferred "to any ad network," but the Instagram data could be plugged into Facebook's own ads manager to target people with advertisements — meaning Facebook indirectly profited from Hyp3r's data collection. 

Hyp3r disputed that it violated Instagram's terms of service and data policies. However, an Instagram spokesperson said its practices violated the company's rules on automated data collection.

The marketing firm's behavior seems unlikely to be illegal under US law. In 2017, LinkedIn lost a legal fight against a company that had been scraping its publicly available data.

Instagram's data lapse

Hyp3r also took advantage of a lapse in Instagram's security to boost its data collection.

When accessing Instagram through a web browser, there is a publicly available JSON package that bundles up various bits of data into an easy-to-access format. It's available by simply appending a short string of characters to any Instagram URL, and you don't need to log in, gain approval, or authenticate your identity in any way to access it.

At Instagram's request, Business Insider is not sharing the exact method of accessing the package so the company has time to fix the issue.

Instagram displays public location pages, showing ordinary users posts from a given location, and this package appears on those pages. Sources said that it was through this that Hyp3r was able to scrape some of the data it was illicitly collecting on users. 

In other words: A year after Instagram disabled its location functionality for developers, the social network was still inadvertently providing an easy way for developers to keep on collecting this data, without any accountability.

The data would still have been technically possible to scrape had this JSON package not existed — but its exposure made it significantly simpler.

It's not clear why Instagram's automated tools for detecting bots on its platform failed to detect Hyp3r's mass-scale scraping.

In response to Hyp3r's actions, Instagram has made a change to prevent public location pages from being available to logged-out users.

It has also completely revoked Hyp3r's access to its APIs and removed it from the list of Facebook Marketing Partners.

An Instagram spokesperson said they couldn't yet comment on whether they would notify affected users or ask Hyp3r to formally certify that it deletes the data. The social network has formally asked Hyp3r to stop collecting Instagram data in its cease-and-desist letter, it said, and will ask it to explain itself in a phone interview and provide an account of all the data that was scraped.  

Do you work at Instagram or Hyp3r? Got a tip? Contact this reporter via encrypted messaging app Signal at +1 (650) 636-6268 using a non-work phone, email at, Telegram or WeChat at robaeprice, or Twitter DM at @robaeprice. (PR pitches by email only, please.) You can also contact Business Insider securely via SecureDrop.

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Lyft's second quarter was way better than Wall Street expected (LYFT)

Wed, 08/07/2019 - 4:38pm  |  Clusterstock

Lyft on Wednesday reported second-quarter earnings that topped Wall Street's expectations, while boosting its guidance for the full year. 

Here are the important numbers:

  • Revenue: $867 million ($809 million expected)
  • Losses per share: $0.68 (adjusted) vs. $1.74 expected
  • Active riders: 21.8 million

Shares of Lyft, which went public in March, rose as much as 10% in after-hours trading following the news. 

For 2019, Lyft now expects revenues to be between $3.47 billion and $3.5 billion,  with losses shrinking by about $300 million to an $875 million maximum. 

Uber's stock price also rose about 2.5% in after-hours trading as investors digested Lyft's results as possible good news for the industry. 

"Lyft's second quarter was marked by strong execution and important advances in our product and platform," CEO Logan Green said in a press release. "This translated to record revenue driven by better than expected Active Rider growth and Revenue per Active Rider monetization."

Lyft previously said in its first-quarter earnings release, its first post-IPO, that it expects 2019 to be its worst year for financial losses. 

"We anticipate 2019 will be our peak loss year as we then move steadily towards profitably on a consolidated basis," chief financial officer Brian Roberts said at the time. 

Lyft also disclosed that some insiders, who are generally locked into holding the stock for a set period of time following an IPO, will be able to sell their shares earlier than expected. Lyft's lockup period was originally scheduled to end on September 24, the company said in a regulatory filing, but that date falls during the legally mandated quiet period ahead of its next earnings report. 

Read more: Uber and Lyft drivers reveal the scariest situations they've ever encountered

"Therefore, in accordance with the lock-up agreements with the underwriters, the lock-up period will end at the open of trading on August 19, 2019, which is ten trading days prior to the commencement of the Company's quarterly blackout period," the filing says. 

Executives will answer questions from investors and analysts on a conference call at 5 pm Eastern Wednesday to give more color to the earnings release. They'll likely have questions about Lyft's continued fight with Uber for market share, as well as bikes and scooters. 

"Key on the call will be updates on incentive spending and the competitive environment in U.S. ridesharing, with detail on market share gains," JPMorgan told clients earlier this week. "As the industry moves to a focus on product differentiation instead of price, we will look for more commentary on the impacts Lyft's recent product initiatives (matching platform, shared saver, etc.) have had on fueling growth."

Lyft does not break out data for bike and scooter rentals in its quarterly reports, but analysts will likely have questions about the company's continued investment in the programs, given that its electric bike re-launch has now been marred by fires in San Francisco.

"We remain focused on reshaping transportation and we are pleased with the continued improvement in market conditions," Green continued in the press release. "This environment along with our execution is translating to strong revenue growth and sales and marketing efficiencies. As a result of this positive momentum, we anticipate 2019 losses to be better than previously expected and we are pleased to have updated our outlook."

SEE ALSO: Uber and Lyft drivers reveal the scariest situations they've ever encountered

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Oil tumbles into a bear market as recession fears rage (WTI)

Wed, 08/07/2019 - 4:34pm  |  Clusterstock

  • A surprise increase in American oil stockpiles added fuel to fears of a global recession.
  • Futures fell as much as 5.8% to a seven-month low on Wednesday, pushing the resource into bear market territory.
  • US-China trade tensions have overtaken threats of supply disruption in the Persian Gulf as the biggest headwind to oil.
  • Watch oil trade live on Markets Insider.

Trade tensions and fear of a global recession has been a drag on oil prices, even during peak season for demand. 

Futures fell as much as 5.8% Wednesday to seven-month lows after American crude stockpiles posted a surprise increase. The loss sent the resource tumbling into bear market territory. Having extra supply dilutes prices, while fears of a global recession added to worries that demand may slow.  

Global recession fears were sparked Wednesday when New Zealand, India, and Thailand all cut rates following the US's own rate cut in July. Global stocks and commodities slid in early trading while bonds and other safe-haven assets such as gold rallied. Even bitcoin rose over $12,000 briefly Wednesday, breaching the level for a second time in three days.

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US domestic crude inventories grew by 2.39 million barrels last week, ending a seven-week long stretch of declines, Bloomberg reported. Gasoline stockpiles also grew by 4.4 million barrels, which surprised the industry as it is currently peak demand season — which usually means there isn't extra gasoline to stockpile. 

Brent crude October futures lost as much as 5.2% to $55.88 a barrel, and prices have decreased more than 20% since their year-to-date peak in April. Meanwhile, US West Texas Intermediate crude futures also slid as much as 5.8% to $50.52 a barrel. 

Oil has plunged this month as trade tensions between the US and China escalated, overshadowing fears that disruptions in the Persian Gulf would be the biggest negative impact. There's increased speculation that China will start avoiding American oil as trade tension escalates, according to Bloomberg. 

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Stocks whipsaw, finish mixed amid surging global recession fears

Wed, 08/07/2019 - 4:16pm  |  Clusterstock

  • Stocks bounced back from a sharp sell-0ff on Wednesday, with major indexes finishing mixed.
  • The initial losses were triggered by three central banks around the world making surprising cuts to their interest rates, raising concerns around a broad global slowdown. 
  • Meanwhile, bond prices soared, pushing the 30-year Treasury yield near all-time lows and investors also piled into havens such as gold, which reached a six-year high.
  • Stocks recovered in afternoon trading as bond yields stabilized.
  • Visit the Markets Insider homepage for more stories.

US stocks rebounded from a sharp sell-off on Wednesday sparked by three global central banks making surprising cuts to their interest rates. While that stoked concerns of a broad global slowdown, stabilizing bond yields calmed nerves in the afternoon.

The bout of risk aversion sent bond prices soaring in the morning, with the 30-year Treasury yield falling close to an all-time low. It recovered in the afternoon, returning to positive territory. Meanwhile, gold also hit a six-year high as investors sought the relative safety of haven assets.

Here's a look at the major US indexes as of the 4:00 p.m. close:

Wednesday's early-day sell-off came after Thailand, India, and New Zealand shocked investors by lowering their benchmark lending rates. Their actions further fueled a global currency war that's seen an increasing number of nations weaken their currencies. That debasement is often driven by rate cuts, since such easing increases the money supply.

Following New Zealand's rate cut, the value of the country's dollar fell, with Australia's dollar sinking to a decade-low on expectations that its central bank would follow suit and slash borrowing costs as well. 

These latest maneuverings also followed China's decision earlier this week to let its currency slip below the psychologically significant level of 7 yuan per dollar. The move was viewed as an escalation in the already fraught global trade war, since a weaker currency makes a nation's exports more appealing — and markets wound up turning in their worst day of 2019.

China stabilized its currency on Tuesday, leading to a rally in the major US indexes that pared some losses from Monday's sell-off. But investors hadn't counted on other countries getting in on the currency-devaluation trend, hence Wednesday's large losses.

President Trump also resumed his pressure on the US Federal Reserve to continuing lowering interest rates. The president wrote in a tweet  that the fed is more of threat to the US economy than China, and that the central bank needs to cut rates "bigger and faster." 

Within the S&P 500, these were the largest gainers:

And the largest decliners:

CVS health jumped as much as 5.6% after reporting second-quarter earnings that beat Wall Street estimates. The strong performance reassured investor's that the company is on track to successfully integrate its $70 billion acquisition of Aetna into its existing business. 

Shares of Disney fell as much as 5% after the media conglomerate reported second-quarter financial results that missed analysts expectations. The company attributed the rough quarter to its on-going effort to roll assets from its $71 billion purchase of 21st Century Fox into its studio entertainment segment. 

The S&P 500's rebound was led by materials, real estate, and consumer staples. Financials and energy stocks posted the only broad losses on Wednesday, dropping 1.21% and 0.76%, respectively. 

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3 private islands in Belize just hit the market — and at less than $530,000 a piece, they each cost less than the typical home in NYC and Honolulu. Here's what the money will buy you.

Wed, 08/07/2019 - 3:53pm  |  Clusterstock

For those outside-of-the-box homebuyers looking to invest in an affordable private island, you're in luck.

Three private islands in Belize are currently on the market for less than $530,000 each. It's a price point that's cheaper than the median home value in some of America's major markets, including New York City, Los Angeles, and Honolulu

The three islands vary in prices ranging from $350,000 to $525,000, according to the listing website, 7th Heaven Properties.

They are located off the Caribbean coast of Southern Belize and are either undeveloped or contain a few structures that need repairs, according to Robert Cooper, the director of 7th Heaven Properties.

Read more: The Martha's Vineyard estate that Jackie Kennedy bought for $1 million in 1979 just hit the market for $65 million — here's a look inside the property

Cooper also told Business Insider that the attractive price points are due to three main factors: the islands are small in comparison to other private islands and have minimal to no developments on them; there are around 200 private islands or cayes off the Carribean coast of Belize, so there are quite a few private islands for sale; and Belize's real-estate market is less developed, especially in comparison to other countries that also have large pools of tropical islands, like the Bahamas.

Keep reading for a closer look at the three private islands.

SEE ALSO: Run-down and vacant homes in Detroit are being auctioned off for as little as $1,000. All homeowners have to do is get them into livable condition in 6 months.

DON'T MISS: A private island an hour from NYC is for sale for $13 million, and it comes with 2 homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and a private helipad

Belize is located in Central America and hugs the western edge of the Caribbean Sea. It sits under the US and Mexico and is around just two hours from Houston, Texas by plane.

Source: Google Maps

The largest and most expensive of the three available islands spans 1.5 acres and is located off the coast of Dangriga Town in southern Belize.

Source: 7th Heaven Properties

The 65,340-square-foot island is currently on the market for $525,000 ...

Source: 7th Heaven Properties

... and is only four miles from the Belize Barrier Reef.

Source: 7th Heaven Properties

The second-most expensive island of the three spans just over 0.65 acres and sits on Belize's Tobacco Caye Range. It's listed for $500,000.

Source: 7th Heaven Properties

There are five structures and three piers already on the island. They were built in 2009.

Source: 7th Heaven Properties

Together, the existing structures include nine bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms. However, according to the listing website, they are in need of repairs.

Source: 7th Heaven Properties

The least expensive of the three islands spans one acre and is located seven miles off the coast of southern Belize.

Source: 7th Heaven Properties

The island is undeveloped and, as described by the listing website, is essentially a "blank canvas" for the future buyer.

Source: 7th Heaven Properties

It is on the market for $350,000.

Source: 7th Heaven Properties

However, not all of the islands for sale in southern Belize are as affordable. Just consider one 60-acre private island off the coast of Maya Beach.

Source: 7th Heaven Properties

It's the largest island in the area — and it's on the market for $12 million.

Source: 7th Heaven Properties

As for the three, smaller private islands, the affordability of their price tags comes down to three key factors. The islands' small size is working in their favor, price-wise, as is the large number of private islands for sale in Belize.

Source: 7th Heaven Properties

Thirdly, Belize's real-estate market is less developed, especially in comparison to other countries that also have large pools of tropical islands, like the Bahamas.

Source: 7th Heaven Properties

To put the three price tags into perspective, they are all more affordable than the typical home in New York City, which has a median value of $674,100 ...

Source: Zillow

... the typical home in Los Angeles, which has a median value of $688,700 ...

Source: Zillow

... and the typical home in Honolulu, which has a median value of $655,100.

Source: Zillow

We talked to 7 insiders about the $27 billion Refinitiv-LSE deal. Here’s how one of the biggest data deals of the year came together.

Wed, 08/07/2019 - 3:15pm  |  Clusterstock

  • The London Stock Exchange has agreed to a $27 billion deal to buy data provider Refinitiv, just a year after the company was spun out of Thomson Reuters by private equity firm Blackstone.
  • The deal is being led by some of the biggest names in M&A in London, including Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and Evercore.
  • A media report about the deal talks triggered an scramble to get in front of the news, followed by a final sprint of negotiations and legal work, with lawyers and bankers holed up in a London law office to hammer out specifics. 
  • Conditions were less than ideal. One person said on at least two nights over a five-day period to get the deal done, a mouse was seen scampering across the law office floor. 
  • "I am taking August off," said one adviser of the deal's announcement. "I'm exhausted."
  • Click here for more BI Prime stories.

To nail down terms for the London Stock Exchange's expected $27 billion deal to buy Refinitiv, bankers and lawyers descended on the London office of global law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer — pulling all-nighters that to industry vets are a badge of honor.

And according to one person who was there, there was also an unusual guest: a mouse. On at least two separate nights, one was seen scampering across the floor of the Freshfields office, located just a few blocks from the River Thames, the person said. 

"We wondered whether this was a new M&A tactic to get us to not read the documents so closely," the person joked. 

It was in this nondescript building that attorneys, bankers and executives — exhausted from sleep-deprived nights — hammered out the final deal terms that resulted in what's likely to be one of the biggest financial technology deals of the year. When it was announced last Thursday morning, both sides shook hands with a photograph taken of dealmakers, but there was no grand celebration. Mostly, they were just happy to finally get some fresh air and reflect on the work they had done.

"I am taking August off," said one adviser of the deal's announcement. "I'm exhausted."

The deal, which had been thrown into the public spotlight earlier than some executives expected, required a deluge of work at the headquarters of Freshfields, LSE's legal advisor: namely, finalizing hundreds of pages of legal documents that covered all aspects of the deal, including its purchase and sale agreement, and working out final deal terms.

The home-stretch sprint came right after a hiccup, when news of deal talks were leaked to The Financial Times on Friday, July 26. This prompted LSE executives to hastily draw up a press release, making sure they were in compliance with UK laws requiring they inform shareholders about significant deals. 

"They had to scramble to put out a statement at 1 a.m. London time," said one person close to the deal, who characterized the leak as "not ideal."

Next, Saturday morning called for an all-hands-on-deck at Freshfields' London office, which became ground zero for final negotiations between companies as lawyers and bankers who had once worked on the deal from New York, now descended upon the British law office.

Read more: How a little-known Goldman Sachs partner took over the LSE and orchestrated an industry rattling $27 billion buyout

The stakes were clear: If successful, the deal would create a business that challenges financial data behemoth, Bloomberg. If unsuccessful, both sides would walk away with nothing more than what they started talks with. (The deal still requires antitrust approval.)

A union long in the making

That a union between the two companies was even a possibility traces back more than five years, when Refinitiv's CEO David Craig had craved for more investment in his business by its then-owner, Thomson Reuters, according to a person familiar with his thinking.

It was in 2013 that Matteo Canonaco, a co-founder of Canson Capital Partners who socialized with Craig, learned of this and thought Refinitiv would be a good candidate for a leveraged buyout, according to this person. He acted on the information and introduced Craig to Joseph Barratta, global head of private equity at Blackstone, as it was reported by Reuters.

Discussions with Barratta led Blackstone to take a look at Refinitiv, this person said. But the private equity giant couldn't make the math work at the time, according to an account of the deal on a podcast published by Blackstone.

The firm revisited the idea in 2016 and Blackstone's senior managing director, Martin Brand, took over the deal and developed a plan to carve Refinitiv out of Thomson Reuters.

About 15 to 20 meetings developing the thesis behind such a deal proved fruitful, according to the Blackstone podcast. After months of negotiations with Thomson Reuters, the two sides settled on a corporate partnership, where Thomson Reuters would remain a large investor but cede control to Blackstone. Blackstone bought Refinitiv for $20 billion to own 55 percent alongside other investors, while Thomson Reuters owned 45 percent.

The stars align for LSE

After the deal was completed in October 2018, Blackstone immediately began making changes to Refinitiv, working closely with its management.

This included announcing the simultaneous layoff of 2,000 employees, and the hiring of 1,000, to save $650 million. Blackstone also took public an electronic trading platform that Refinitiv owned, called Tradeweb Markets, raising $1.1 billion in April.

The same month, news surfaced that Deutsche Boerse was in talks to buy some of Refinitiv's foreign exchange business— a development that did not go unnoticed by the newly appointed CEO of the London Stock Exchange.

LSE CEO David Schwimmer, who had just joined the British exchange operator from Goldman Sachs, already knew Blackstone from having worked with the firm at Goldman.

In fact, as one of his last acts at Goldman Sachs before joining LSE, Schwimmer had helped sell a company that Blackstone and Goldman jointly owned. The company was Ipreo, another financial data provider, which announced its sale to information analytics company IHS Markit in May.

Brand, Blackstone's lead on Refinitiv, had worked on the Ipreo deal, though he never met Schwimmer in person during the matter, said people familiar with their relationship.

Still, Brand came away with an overall positive impression of Schwimmer. Based on conference calls and other communications, Schwimmer struck Brand as smart, humble and strategic.

Read more:LSE's $27 billion bid for Refinitiv highlights how hungry exchanges are for data. Industry insiders say FactSet could be the next target.

Sometime after Schwimmer settled into his new job at LSE in the summer of 2018, Brand and Schwimmer spoke about Refinitiv, though LSE had already taken a look at the company in the past, at least considering a potential partnership, said a person with direct knowledge of the matter. However, the pace of conversations sped up once news of a possible sale to Deutsche Boerse surfaced.

It was believed that the FX side of the business fit better with LSE, so Blackstone slowed negotiations with the German exchange, which in turn gave discussions with LSE a boost in momentum. One adviser described the situation as an "alignment of stars" whereby LSE's share price continued to rise and counterparties began to see the strategic value of a merger.

It took more than three months before news of merger talks leaked to the Financial Times. By that point, the deal was in its final stages, but terms were being worked out all the way through to the day before the transaction was announced, according to people familiar with the matter.

Dealmakers assemble

In the days leading up to the deal's announcement, Freshfields' London office served as a revolving door of Refinitiv and LSE executives, flanked by some of the most influential and expensive dealmakers who joined meetings in and out of the law office.

Within the office, Refinitiv camped out on its sixth floor, while LSE took the fifth. Law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, which represented Refinitiv, and Freshfields, which represented LSE, drafted up paperwork as negotiations neared the finish line.

Bankers were on scene as well, including some of the biggest names in M&A.

Jane Gladstone, a top M&A banker at Evercore, had flown in from New York overnight after news of the deal talks hit the press Friday. She and a team of bankers advising Refinitiv joined attorneys at Simpson Thacher, including partner Elizabeth Cooper, to bring the deal to the finish line.

The exact terms being negotiated in the final stretch could not be determined. One adviser said they focused on governance issues related to board seats and investor rights, although this was disputed by another advisor who refused to provide details about what was actually discussed.

Gladstone is well-known in M&A circles, especially for her financial technology work. Last year, she advised NEX Group on its $5.7 billion sale to CME Group. She was one of eight women out of the 49 people recognized in Institutional Investor's annual ranking of financial technology deal makers.

Also there was Canonaco, the banker who introduced Refinitiv to Blackstone who also had a big reason to see the deal to fruition: He, along with his colleague James Simpson who co-founded boutique Canson Capital Partners, had not just advised Refinitiv, but also raised more than $100 million to invest in the company.

On LSE's side, there was general counsel Catherine Johnson who was on-scene, as well as Paul Carter, group head of corporate development.

Bankers for the exchange who were said to be involved in meetings leading up to the deal's announcement but whose location could not be verified were Mark Sorrell, a UK-based M&A executive at Goldman Sachs, as well as Morgan Stanley's Matthew Jarman, the lead banker who advised Intercontinental Exchange in a bid for the London Stock Exchange in 2016.

Late-night negotiations

As late as Wednesday, there were still meaningful topics being worked out between sides, said two people familiar with the matter, but advisors stayed through the night and produced signatures at 6:55am on Thursday.

The London Stock Exchange had offered $27 billion for Refinitiv in a deal that placed Blackstone and Thomson Reuters as the largest shareholders in LSE, together owning 37 percent of its shares and controlling just under 30 percent of its voting rights.

One person involved said that both sides were "equally unhappy and equally happy" and described the final terms as "hard-negotiated."

On news of the deal's agreement, London Stock Exchange shares rose in a sign that shareholders approved of the transaction.

People with direct knowledge of the deal said Blackstone did not hardball LSE on the offer price so that the public markets would welcome the deal and LSE's share price would tick up.

A big win for Blackstone

The deal was viewed as a big win for Blackstone, which appeared set to double its money just 10 months after it bought Refinitiv. The private equity group, along with the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Singapore's GIC, put $4 billion in the form of equity and preferred debt into a 55% stake in Refinitiv last year which now reflects around $8 billion in common equity as of last Friday.

However, Blackstone and minority investors agreed to a lock-up period of two years, after which they will be progressively allowed to sell their stakes over a three-year period.

Because of this, they will have to wait out a return on the investment as Refinitiv is controlled by the London Stock Exchange.

Blackstone will have two board seats while Thomson Reuters will have one. People close to the deal remarked how Blackstone's minority ownership position -- somewhat unusual for a private equity firm -- reflected a vote of confidence in Refinitiv and LSE's prospects.

On a personal level, Brand, the Blackstone lead, had viewed the deal as one of the biggest opportunities in his career. Seen as "straight in style" throughout negotiations, he was thought to have worn the same suit throughout the five-day sprint, all the way until he posed for a picture with an LSE executive last Thursday. 

"It was pretty intense," said the person who was there. "[We] were there non-stop."

SEE ALSO: Meet the bankers pulling together LSE’s industry-changing $27 billion deal for Refinitiv

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An "expensive" 401(k) fee is around 2%, but most people have no idea what they're paying

Wed, 08/07/2019 - 3:06pm  |  Clusterstock

  • Many people using an employer-sponsored 401(k) to save for retirement don't know how much they're paying in management fees, or what those fees are for.
  • There are two types of fees: those charged by the 401(k) provider, and those charged by the mutual funds or ETFs in the account. At the high end, those fees could cost you more than $150,000 in retirement.
  • Fees alone aren't reason enough to forgo a 401(k), but an account being charged 2% or more has relatively high fees, and that money might be better off elsewhere. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

A 401(k) is a tax-advantaged investment account with much higher annual contribution limit than an IRA, and if your employer offers to "match" — i.e. contribute to the account as you do, matching a percentage of your contributions — most people consider that free money.

This type of retirement account is among the most popular in the United States. At the end of 2018, 401(k) plans held an estimated $5.2 trillion in assets, about 19% of retirement savings in the US, according to the Investment Company Institute.

But some other statistics are a bit more startling. A survey from TD Ameritrade found that only 27% of people surveyed knew how much they were paying in 401(k) fees.

Fees alone aren't enough to make a 401(k) not worth it —  especially if you get an employer match — but fees can add up. 

If you don't know what you're paying, or if what you are paying is reasonable, read on to learn more about the typical 401(k) fees in the US and how you can minimize their impact on your retirement.

Average 401(k) fees in the United States: What to expect

Your 401(k) fees don't all come from one place. There are two general types of fees you will see in your account:

  • Fees charged directly by the 401(k) plan provider
  • Fees charged by the mutual funds and ETFs in your 401(k) account

While you will deal with some level of fund fees even outside of a 401(k), you have more freedom to choose your investments when you invest outside of an employer-sponsored plan. That said, there's no one-size-fits-all answer to whether an investor should use a 401(k) or not — that depends on factors like whether an employer offers a match for its plans, and what the fee structure looks like for 401(k) and non-401(k) investments alike.

Read More: Here's exactly how to figure out when you can retire

According to an analysis by BrightScope, large 401(k) plans with $100 million or more in assets typically charge less than 1% in annual fees. This is a generally competitive rate, and the biggest plans regularly charge under 0.50%.

As plans get smaller, fees go up. The BrightScope study found that small plans often charge between 1.5% and 2% per year, with many charging in excess of 2%.

While 2% may not sound like much, it adds up to a lot in the long run. If you have a $10,000 balance today and plan to add $5,000 per year to your 401(k) over the next 30 years, a 2% fee will cost you an estimated $153,218 over time, according to a calculator on investment website Blooom.


Account management fee

The biggest fee you'll see referred to as a "401(k) fee" is the plan management fee. Your fees are generally deducted automatically in a way that makes it feel like you are not paying any fees at all. But as we saw from the math above, even 2% can take a huge chunk from your retirement savings.

Fees around 0.50% are reasonable for a 401(k). Anything over 1% is getting into a territory that's more beneficial to the plan manager than the savers. 

Again, the fees are probably worthwhile if you get an employer match for your 401(k) contributions. If you can get 2%, 3%, or more of your pay added on just for saving for retirement, you should do it even if there are fees on your investments.

Mutual fund and ETF fees

When you're staring at the fees charged by your 401(k) account itself, it is easy to forget about the fees charged by each underlying investment. Hopefully, your 401(k) offers investments you can buy and sell with no load fees or transaction fees. But that doesn't mean the funds are free.

Most mutual funds charge an annual management fee reported as an expense ratio, or fee rate as a percent of assets. If you have $10,000 in a fund with a 1% expense ratio, you would pay $100 per year to have those funds managed.

Read More: Dual-income couples tend to make a major mistake that jeopardizes their retirement

Some funds charge additional marketing fees, so beware which funds you choose to invest in. Funds from Vanguard, Schwab, and Fidelity tend to charge less than 0.20% in fees. Other funds charge well over 1%. Every investor should know and understand where their money is going.

Rolling over your old accounts could save you fees

If you ever leave a job with high 401(k) fees, you could consider doing a rollover — move your savings from one account to another by calling your plan manager — when you leave to cut those fees to zero.

Or, if you have a string of old 401(k), 403(b), 457, or other retirement accounts at old employers, a good option is to merge and simplify. A 401(k) rollover allows you to merge the balances in a new Rollover IRA. This account offers the same tax advantages, but it is free from most brokerages and gives you the ability to invest in whatever you want.

Most 401(k) accounts, and most investment accounts of any kind, have some level of fees. This doesn't automatically mean they're too expensive or not worthwhile — it just means you'll need to read the fine print, and decide for yourself where you want to keep your money.

SEE ALSO: Here's exactly how to figure out when you can retire

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Arizona Iced Tea is pushing into legal cannabis. Here's how its partnership for pot-infused gummies and drinks came about.

Wed, 08/07/2019 - 2:34pm  |  Clusterstock

  • Arizona Iced Tea is pushing into THC-infused beverages.
  • It's partnering with the Denver-based Dixie Brands, and will start with vape pens and gummies for the Colorado and California markets before moving into beverages.
  • As part of the agreement, Dixie will develop the THC-containing products and Arizona will provide the branding, "isolating" Arizona from THC, which is federally illegal. 
  • Sign up for Cultivated, our new cannabis newsletter.

The maker of Arizona Iced Tea just became latest consumer giant to push into the cannabis industry.

Arizona Beverage Company said on Wednesday said it was partnering with Denver-based cannabis company Dixie Brands to produce THC-infused vape pens, gummies, and drinks in states where the substance is legal for adult use, and eventually in Canada and Latin America. 

Dixie will produce the THC-infused products and sell them to dispensaries under the Arizona brand. The partnership also gives Arizona the option to buy a $10 million stake in Dixie. 

The iced tea maker follows Constellation Brands, which sells Corona beer and Svedka vodka, as well as Molson Coors, and Heineken, in gambling on the legalization of pot. Arizona, however, will be the first non-alcoholic consumer brand to specifically create THC products for the US market. 

Read more: CBD and hemp startups are using creative loopholes to skirt Facebook's ad ban. Here's how they're doing it.

Dixie Brands CEO Chuck Smith told Business Insider in a Wednesday morning interview that the licensing partnership came about gradually. As Arizona was looking around the cannabis space, the company "kept stumbling into us," Smith said. 

Around five months ago, Smith, along with senior members of Dixie's team, visited Arizona's office in Woodbury, New York, after an adviser to Arizona recommended the sit-down. That initial meeting, Smith said, kicked off a four-month diligence process where Arizona's team looked at all facets of Dixie's strategy and did their own research on the cannabis space by visiting dispensaries.

After a few more meetings, Arizona's team spent a day at Dixie's Denver office in June, where they signed the partnership.

"I couldn't be more proud of that — frankly humbled — with the fact that Don and his family are entrusting their brand to us to enter into this market," Smith said, referring to Arizona CEO Don Vultaggio. "I don't take that lightly. And I know they didn't take this decision lightly."

THC, the chief psychoactive component of the cannabis plant, is legal in 11 states for adult use but is still federally illegal, and can't be transported across state lines. That creates all sorts of regulatory complications — especially as many banks still won't serve cannabis clients — for established consumer companies that are looking to enter the space.

The structure of the partnership is what will allow Arizona to take on the new market, Smith said. Arizona will provide the branding, and access to its supply chain, while Dixie will work with the cannabis plant itself. 

Read more: Top VC firms know they can't ignore cannabis forever. Here's how they're making their first investments.

"We are certainly isolating them from any access to the THC side of this," Smith said. On top of that, Arizona is a privately-held company, meaning it can take bigger risks than companies that are bound by the strict rules of major US stock exchanges.

"The cannabis market is an important emerging category, and we've maintained our independence as a private business to be positioned to lead and seize generation-defining opportunities exactly like this one," Arizona CEO Vultaggio said in a statement announcing the partnership. 

Neither the NASDAQ or the NYSE allow listed companies to invest in, sell, or distribute THC-containing products in the US.

While the product line is still in its early stages, Smith said it's likely they'll start with gummies and vape pens, before moving into beverages. They'll first focus on the Colorado and California markets, where Dixie has a presence, before expanding to other states.

"I think this is a watershed moment for the industry," Smith said of the partnership. 

Join the conversation about this story »

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What it will take to build the toilets of the future by Ozayr Patel

Wed, 08/07/2019 - 10:52am  |  Timbuktu Chronicles
Ozayr Patel writes:
Around 4.5 billion people don’t have adequate access to sanitation. And to deal with the problem, there are a number of new technologies that try to deal with human waste in a safe and useful way. Some toilets can save water and some can produce limited amounts of electricity. But for these toilets to be useful to people who don’t have access to proper sanitation, they need to be created in a way that is inclusive of those without access...[more]

Learning agribusiness at school The "Start Them Early Program (STEP)" from @IITA_CGIAR #Nigeria

Wed, 08/07/2019 - 8:07am  |  Timbuktu Chronicles
From IITA:
‘STEP’ identifies school for training in agribusiness

Fasola Grammar School (FGS) in Oyo, Oyo State, has been identified as a training center for the Start Them Early Program (STEP). The program, which is designed with the objective of erasing the bad perception of agriculture among secondary school students, aims to raise a generation of young leaders with education in agribusiness...[more]

Facebook is suing 2 developers for allegedly hijacking people's phones to fraudulently click on ads (FB)

Tue, 08/06/2019 - 8:12pm  |  Clusterstock

  • Facebook is accusing two app developers of using malware to hijack people's phones to fraudulently click on ads to make money.
  • The Californian tech giant announced on Tuesday that it has filed suit against LionMobi and Jedimobi.
  • Facebook did not say how many users it believes were impacted, or how much money it thinks the developers have made from the purported scheme.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories

Facebook is suing two app developers, alleging that they engaged in a scheme to hijack people's phones with malware that could fraudulently click on ads to make money.

In a blog post on Tuesday, Facebook announced that it has filed suit against LionMobi and Jedimobi, app developers based in Hong Kong and Singapore respectively, with claims of "click injection" ad fraud.

The Silicon Valley tech giant claims the two companies launched malicious apps in the Google Play app store that once installed used users' phones to trick Facebook's advertising system into paying out cash to them by pretending to be "real" people clicking on online advertisements.

"The developers made apps available on the Google Play store to infect their users' phones with malware. The malware created fake user clicks on Facebook ads that appeared on the users' phones, giving the impression that the users had clicked on the ads," Facebook said in the blog post.

The companies "generated unearned payouts from Facebook for misrepresenting that a real person had clicked on the ads. The ads were part of Facebook's Audience Network. LionMobi also advertised its malicious apps on Facebook, in violation of our Advertising Policies," the blog post said. 

LionMobi's current apps in the Google Play app store include a battery tool and a phone "cleaner" app, while Jedimobi's offerings include a "Fat Burning Workout" and a calculator.

Facebook did not say how many users it believes were impacted, or how much money it thinks the developers have made from the purported scheme.

The two developers did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment.

Got a tip? Contact this reporter via encrypted messaging app Signal at +1 (650) 636-6268 using a non-work phone, email at, Telegram or WeChat at robaeprice, or Twitter DM at @robaeprice. (PR pitches by email only, please.) You can also contact Business Insider securely via SecureDrop.

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Former top Twitter execs Dick Costolo and Adam Bain announce 01 Advisors, a new venture capital firm with at least $135 million to put into startups

Tue, 08/06/2019 - 6:33pm  |  Clusterstock

Dick Costolo and Adam Bain, formerly the CEO and chief operating officer of Twitter, respectively, are getting the band back together.

The two former top Twitter executives are joining forces to launch a new venture capital firm called 01 Advisors, Axios first reported Tuesday. According to the firm's SEC filing also made public Tuesday, the team has already received $135 million in commitments from 31 backers for its first fund with hopes to raise an additional $65 million.

Since departing Twitter, both Costolo and Bain have been active angel investors in home rental startup Lyric, corporate travel site TripActions, and connected fitness startup Tonal, among others. It was not clear whether 01 Advisors will have a specific area or industry in which is hopes to inject its substantial capital resources.

Read More: 2 years after the founder of 500 Startups left amid sexual harassment allegations, 2 women are running the firm and setting a new bar in the male-dominated business

Axios also reported that former Twitter executive David Rivinus is also involved with 01 Advisors, but his role was not clarified. The fund will operate with equity beyond advisory shares, according to the Axios report, similar to how former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Tusk Ventures is structured.

Neither Costolo nor Bain immediately responded to Business Insider's request for comment. 

SEE ALSO: This former Social Capital partner is betting that early-stage health tech startups have been misunderstood for too long, and she's joining CRV to change that

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One in 10 ultra-wealthy Hong Kong residents lost their millionaire status in 2018, and an expert says the extreme wealth loss highlights the volatility of their net worths

Tue, 08/06/2019 - 6:01pm  |  Clusterstock

  • The net worths of Hong Kong's ultra-wealthy are more volatile than the net worths of their counterparts in any other region in the world, according to Capgemini's 2019 World Wealth Report.
  • One in 10 Hong Kong residents who began 2018 as high net worth individuals could no longer be considered as such by the year's end, according to Capgemini.
  • Hong Kong's wealthiest residents often enjoy the greatest profits when the markets are bullish, but experience the steepest losses during market routs, Capgemini's Deputy Head of the Global Financial Services Market Intelligence Strategic Analysis Group Chirag Thakral told Business Insider.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

If you're a billionaire, Hong Kong is a risky place to call home.

At least, that is, for the stability of your net worth: In 2018, Hong Kong's high net worth population experienced the steepest drop in collective wealth of any region worldwide, according to French technology consulting firm Capgemini. The net worths of Hong Kong's wealthiest residents fell 13% in 2018, compared to the global average of 3%, according to Capgemini

In the twenty-third edition of its annual World Wealth Report, Capgemini examines how high net worth individuals manage their wealth. Defined as those with more than $1 million, Capgemini found that 2018 was the first time high net worth individuals (HNWIs) around the world experienced the first overall decline in their wealth in seven years.

In Hong Kong, one in 10 residents who began 2018 as HNWIs could no longer be considered as such by the year's end. Such losses are not atypical for Hong Kong's wealthy residents, who Capgemini describes as "consistently sensitive to equity market movements." Hong Kong's wealthiest often enjoy the greatest profits when the markets are bullish, but experience the steepest losses during market routs, Capgemini's Deputy Head of the Global Financial Services Market Intelligence Strategic Analysis Group Chirag Thakral told Business Insider.

Thakral chalks the decline in Hong Kong's wealth up to two main factors.

"The key reason for this time I would say obviously, the market capitalization was down around 12% and then the GDP growth was a decline rather than a growth, and then the real estate market is also cooling off in Hong Kong," Thakral said. "Those factors put together were the reasons which led to the overall Hong Kong equity market going down, which affected the Hong Kong billionaires — or the millionaires — this year."

Read more: There's only one part of the world where millionaires did not see their collective fortunes shrink in 2018: the Middle East

The losses weren't limited to Hong Kong, however. HNWIs across Asia at large performed worse than their counterparts in Europe, North America, and the Middle East in 2018, Capgemini reported. In 2018, the number of billionaires in each of what the research firm Wealth-X calls "the major Asia-Pacific billionaire countries" — China, India, Singapore, and Hong Kong — declined.

And last year was the worst year for Chinese stocks in a decade, ending the year 24% lower than it was at the close of 2017, according to CNBC. The budding trade war between the United States and China also decreased global demand for Asian goods, Wealth-X reported.

The only region in the world where the ultra-wealthy did not end 2018 worse off than they began it was the Middle East, Business Insider previously reported.

SEE ALSO: What the world's richest people look for when they choose their wealth managers

DON'T MISS: Wealth tax explainer: Why Elizabeth Warren and billionaires like George Soros alike are calling for a specialized tax on the ultra-wealthy

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How the hottest Corvettes and Mustangs compare — head-to-head (F, GM)

Tue, 08/06/2019 - 5:49pm  |  Clusterstock

You could say that the classic Ford-Chevy muscle-car battle is between the Mustang and the Camaro — and you'd be right!

But as far as halo vehicles go, Ford has the Mustang and Chevy has the Corvette. Yes, the former has a back seat. But performance-wise, the Pony Car and the Vette match up, and both Ford and Chevy produce a variety of different versions.

(Chevy also just debuted its eighth-generation Corvette, with a mid-engine design that can take on Ford's very, very expensive GT supercar at a fraction of the price — $60,000 versus $400,000-plus.

Here's a quick rundown of what the Mustang and Corvette have to offer:

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The Mustang — Ford's iconic "Pony Car" — first hit the streets in 1965 and was an immediate smash.

We've come a long way, baby. The first 'Stangs had a 200-horsepower V8 engine. The latest Mustang is the Shelby GT500, making 760hp from its V8.

The Shelby GT350 is a track-oriented beast that makes 529 horsepower.

The "Bullitt" Mustang is a nod to the famous Steve McQueen movie. It cranks out 480 horsepower.

The Mustang GT's 5.0-liter V8 produces 460 horsepower.

The Mustang GT California Special carries over the same engine, but adds add rev-matching to the GT's six-speed manual transmission — and of course, the top can be dropped.

The "Performance Pack Level 2" adds race-track goodies to the GT, but the engine remains the 460hp V8.

Finally, the 2.3-liter, four-cylinder EcoBoost turbocharged motor on the entry level 'Stang makes 310 horsepower. I sampled it as a drop-top. There is no longer a V6 Mustang option!

The Corvette has been around a lot longer than the Mustang. The original roadster debuted in 1953.

The king of Corvette mountain is currently the 755-horsepower ZR1.

A notch down is the 605-horsepower Z06 — the Vette that finally put the car into supercar territory.

My personal favorite Vette is the Grand Sport, which extracts 460 horsepower from the V8 engine.

The Corvette Stingray also makes 460 horsepower, minus some of the Grand Sport's performance extras.

The Stingray also comes in a convertible version — and the automatic eight-speed transmission achieved a quicker 0-60mph time than the seven-speed manual. Both, however, break the four-second barrier.

Brace yourselves for the all-new eighth-generation Vette. The Stingray trim arrives for the 2020 model year with radical new mid-engine design and a 6.2-liter, V8 engine, making 495 horsepower.

The 8 best no-annual-fee credit cards to open in 2019

Tue, 08/06/2019 - 5:39pm  |  Clusterstock

  • Depending on the rewards, perks, and benefits you'll get, it can be worth paying an annual fee for a credit card.
  • However, there are still great and rewarding no-annual-fee credit cards worth considering.
  • There are co-branded airline cards, cash-back options, and flexible rewards points-earning cards.
  • Here are a few of the best no-annual-fee credit cards of 2019, including our top choice: the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card.

Many people feel that paying an annual fee for a credit card is insane. Why should you pay to spend money?

I'll confess that I used to be in this camp. However, I've learned that, when a credit card offers the right mix of benefits, rewards, and perks, it can absolutely be worth paying a fee — that's because you'll get way more value from the card than you'll spend toward the fee. For example, I pay a total of $1,000 each year for two premium credit cards, but I get way more than that back

However, there are still good reasons to go for a no-annual-fee card, including cash-flow concerns, and to accompany a card that does have an annual fee. 

Here are the best no-annual-fee credit cards of 2019:
  • Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card: Best for cash-back bonus categories
  • Chase Freedom Unlimited: Best for pairing with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve
  • Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express: Best for cash back at US supermarkets
  • Chase Freedom: Best for 5% rotating quarterly bonus categories
  • Ink Business Cash Credit Card: Best for business spending categories
  • Citi Double Cash Card: Best for simplicity
  • Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express: Best for earning Amex points
  • Airline cobranded cards: Best for American, Delta, or United loyalists

Keep in mind that we're focusing on the rewards and perks that make these 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. Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card

Welcome offer: 30,000 points, worth $300 (after spending $3,000 in the first three months)

This card from Wells Fargo has one of the more attractive rewards programs you'll find from a no-annual-fee card — at least, if you don't want to dive into the complicated world of multiple rewards programs and complex redemptions.

The card earns 3x points on all travel, dining, and streaming services (and 1x point on everything else). If that sounds familiar, it's because it's almost the same as the popular Chase Sapphire Reserve.

There are some key differences between the cards. The Propel lets you redeem points for 1¢ each toward cash back, merchandise, travel, and more, while the Sapphire Reserve offers a range of more valuable redemption options — it's easy to get at least 50% more value for Chase points. Plus, the Sapphire Reserve offers a number of premium perks that the Propel doesn't, like airport lounge access and a $300 annual travel credit travel delay insurance.

Of course, the Sapphire Reserve also comes with a $450 annual fee, while the Wells Fargo Propel doesn't have a fee. Between the new member offer, and the solid earning rate on popular spend categories, the Propel makes a decent option for those who don't travel often, or who aren't comfortable floating a large annual fee.

Click here to learn more about the Wells Fargo Propel card from our partner The Points Guy. 2. Chase Freedom Unlimited

Welcome offer: 3% cash back on all purchases in your first year up to $20,000 spent, then an unlimited 1.5% back on all purchases

The Chase Freedom Unlimited is one of the best available options for a no-annual-fee card — especially if there's a chance that you'll want to earn more valuable credit card rewards with a premium card later on.

That's because while Chase markets the card as "cash back," it actually earns Ultimate Rewards points that you can redeem for cash (1 point = 1¢). 

If you decide that you want maximize the value of those points by purchasing travel with a bonus through Chase, or transfer them to frequent flyer partners, you can open a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or the Sapphire Reserve, and pool your points from the two cards. The Freedom Unlimited earns 1.5% cash back (or 1.5 points per dollar spent) with an introductory offer of 3% (or 3 points per dollar) for the first $20,000 spent in your first year, so paired with a Sapphire Reserve, it's a great card to use for purchases that aren't made on travel expenses or dining.

Best of all, the card has no annual fee and often has 0% APR for the first 15 months on purchases and balance transfers. After that, there's a 17.24%-25.99% variable APR. If you have a major purchase ahead of you, that introductory offer can be useful.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited is a fantastic all-around card. However, to get the most value when it's time to spend your points, you need the Sapphire Reserve or Preferred card, too, so you can pool your points. Otherwise, points are only worth 1¢ each no matter how you use them, and they can't be transferred to airline or hotel partners.

Click here to learn more about the Chase Freedom Unlimited from our partner The Points Guy. 3. Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express


Welcome offer: $150 statement credit (after spending $1,000 in the first three months)

The Blue Cash Everyday is a cash-back card, earning 3% cash back at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 each year — and 1% after that — 2% back at US gas stations and select department stores, and 1% cash back on everything else.

There's also a "Preferred" version of the Blue Cash Everyday — the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express earns a bigger 6% back on the first $6,000 spent at US supermarkets (and 1% after), 6% back on select US streaming services, 3% back at US gas stations and on transit including taxis, rideshares, parking, and tolls, and 1% cash back on everything else. The higher earning rate on the Preferred makes it worth paying the annual fee — however, the Blue Cash Everyday is still a great option if you're opposed to that.

If you're looking to make a major purchase — like an appliance or an engagement ring — and pay it off over time, you can take advantage of the 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months (after that, it reverts to a variable 15.24-26.24% APR). You'll earn cash back on the purchase, which you can put right toward paying it off.

4. Chase Freedom

Welcome offer: 15,000 points or $150 cash back (after spending $500 in the first three months)

The Chase Freedom works virtually the same way as the Freedom Unlimited, earning cash back in the form of Chase Ultimate Rewards points that you can either combine with another card, or redeem for cash or merchandise. 

The key difference is how it earns those rewards. Unlike the Freedom Unlimited — which earns 1.5% cash back (or 1.5 points per dollar spent), the regular Freedom earns 5% (or 5x) in one rotating category each quarter on up to $1,500 spent in that category. For example, Q1 of this year was any payments made through a mobile wallet like Apple Pay, while the current quarter includes purchases from gas stations and select streaming services.

Which Freedom-branded card is more rewarding for you depends on how you spend your money. Personally, I use both, but if I had to choose one, I'd stick with the Freedom Unlimited — the consistent earning rate above 1% would make up for the lack of quarterly bonuses. To each his or her own, though!

Click here to learn more about the Chase Freedom from our partner The Points Guy. 5. Chase Ink Business Cash Credit Card

Welcome offer: $500 (or 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points) after spending $3,000 in the first three months

The Ink Cash is another solid Chase entry, although this one is a business card — however, anyone with just about any kind of business can qualify, whether you have a brick-and-mortar space with employees, or you're a freelancer, or even someone with a small side gig.

Just like with the two Freedom cards, you can pool the "cash" you earn with points from a points-earning card, effectively converting your cash into (potentially) more valuable points. Alternatively, you can reap the rewards in the form of cash instead.

The Ink Cash earns 5% cash back (or 5x points) on the first $25,000 in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable, and phone services each card holder year. It earns 2% back (or 2x points) on the first $25,000 in purchases at gas stations and restaurants each year, and 1% (or 1x point) on everything else with no cap.

The card offers a 0% introductory APR on purchases for 12 months (with a variable 15.49-21.49% APR after), and has no annual fee.

Click here to learn more about the Chase Ink Business Cash from our partner The Points Guy. 6. Citi Double Cash Card

Welcome offer: None.

All in all, the Citi Double Cash is the simplest card on this list. It earns 2% cash back — 1% when you make a charge, and 1% when you pay it. Since, if you're looking for credit card rewards, you should be paying your balance off in full each month, you can just look at the full 2%.

There's one downside, though: the card doesn't have a sign-up bonus. That's significant, because the money you earn from a sign-up bonus can equal an entire year's worth of regular spending. Just look at the Wells Fargo Propel, above, which offers $300 worth of points. To get that much, you'd have to spend $15,000 on the Citi Double Cash.

While I would personally stick with a card that offered a generous sign-up bonus, there's no questioning the appeal of the Double Cash. With no categories to worry about, you're guaranteed among the highest consistent return rates of any cash back card — 2% across the board is nothing to sneeze at.

7. Amex EveryDay Credit Card from American Express

Welcome offer: 10,000 points (after spending $1,000 in the first three months)

American Express Membership Rewards is Amex's in-house rewards program, and the Amex EveryDay is the best no-fee card that earns them. These points can be redeemed for travel, merchandise, or more. However, the best option is to transfer them to a frequent flyer partner.

The EveryDay earns 2x points at US supermarkets (on up to $6,000 of purchases per year, then 1x after that) and at, and 1x on everything else. It also offers a 20% bonus on points earned in a billing period when you make 20 or more purchases during that period.

The card also offers a 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months, before switching to a variable 15.24-26.24% APR. If you have a big purchase coming up and want some time to pay it off, but don't want to pay interest fees, this is a great option.

Like most Amex cards, features a few travel and purchase protections, as well as access to the Amex Offers program.

While most people will be better off with a version of the card that has an annual fee, the EveryDay Preferred, the regular EveryDay is still a strong option — especially since there's no annual fee.

8. A no-annual-fee airline credit card

Welcome offer: Varies

You may be sensing a theme here, but most airline credit cards worth having have an annual fee — although many of them will waive it for the first year. Those cards tend to come with useful benefits for people who fly with the airline, like priority boarding or free checked bags. You can learn more about the best overall airline credit cards here.

However, if you're interested in earning frequent flyer miles with a particular airline through your spending, but don't care about those perks and want to avoid the fee, you have a couple of options. 

If you're a Delta flyer, you can go for the Blue SkyMiles card from Amex, which offers 2 Delta SkyMiles on every dollar spent with Delta and at US restaurants, and 1 mile per dollar on everything else. It also gets you a 20% discount — in the form of a statement credit — on Delta in-flight purchases like food or drinks. It offers 10,000 SkyMiles when you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months.

American loyalists have a new option, the recently-released AAdvantage MileUp card. This card offers 2x AAdvantage miles on every dollar spent at grocery stores and with American Airlines, and 1x mile on everything else. It also offers 10,000 AAdvantage miles and a $50 statement credit after spending $500 in the first three months.

United's no-annual-fee card doesn't earn miles, but instead offers cash back, called "TravelBank" cash, that can only be redeemed towards flights. You'll earn 2% TravelBank cash for every dollar spent with United, and 1.5% on other purchases. You'll also get 25% back on in-flight food and drink purchases. The card offers a sign-up bonus of $150 in TravelBank cash after you spend $1,000 in the first three months.

Click here to see the best current credit card sign-up offers.

SEE ALSO: I pay $1,000 in annual fees for the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Amex Platinum — and as far as I’m concerned, the math checks out

Join the conversation about this story »

Match Group spikes 20% after its Tinder app adds 500,000 new users in the second quarter (MTCH)

Tue, 08/06/2019 - 5:14pm  |  Clusterstock

  • Match Group skyrocketed as much as 20% in aftermarket trading Thursday after beating analyst estimates for second-quarter earnings and boosting its yearly revenue forecast.
  • Tinder drove much of the company's revenue growth by gaining more than 500,000 users over the three-month period, a 37% year-over-year improvement.
  • Match also announced an investment in Egypt-based dating app Harmonica, the next step in its plan for global expansion.
  • Watch Match Group trade live here.

Match Group soared as much as 20% in aftermarket trading on Thursday after its second-quarter earnings report showed a surge of more than 500,000 new Tinder users. The company also upgraded its full-year growth forecast.

The company — which runs OkCupid, Plenty of Fish and alongside Tinder — beat analyst estimates for both revenue and profits. The company didn't give specific figures for its updated yearly revenue guidance, but shifted its expectation to "high teens" from "mid teens."

Here are the key numbers:

Revenue: $498.0 million, versus the $489.2 million estimate

Earnings per share: $0.430, versus the $0.405 estimate

Average Tinder subscribers: 5.2 million, up 37% year-over-year 

Average revenue per user: $0.58, up 1.8% year-over-year

Tinder's massive second-quarter popularity served as the primary reason for the company's revenue boost, as it drove 46% direct revenue growth over the three-month period. Tinder now has more than 5.2 million average subscribers. The company's other online dating products saw more modest growth.

The company also announced an investment in Egypt-based dating app Harmonica, furthering its global expansion. Match has already acquired dating apps in Japan and hired consultants to configure its existing products to better fit different cultural preferences.

Match closed at $73.91 per share Thursday, up about 73% year-to-date.

Match Group has seven "buy" ratings, 13 "hold" ratings, and one "sell" rating from analysts, with a $70.12 consensus price target, according to Bloomberg data.

Now read more markets coverage from Markets Insider and Business Insider:

Goldman Sachs predicts the Fed will do something thought unthinkable just a month ago

The past 4 Fed chairs teamed up for an op-ed warning against political meddling amid pressure from Trump to cut rates further

A 32-year-old CFO explains how a novel as old as she is has helped her figure out most of her big career choices

Join the conversation about this story »

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