Snapchat Hits Rocky Bump

If you monitor what’s happening with Snapchat, then you’ll want to know about the latest. Share of Snap fell 1.5% on Monday as the focus on its CEO has raised eyebrows.

Twitter users have even been urging a boycott of the company after a legal document that was unsealed last week showed that Snap Chief Executive Evan Spiegel apparently said in 2015 that he was not interested in prioritizing growth in India and Spain because they are “poor.”

Spiegel is alleged to have said, “This app is only for rich people. I don’t want to expand into poor countries like India and Spain.”

Snapchat claimed, however, that these words were written by an angry former employee and not the CEO. As they said in a statement, “We are grateful for our Snapchat community in India and around the world.”

Conversation Sprouts Between Albertsons & Sprouts

Albertsons Cos recently held talks with Sprouts Farmers Market Inc. about the idea of creating a merger together. Bloomberg reported that these early-stage discussions involved the plan to take Sprouts private, allowing them to add their natural and organic foods business to the Albertsons supermarket brand. This brand includes Safeway, Vons and Shaw’s.

The U.S. grocery industry has seen many consolidations as of late as regional chains have been struggling to complete with online retailers like Amazon and major stores like Wal-Mart. Niche retailers like Sprouots, Fresh Market Inc. and Whole Foods Market Inc. have received pressure from Albertsons and Kroger, who can sell some of the same specialty products but at lower prices.

Time will tell what happens but the two companies are certainly worth watching.





Wind Telecomunicazioni SpA and Its Restructuring

Wind Telecomunicazioni SpA (also called Wind Italy) is an Italian telecom operator with 21.6 million mobile customers with a market share of 22.9%. The company serves its client base through a network of 159 stores and approximately 498 franchised outlets that are under the WIND brand. They also have 396 electronic chain stores.

Wind Telecomunicazioni has a long history, with its establishment in 1997 by the Italian Electrical Company Enel.

In 2005, Alessandro Benedetti structured and led the acquisition of Wind Telecomunicazioni SpA. At that time, the transaction was the largest leveraged buyout that had occurred in the history of Europe. It was valued at over 12 billion euros. This was one of the many structuring and financing of complex transactions that Mr. Benedetti led while acting on behalf of companies and governments in North America, Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East.

Since the time of the transaction that Alessandro Benedetti led, Wind became part of Vimpelcom group in 2011 and then announced an investment of $1.3 billion in 2013 to build a fourth-generation (4G) mobile broadband network. Then, in 2014, VimpelCom Ltd. (Wind) and CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd. (3) agreed to combine their units in a deal that totaled $24 billion.  They were proud, in 2015, to be awarded the Telecommunications Operator of the Year in Italy.



Who Will Win the Autonomous Car Race?

Certainly, everyone is racing to develop fully autonomous vehicles, and now Hyundai Motor Group is joining in the competition. Hyundai has recently hired a former General Motors researcher to oversea their center. Lee Jin-woo will now head the Intelligent Safety Technology Center. This will be a combined research center for Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors. As Hyundai Motor said in a statement,

“The new centre will not only enhance existing Advanced Drive Assistance System technologies but also conduct research into artificial intelligence related self-driving car technologies with the aim of commercializing those technologies.”

Their goal with the center is to have highly automated vehicles by 2020 and fully autonomous ones by 2030.

The race is definitely one. Ford Motor Co. recently announced that it plans to invest $1 billion in the coming five years in their autonomous vehicle tech firm Argo Al. In another bold move, GM actually made a billion dollar purchase of the Silicon Valley self-driving startup Cruise Automation.



Hedge Fund Industry Fluctuations in 2017

Like most industries where large monies are involved, hedge funds are no strangers to key executive shake-ups. Kevin Ulrich launched his investment found in 2003 having previously worked as a distressed debt manager. Together with colleague Tony Davis (who was in the same position as Kevin Ulrich at the time), they created Anchorage Capital Group that today has approximately $15 billion under firm assets.

As hedge funds have played an increasingly larger role at Autodesk, changes in management at the 3D printing firm have been encountered. The latest news on that front is of the resignation of CEO Carl Bass along with the upcoming departure of board members Scott Ferguson (Sachem Head Capital Management Managing Partner) and Jeff Clarke.   Bass was in this key position at the firm for more than 10 years. He will not be completely detaching from the firm however, since he will remain on the board and also be nominated for re-election. Meanwhile, Autodesk is selecting both an interim CEO as well as a CEO search committee.

Another movement in the industry concerns a merger between two firms, which ultimately impacts the status of the CEOs there. A merger between KKR Prisma and Pacific Alternative Management Company (PAAMCO) is underway to build a firm that will provide clients with “alternative investment strategies through liquid instruments such as mutual funds.” This merged company will be jointly run by co-founders and CEOs of each company: Jane Buchan (PAAMCO) and Girish Reddy (KKR Prisma and KKR Hedge Funds).

There are always movements in the hedge fund industry but given there has just been a new Presidential election in the US – potentially changing the socio-political climactic impact on the industry – 2017 just might result in even greater fluctuations.


Changes at Burberry

If you love Burberry, then you’ll want to know about their upcoming changes. Their incoming chief executive Marco Gobbetti will join the company on January 27th as executive chairman, Asia Pacific and Middle East. He will then join the board and take the top position on July 5th.

Gobbetti was named as Christopher Bailey’s successor as CEO in July. Bailey will be taking on the role of president and chief creative officer.

Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. Buys Comany

The insurance group Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. from Toronto is buying Swiss insurer Allied World Assurance Company Holdings AG. The deal is for $4.9 billion in cash and stock. The merger will create a leader in the field in property and casualty insurance, reinsurance and investments. The boards of directors for both of the companies have approved the deal.

To read more about this see the full article.

Dealing with Your Credit Rating in a New Way

So many people have this situation. They need good credit in order to buy a home or enjoy a car, but they can’t seem to build up credit history. Now there just might be hope. FICO XD looks into a database that has payment data on your utility bills, cable bills, telephone bills and even your rent payment data.  As William Lansing, FICO’s chief executive said, “There are a lot of people like that, trying to break into the financial system and get connected.”

The bank can then run your information through the FICO database and if it’s blank, they can then run it through the FICO XD system.

FICO is running tests with 12 banks.

Learn more about this program and how it would work.



Diversegy & Bowen Enterprise: A Success Story

It’s always exciting to see how companies, when they put their heads together, can really make a difference. As part of the Texas Dairy Queen Operator’s Council, Bowen Enterprise of Corpus Christie, TX is certainly a franchise food industry market leader. As the energy supply markets became more volatile, they started to look for an alternative to their existing energy supplier and a way to bring some consistency and savings across their portfolio of 15 locations and 27 separate accounts.

CJ Peterson, of Diversegy, coordinated a detailed energy audit, including a review of months of utility bills and expenses across all locations.   As a wholly owned subsidiary of Genie Energy Ltd. (NYSE:GNE), Diversegy is a commercial energy advisory with the expertise to uncover billing inconsistencies, and the buying power to negotiate the best rates and supply service agreements on behalf of their clients. What did Diversegy do? First, they secured rates and negotiated on Bowen’s behalf to eliminate any ongoing meter fees, helping Bowen save $50,000 over the next 24-months on their energy expenses.  CJ and his team also negotiated the supply arrangement terms to provide flexibility in their energy usage with 100% swing – no matter whether consumption increased or decreased, their negotiated energy supply rate would not change. And they did all of this in partnership with a green energy supplier, allowing Bowen to take full advantage of renewable energy credits available to them. This allowed Bowen to apply for the EPA’s Green Power Partnership.

As Bowen Enterprise Safely Administrator JB Salinas describes it,CJ definitely made my job easy with the knowledge and excellent service he provided. It was truly a pleasure dealing with someone who actually knew my business, having grown up in franchising himself, and who delivered on the promises he made.”

As he continued, “In fact, as the markets began to shift 12-months into our 24-month agreement, CJ was right there, fighting for every penny – we were able to forward lock our agreement for an additional 36 months and have now reduced our annual energy expenses by an additional 6.5% from our first agreement.”

And that is truly what good partnerships are all about.

Soybean Exports Helping the US Economy

Good news for the US economy, as it grew at its fastest pace in two years as a result of soybean exports. The gross domestic product increased at a 2.9 percent annual rate. This is the strongest growth rate since the third quarter of 2014 and beat out the economists’ expectations from a 2.5% expansion pace.

As David Donabedian, the chief investment officer of Atlantic Trust Private Wealth Management in Baltimore said, “While the economy may not be ready to take off, today’s GDP suggests the economic expansion is not at risk of ending.”

The GDP report has actually been seen as a way to bolster Hillary Clinton, two weeks before the election. As Robert Murphy, an economics professor at Boston College said,

“This is good news for the Clinton campaign, which has tied itself closely to the Obama administration’s record on the economy.”


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