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Finance

Erm, no

Church of England’s pension fund invests over £30m in water firms despite sewage crisis

Not really, no:

The Church of England’s pension fund has more than £30 million invested in water companies despite the sewage crisis, according to a new documentary.

At some point in the past the Church pensions invested some indeterminate amount of money in het water industry, which is now worth £30 million.

This isn’t the same as has just put £30 million in.

And given that the Church pensions are going to largely reflect the overall market – sensibly – then it’s probably right that they should have been in water.

Further, I’m really pretty sure that the big complaint about water is that the bastard capitalists have been getting all the money. That is right, isn’t it? Which means water is a great place for a Church pension to be invested. Of course, they may not, in fact, have made money in water. But that does mean that the capitalists haven’t been getting all the money.

Seriously? Idiots like this get elected?

Dame Siobhain McDonagh, a Labour MP on the Commons’ Treasury select committee, said: “Just before Christmas, Aurelius released a statement saying they would ‘re-energise the business’ and ‘deliver the next chapter of success’. Less than three months later they are putting the brand into liquidation and look like they are first in line to be paid. You have to question their sincerity. Did they ever intend to grow the business?

“The same statement said that The Body Shop has been a pioneer in corporate social responsibility. If they want to live up to that, they had better put their shop and office staff first before paying out to themselves. There are more than 2,000 jobs at risk and I want to see them protected before private equity firms profit from this deal.”

Wages and redundo payments are protected (or whatever the word is – ah, preferential debt) creditors. They get paid first.

This is, entirely and wholly, bullshit

For a start it’s Owen Jones in a beanie. But other than that:

Today we are having tea and biscuits at his flat overlooking other multimillionaires’ yachts in London’s Docklands, but Stevenson remembers a time, as a child in Ilford, east London, when he had barely any clothes apart from his school uniform. That gave him a near-manic drive to succeed in the privileged world of the City, while also leading his rivals to underestimate him — and pay the price. “Rich people expect poor people to be stupid,” Stevenson says.

Traders in The City – and yes, he was a trader, not a banker – have always come from those who know how to trade. Half of them still wearing white socks with black shoes by the time they retire with their millions.

Many a City house has prospered by having an Irish Marquis, or one of the dimmer Emglish Viscounts, – but with good manners of course – to usher the money in the front door and half a dozen costerboys making the money in the back room. The costers being paid an order of magnitude more than the poshos.

Class matters in The City – because this is England, of course class matters – but the City is deeply, deeply, unsentimental about class. Certainly the least sentimental place about it in the entire country. If class can be used to make money then it will be. So too if talent can be used to make money then it will be. And when there’s a distinction between class and the ability to make money then it’ll be the money that wins.

If that Irish Marquis trades as well as the white socks lad then he’ll be paid as much as the white socks lad. If he can’t he won’t and will remain on a tenth the sum.

It’s a meritocracy for fuck’s sake.

Right, OK

Women would need to work for an extra 19 years to retire with the same pension savings as men, according to data from the Pensions Policy Institute.

The research found women retiring at 67 – the new UK state pension age from 2026 – will have saved an average of £69,000, compared with £205,000 for men.

The data, published by the PPI and pensions provider Now: Pensions, suggests that under the current system, in order to close the “gender pension gap” a girl would need to start saving at three years old to retire with the same amount of money as working men.

Career gaps, caring responsibilities, childcare costs and lower earnings all contribute to the disparity.

And the problem with this is what?

If you defer less money from your working income over the years into that pension provision for your old age then you’ll have deferred less of your working income into your pension.

And?

Oh dear, very bad, how sad

So Matthew Lynn decides to tell us how Meta paying dividends really changes everything:

And yet it will surely just be the first of the technology giants to start returning cash to its owners. Apple stopped paying out anything under Steve Jobs – he thought it was a crazy waste of money that he could spend on new gadgets instead – and has only paid out the minimum possible since he died.

At some point that will have to increase. Amazon announced blockbuster profits last week, and moves such as showing ads on Prime should drive earnings even higher, so it is surely only a matter of time before it starts a payout.

Alphabet, the owner of Google, may not be able to resist paying something out of its $113bn cash pile for much longer. With surging revenues from its crackdown on password sharing, Netflix is making lots of money, and may be forced to return some of it.

Nvidia will have plenty of room to increase the paltry 0.3pc it currently pays to its shareholders, while if Tesla can afford to pay Elon Musk $50bn, assuming he can overturn the court ruling against that decision, surely it can afford to pay something to its shareholders as well?

The giant tech companies will start to rival the oil, pharma and banking conglomerates for their ability to deliver huge sums of money for their shareholders every quarter. Given their size, their semi-monopolistic positions, and their growth rates, they will probably quickly overtake them.
….
Next, far more money will be available for the rest of the market. If the payouts start to match the $100bn delivered by the energy giants, and there is no reason why it shouldn’t, then most of that cash will find its way back into other equities.

That will drive the whole market upwards, as cash that was sitting on the Meta or Alphabet balance sheet starts to be deployed elsewhere.

Facepalm.

They’ve all been returning cash to shareholders in vast great chunks in recent years. Apple $90 billion in the past year alone (if I’m reading Mr Google right). Stock repurchases do exactly the same thing as dividends, send money back out the corporate treasury into the hands of shareholders.

Sigh.

I call bollocks on this

‘I want to tell you a story.’ Caleb’s face loomed over the table. ‘I used to know a really good trader. Smart guy. Young. Just like you. But he had one serious problem – he thought he could walk away.’

I felt my stomach sink. We were in a corporate restaurant in a skyscraper in Tokyo, bowls of ramen between us, only I couldn’t eat a thing. ‘Anyway this guy decided he was going to take the money and leave the industry. Sweet.

‘But he didn’t understand how it works. They went back and looked at all of his trades, his chat history, managed to find some stuff he shouldn’t have done.’

I could feel fire in my legs now. A burning. But I didn’t move. ‘They took that trader to court. He hadn’t really done anything that bad but they put something together. The case rumbled on for years. Never got to leave. Just courtrooms. Best years of his life…’

My boss’s face loomed closer still. ‘Gary. I like you. But we can make life very difficult for you.’

So, the plot is, plucky little scrote with vast talent for trading. Makes it in the Big City. Then wants to leave – at which point his boos blackmails him into remaining a trader.

Bollocks.

The moment you even indicate that you’re thinking of changing trading desk, let alone leaving the trade, you’re cut off from the phones, the email, your desk, everything. You don’t even get to go back to your desk to retrieve the piccies of your dog – those are collected and handed to you in a black plastic bag.

Because if you’re about to jump ship then no one will still trust you with tens to hundreds of millions of the bank’s trading capital.

Quitting is brutally easy precisely because they don’t want anyone who doesn’t want to be there.

So, my view is that everything else being said in this new revelatory book is also toss.

Is this good or bad?

Electric cars lose as much as half of their value after just three years on the road, new figures show, as the rate of depreciation far outstrips conventional equivalents.

Research from Auto Trader said there were “unsustainable levels of depreciation” in the electric car market, with used prices of battery-powered vehicles dropping by 23pc in the last year alone.

The online vehicle marketplace said a motorist buying a £50,000 electric car could expect to lose £24,000 in value over three years, while a similarly priced petrol car could lose £17,000.

Well, OK, it’s sorta different to a petrol one but not glaringly so.

Hmm

Perhaps we recast that. You lose 20% just by driving it off the lot, right? And if we accept that for both then the EV suffers much more in the next 2.99 years?

Ah, so idea 1) was right

Tingo. Weird company.

I run with one of two ideas.

1) It’s all simply the most brazen and outright fraud.

Yep:

There was just one small problem: Mmobuosi’s businesses, as they were commonly understood, may never have existed.

That is the extraordinary claim made this week by American regulators, who accused the 45-year-old Nigerian businessman – real name, Mmobuosi Odogwu Banye – of perpetrating an ongoing fraud of “staggering” proportions.

At its peak last year, his publicly traded company, Tingo Inc, was valued at $7.23bn (£5.7bn), according to Bloomberg data.

This is simple enough then

Israeli authorities are investigating claims by US researchers that some investors may have known in advance about the Hamas plan to attack Israel on 7 October and used that information to earn millions of dollars by short-selling Israeli shares.

Research by law professors Robert Jackson Jr from New York University and Joshua Mitts of Columbia University found significant short-selling of shares leading up to the attacks that triggered the war.

It is known who the short sellers are. Call ’em in for an interview. Have a chat.

It’s an Israeli paper that gets this right – I think:

Hamas may have profited from Oct. 7 assault with informed trading — study

Do I think that Hamas might contain financial sophisticates able to work this out? Do this? Sure. Waste a thousand of our fighters but we get to make a profit on the markets? Sure.

The difficulty will be keeping the money, or keeping it and out of jail at the same time. Because surveillance of financial markets does tend to be of sufficient detail to know who is doing what trade if anyone wants to really find out.

“Although we see no aggregate increase in shorting of Israeli companies on U.S. exchanges, we do identify a sharp and unusual increase, just before the attacks, in trading in risky short-dated options on these companies expiring just after the attacks,” they said.

Short dated options. Folks with inside information just love them. So do the authorities – they’re even easier to track. And I’d not really want to be the compliance officer who can’t tell the Israeli authorities, or the SEC, who was behind those trades.

Clever – bad, but clever

The latest move in ransomware extortion: reporting your victim to the SEC.As Recorded Future News explains, a financial software company called MeridianLink has confirmed “a cybersecurity incident,” which isn’t uncommon.
What is unusual is the AlphV/BlackCat ransomware gang allegedly trying to pressure the company by filing a report (included below) with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) accusing MeridianLink of failing to disclose a breach. However, the new rules requiring disclosure have some loopholes, and, they don’t take effect until next month.

The simple shopper

Har Har:

A council in Wales has been rebuked by the auditor general after it was tricked into giving away 10 per cent of its annual budget to a fraudster.

Officials at Harlech Community Council, in North Wales, made an “advance payment” of £9,000 of taxpayers’ money to a man named Oluwafeni Odunuga for “consultative work”.

They were only alerted to the fraud when HSBC told the authority that it was the victim of an “authorised push payment” scam in which criminals trick people into transferring money.

One of the problems with migration is that foreign names are no longer quite the alarm bell they used to be.

Still, to be fair, they’re not quite so deluded as Novo Integrated Sciences. A provider of Tai Chi style health care in California. Who have been regaling the market for months now with news about all the lovely capital they’re – no, really – about to receive:

So, why? Well, there’s the idea that this money is about to come through: “Novo Integrated Sciences Advised Receipt of Proceeds of RC Consulting Promissory Note Expected in 3-5 Business Days” As we’ve commented on that before we don’t think so, we really don’t. That cash is not about to arrive at Novo Integrated: “15 year unsecured money at one and a half percent? No, doesn’t exist. “The RC Note is unsecured and there is no provision for the conversion of debt, issuance of any class of shares, or the grant of any warrants by the Company to the Buyer. The Company is expecting to receive an initial draw against the $57,000,000 in the near future.” No, we do not believe this. There are no circumstances under which we would believe this.”

They’ve also announced this: “BELLEVUE, Wash., November 3, 2023 – Novo Integrated Sciences, Inc. (NASDAQ: NVOS) (the “Company” or “Novo”) today announced the issuance of the underlying One Billion Dollar gold backed bond (the “Bond”) specific to the previously disclosed Master Collateral Transfer Agreement. The issuance of the Bond is the initial step in the establishment of the instrument to commence the legal transfer of the collateral for the exclusive benefit of the Company. The instrument is subject to filings and safekeeping deposit creating authentication and validation for the transfer and leverage of the collateral for the benefit of perspective lenders.”

Simply deluded.

WeWork dies

Not that we didn;t know this was going to happen at WeWork:

So, what is going to happen here? The secret is this “Further Streamline Real Estate Footprint” Or, as we’ve said before, this is where the landlords get the shaft at WeWork: “WeWork (NYSE: WE) stock is down another 50% over night on news that they’re about to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. We can imagine all sorts of speculative flurries in WE stock as a result – the ability of the memesters and hoddlers to play with such stories is near inexhaustible. However we’d also very strongly suggest that there’s going to be no recovery for the equity here. The landlords aren’t going to allow that. And this is about the landlords too. The idea here is to shaft those landlords – to be able to break the leases. And the thing is, weirdly, that commercial office space has such vast problems right now that the reborn WeWork could even work.”

It really could work too – if they can renegotiate those leases down far enough.

The fake WeWork takeover

Now this is amusing. Someone managed to get a fake press release onto BusinessWire. Which suggested there would be a $9 a share takover bid for WeWork:

Exactly and precisely what happened is still open. But a very useful thought is that someone sent a fake press release which BusinessWire then published. That was enough to trigger the – very shortlived – WeWork stock price rally. We can assume that those who sent it were long WeWork stock and sold out during that rally. If they tried to make a few tens of thousands of $ they’ll probably get away with the market manipulation too. Trade is of such size that a small profit cannot be filtered out from the general ebb and flow. What’s more likely is that a large position was taken in short dated call options. And that will be found – we’d guarantee to you that the SEC is, right now, combing those trading records. When found so will the perpetrators. And we don’t fancy their chances of either keeping any trading profits or, to be honest, out of jail.

Makes me want to applaud the effort and ingenuity. While still and also decrying the obvious criminality of it.

Ow. Ow, ow, ow.

Occupancy rates are less than half pre-Covid levels in the UK, at around 35pc, according to Remit Consulting. This compares with typical pre-pandemic levels of 60pc to 80pc.

Commercial office space might not be the right place to be right now…..

reAlpha is seriously impressive

Stock market debut for company. An introduction, not an IPO. Stock up 5,000% first day of trading, falls back 82% after hours.

And the business at reAlpha?

Think through this business model for a little bit. So they’re to be hosts on AirBnb and Vacasa. We’d all tend to think that’s a market that’s possibly topping out. There’s also a significant payment due to the platforms from any rental income. They’re then going to bring in investors to part own the properties themselves, fractional ownership of the housing asset. The magic sprinkling is that they’re to use AI somewhere in this process.

So, effectively, they’re timeshare salesmen of AirBnbs. With the added AI, of course.

Mmmmm, just taste the ways this can go wrong.

Is Albemarle lucky or failing on losing Liontown?

Opinions differ of course but I’ve a feeling Albemarle has had a lucky escape here in losing Liontown:

Liontown Resources (ASX: LTR) shares are down 32%. LTR shares are down on the withdrawal of Albemarle’s (NYSE: ALB) bid for the company. Plus the large rights issue that has now been launched to bring the Liontown project to production. That rights issue was successful, even if at a deep discount. But our opinion – entirely different from that of the rest of the market, we agree – is that this is a lucky escape for Albemarle. Because buying lithium assets at the top of the lithium market simply isn’t a good idea.

Nothing quite as fun as being contrarian, eh?

Money Talks

Events, obviously vile. But money markets carry on. And Hub Cyber Security is having a ride.

So we’ve no more cyber attacks than normal. We have a terrorist attack, a large one, but it’s still the one attack. As we noted about the stock market more generally, the TA 35 was down 7 or 8% and has recovered a little since then. So why this wild movement in Hub Cyber stock? We think it’s simply that speculation. So, there *could* be more cyber attacks. And this is an Israeli cyber security company. So it will get much more business, right? Right? And that’s it. Once the rumour starts then so does the buying and we get a large momentum trade going. On the basis of no more than a slightly dodgy set of logic.

Quite so, quite so….

Pensions fun!

But how about this for an asset price crash: when issued less than two years ago, the March 2073 Index-Linked Gilt was priced at around £330 per unit of stock; the current price is just £62, or less than a fifth of its value when initially sold.

The effect has been to transform a negative yield of 2.5pc into a positive one of 1.13pc.

So is that a better or worse outcome than Spud’s 1% “high interest” bonds?

Not gonna work

But nice try:

According to legal papers submitted before the trial, Bankman-Fried’s lawyers will argue he was just doing what he had been told was legal – a so-called “advice of counsel” defence – or blame the lawyers.

It’s unbelievable how badly he ran that. If he’d been even halfway straight he’d still be a billionaire. Oh, and free.

Novo Integrated Sciences

This is just glorious. Advance fee fraud is pretty common out there. 419s and all that. But it’s damned rare to have a company announce to the stock market that it’s taking part in one. Even rarer for the stock to rise 80% when it does so. But Novo Integrated Sciences:

Novo Integrated Sciences (NASDAQ: NVOS) shares are up 80% of the biggest load of nonsense you’re likely to see on a stock market. This is entirely ludicrous. They’ve been taken in – well, at least we hope they’ve been taken in – by what looks very like an advanced fee fraud. Believe us, there is no such thing as a “Master Collateral Transfer Agreement”. Well, not outside the fevered imaginations of the more fervid conmen there isn’t.

This is simply outrageous: “Novo Integrated Sciences, Inc. (NASDAQ: NVOS) (the “Company” or “Novo”), today announced Novo and Blacksheep Trust have signed a One Billion Dollar Master Collateral Transfer Agreement (the “Master Agreement”) for the purpose and general use of monetization by Novo for a period of up to 15 years. The One Billion Dollar collateral transfer is expected to occur in one or more transactions during the current fiscal quarter following the validation and authentication by third-party audit procedures.

Jesus wept that’s bad.