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This basket consists of brick and mortar who have lost considerable market share to online competition.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Just after dawn last Wednesday, the smell of smoke lingered over the intersection of Lake Street and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis. It's a major commercial thoroughfare, home to dozens of black-owned businesses. It's also eight blocks from where George Floyd suffocated beneath a police officer's knee and died on May 25. During the chaos that followed, dozens of Lake Street's buildings and businesses burned.It was a serious blow to a community that's struggled for decades to achieve economic equality. In 2018, the median income for black households in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area was $38,200; for whites, it was $82,500. That’s a wider gap than for the U.S. as a whole, despite the area’s progressive reputation, a corporate community that's renowned for its civic-mindedness, and a robust regional economy.Worse, it echoes a range of other depressing metrics — including gaps in employment, wages, education and business ownership — that make the Twin Cities one of the most unequal metro areas in the country. In some ways, these are very much local problems. But they also exemplify some broader long-term trends that have contributed to the current national crisis.As I surveyed the damage, two questions in particular were bothering me. Why is Minneapolis's black unemployment rate more than four times that for whites? And why, in an area where corporations make such conspicuous efforts to support diversity, do black-owned businesses make up such a small part of the local economy?*****Later that morning, I met up with Tawanna Black, an experienced business and philanthropy executive, in downtown St. Paul. In 2018, Black founded the Center for Economic Inclusion, which works to combat racism and inequality across the Twin Cities. With clients and partners such as Accenture Inc., the Itasca Project, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Ramsey County (home to St. Paul), the group calculates metrics and indicators for inclusion and seeks to deploy them across the region.We talked about the factors that drive economic inequality in the Twin Cities and beyond, and in particular how corporate America can do its part to reduce disparities in employment and ensure that black communities share in the nation’s prosperity.Many of the problems, Black pointed out, were decades in the making. Beginning in the early 20th century, racial covenants prevented black residents from purchasing homes, accessing good schools and accumulating wealth in Minnesota and elsewhere. Progress has been made on some of these fronts: In the Twin Cities, at least, more equitable zoning policies are helping to ameliorate inequalities over time.But there remain many less obvious problems that contributed to the pain and anger that have erupted since Floyd’s death.To take one example, the considerable corporate philanthropic efforts that the area is known for sometimes allow executives to punt on the harder question of addressing inequalities in their own organizations. Meanwhile, the Twin Cities — like a lot of communities across the U.S. — are increasingly home to large employers that don't deal directly with consumers, and thus are less responsive to community complaints and campaigns.It adds up to a lack of accountability."I've heard some business leaders say we need somebody to give us the right proposal and ask the right question," Black told me. “I wrestle with that because I think the state of racial inequities is hurting everyone. In a city this size, this prosperous, we should be producing results. And if we're not, we should be asking ourselves, what does it take? And we haven't gotten to that point where it's not just a thing for ‘you people’ to go solve — as in people of color.”*****Changing that mindset won’t be easy, because many of the underlying problems are structural — held in place by either government policy, strong corporate incentives or some combination.Black points to low-income workers who lose government benefits when they reach a certain wage level. This sometimes forces them to choose between health care and a job, and makes it harder for employers to retain minority workers, a decades-old problem. "More and more I find HR leaders and employers that want to work with government to change those systems," Black told me, but getting the political system to respond can be a huge challenge.Another example involves contracts. Corporate America is often willing to fund organizations that train minority entrepreneurs, Black said, but when it comes to actually hiring them, those companies sometimes beg out "because I have large contracts and those businesses aren't big enough."In fact, many national corporations have such burdensome contracting requirements that small businesses, especially those of color, simply don't have the resources to apply for them. As a result, more established competitors have a persistent advantage. "It's built in," Black says. "But structures are held up by people."Fortunately, at least a few of those structures are being dismantled.*****Five years ago, when Minneapolis faced a community uprising due to a previous police killing, Target Corp. — one of the state’s largest employers — made a serious effort to address underlying inequalities in the area’s business community. It not only started contracting with very small companies in North Minneapolis, home to a large black community, but tried to eliminate burdensome language from the contracts.That kind of thing is good for companies and economies both. But truly reducing inequality will also demand fresh thinking about job creation. Black notes that in the Twin Cities and other regions, black small businesses are heavily concentrated in areas like restaurants, catering, barbershops and hair salons. Those are important industries. "But chances are," Black said, "the jobs those create aren't going to change our wealth gap."Doing so will require more intentional support from big companies in sectors like tech. Several years ago, the Itasca Project, an organization that includes some of the Twin Cities' most important employers, created a program to encourage contracting with small local companies. There was a belief, Black said, that “those dollars would naturally trickle to businesses owned by people of color." She sighed. "Nothing trickles."Now CEI is working with Itasca to add race-based goals to the program. That approach could prove transformative: According to CEI's data, if the rate of white and minority business ownership in Minnesota were at parity, the state would have another 87,000 jobs.That's reason for hope in the midst of some of the bleakest days ever faced by the Twin Cities. But will it lead to real change? Is it an inflection point for the region, and for American corporations?"It is, and it has to be," Black said. "And I pray that we pause in it long enough to create deep and sustained change."This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Adam Minter is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is the author of “Junkyard Planet: Travels in the Billion-Dollar Trash Trade” and "Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale."For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Money is many things, but it’s not fake news. So why block WhatsApp from spreading it around?India is the laboratory of choice for Western tech firms to test out their mobile payment capabilities so they can be rolled out from Bangladesh to Nigeria. Facebook Inc. CEO Mark Zuckerberg entered the fray two years ago by enabling the popular messaging service WhatsApp to send and receive money in India. But the beta version, limited to 1 million users, keeps getting blocked from becoming a full-fledged service.Meanwhile, rivals such as Alphabet Inc.’s Google Pay, Walmart Inc.-owned PhonePe and Softbank Group Corp.-backed Paytm are dominating India’s mobile transfers landscape. The troika led with 75 million, 60 million and 30 million customers transacting last month, respectively, according to TechCrunch.While Facebook Inc. deserves scrutiny globally for providing a platform for hate speech, voter manipulation and dissemination of untruth, cashless transfers is one area where WhatsApp can be a force for good. That’s especially true in emerging economies like India. As the Covid-19 lockdown has underscored, hundreds of millions of rural migrant workers in urban centers lack both liquid savings and a state-provided safety net. Increasingly ubiquitous smartphones can bring vulnerable citizens the financial security that bank branches can’t supply. To restrain WhatsApp is a waste of the infrastructure India has built. Four years ago, the country set up a shared interface linking more than 150 participating banks. An account holder in any of them can send or receive money to anybody else on the network. The two parties don’t need to know anything more than each other’s mobile number or a virtual ID. From Google to Walmart, any app can tap the common protocol, which already supports transactions worth more than 10% of gross domestic product. Google is so impressed it wants the U.S. Federal Reserve to consider adopting the standard. WhatsApp needs a nod from the regulator, the National Payments Corporation of India, to throw open the switch. The first roadblock was the central bank’s requirement that payment data be stored only locally. That hurdle has been crossed, but the service remains restricted. In February, a little-known think tank filed a lawsuit, asking India’s Supreme Court to block payments on WhatsApp “since it’s known to have failed to secure sensitive data of its users.” In an affidavit this week, WhatsApp said that the petition by the “busybody” was not maintainable. Legal challenges in India can drag on endlessly.The popularity of the messaging app, which has more than 400 million Indian users, is its biggest strength and its worst enemy. Take pinBox, which wants to introduce digital micro-pensions to the masses across Asia and Africa. It’s waiting eagerly for WhatsApp payments. The combination of financial and digital illiteracy can be a showstopper; it’s much easier to promote a saving culture on a messaging app where people spend most of their waking hours, anyway. The familiarity with the medium cuts both ways. Recently, the service was used to accuse Muslims in India of deliberately transmitting Covid-19, triggering assaults on the minority community. But then, disinformation isn’t limited either to WhatsApp or India. TikTok, the most-downloaded app during the pandemic, had posts claiming that 5G technology helps spread the virus, fueling violence against telecommunications workers and equipment across the U.K. and Europe. In India, the user-video platform has raised hackles for enabling sharing of content that promotes acid attacks on women.While regulators should push Zuckerberg to keep making social media safer, for instance by restricting message forwarding, they need to be pragmatic when it comes to online payments. China is far ahead. But that market, in the pincer grasp of Alipay and WeChat Pay wallets, isn’t open to U.S. firms. Besides, the scope for replacing cash is bigger in India, where 14% of money supply is still currency in circulation, a figure that China has crunched to 4%. The size of the opportunity is why India is attracting attention.Facebook recently took a 10% stake in Mukesh Ambani’s Jio Platforms Ltd. for $5.7 billion. Jio’s 4G network is India’s biggest, with nearly 400 million customers. Ambani, Asia’s richest man, wants to connect a billion-plus buyers with neighborhood stores, combining physical and digital retail. Payments via WhatsApp will be a way to achieve that link, with brands giving discounts and financiers offering in-store credit based on Jio’s scoring model.Others will catch up. Amazon.com Inc. is planning to take a $2 billion stake in Bharti Airtel Ltd., Jio’s closest rival, Reuters has reported. According to the Financial Times, Google is exploring an investment in Vodafone Group Plc’s struggling India wireless business. (Vodafone Idea Ltd. said there’s no such proposal before its board.) The rising global interest in digitizing the billion-plus-people economy could be sustained, as it coincides with what may be a long-drawn tech cold war between China and the West. Although India has recognized privacy to be a fundamental right, giving grounds for legal challenges against tech firms, it has yet to enact a data protection law. That’s where the focus has to be, not on limiting competition. The central bank needs to strike a balance between safeguarding financial stability and encouraging innovation such as “account aggregators,” who compile and share financial data with the consent of users looking for loans or insurance. With most manufacturing and services in disarray, helping money go viral is India’s best chance to break out of the Covid gloom.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Andy Mukherjee is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering industrial companies and financial services. He previously was a columnist for Reuters Breakingviews. He has also worked for the Straits Times, ET NOW and Bloomberg News.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
Shares of consumer-discretionary retail operators were trading higher on Friday on growing investor optimism after new data indicated that the unemployment rate in May was better than expected. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday morning that total non-farm employment rose by 2.5 million jobs in May, driving the unemployment rate down to 13.3% from 14.7% in April. Macy's has reopened many of its stores, but some may close again -- for good -- later this year.
Shares of Target (NYSE: TGT) increased 11.5% in May, according to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence, as the stock continued to recover from earlier losses. Target fell nearly 30% from the start of the year to its low point in March as the coronavirus outbreak deepened and shoppers reined in spending on discretionary items in favor of essentials. Target's first-quarter digital comparable sales surged 141%.
Office Depot (ODP) reported earnings 30 days ago. What's next for the stock? We take a look at earnings estimates for some clues.
With Macy's stock trading more than 50% below late February's level, is now a good time to jump in?
The looming threat of Reliance Retail's move into e-commerce business in India has been hanging over Walmart (NYSE: WMT) and Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) for quite some time now. Led by India's richest man, Mukesh Ambani, Reliance Retail has been gradually testing the waters of India's e-commerce space that is currently dominated by Amazon and Walmart subsidiary Flipkart.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Warren Buffett says “nothing can stop America.” To put his money where his mouth is and spend some of his $137 billion stash before this crisis is over, he wouldn’t have to look far. If there’s one company that warrants the dealmaker’s attention, it may be Costco Wholesale Corp., a retailer in which Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. already owns a stake. At Berkshire’s virtual shareholder meeting last month, Buffett signaled that the Covid-19 pandemic hasn’t afforded him deal opportunities at bargain-basement prices the way past economic meltdowns have. Despite the nationwide shutdowns that are just starting to lift and a soaring unemployment rate, the S&P 500 Index is only 8% off its February all-time high. That’s partly due to aggressive actions taken by the Federal Reserve to mitigate the crisis, though one can’t deny that there exists an astonishing disconnect between stock prices and the economic realities of many Americans right now.Costco wouldn’t be a typical crisis-era bet for Buffett in this regard. The shares are up, not down, this year and its operations have carried on throughout the pandemic. Zoom, Netflix, TikTok, Costco — the retailer is right up there with those services that have become centerpieces of the stay-at-home recession.But in so many other ways a Costco deal would still be classic Buffett. For starters, Buffett already likes Costco. Berkshire has owned the stock for two decades; its 1% stake is valued at about $1.3 billion currently. Buffett’s business partner Charlie Munger, the 96-year-old vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, also sits on Costco’s board. Last year, Buffett even publicly marveled at Costco’s in-house Kirkland brand, which at that point had $39 billion of annual sales. “Here’s somebody like Costco, establishes a brand called Kirkland and it’s doing $39 billion — more than virtually any food company,” including Kraft Heinz Co., he said. Berkshire is Kraft Heinz’s largest shareholder.Costco has proven during this crisis that it has a durable brand and a wide competitive moat, two of the key attributes Buffett looks for. More than 90% of Costco’s U.S. club members renew, and globally the rate is nearly as high at 88%. Those warehouse memberships are a predictable source of cash flow, almost akin to Berkshire’s insurance float that Buffett uses to invest. While the majority of Costco’s 787 warehouse clubs are in the U.S. and Canada, it does have locations in Mexico, the U.K., Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Australia. It’s also expanding in China, offering Buffett exposure to the country’s growing middle class.Costco’s same-store sales have risen 6.5% on average for the last 10 quarters, topping other U.S. mass retailers including Walmart Inc., the parent of Sam’s Club. Costco also generated more than $1,300 of sales per square foot in fiscal 2019 — more than any of its peers.The share price has gotten a bump from all the panic-shopping, and at 34 times earnings, Costco’s valuation certainly isn’t what Buffett would call cheap. But Costco should continue to fare well in a post-virus America, especially if it leads some residents to ditch cities for suburbs and spend more time at home. After the meat and toilet paper shortages, more shoppers may even turn to bulk-buying to be better prepared for future lockdowns or shortages.The biggest hurdle to a takeover is that Costco’s market value is $137 billion — precisely the amount of cash Berkshire has available. Berkshire’s last major acquisition was Precision Castparts, a maker of airplane engine parts, for $37 billion in 2016. After years spent searching for his next target, Buffett signaled recently that his hunt is on hold, suggesting that he thinks the crisis could still get worse before it gets better. “The cash position isn’t that huge when I look at the worst-case possibilities,” he told a stunned audience last month that tuned into the livestreamed annual meeting expecting to hear something a little more upbeat or at least hopeful from the Oracle of Omaha.(1)Berkshire could simply increase its stake in Costco, a stable holding that pays a 70-cent quarterly dividend. But it wasn’t all that long ago that Buffett spoke of the possibility of an acquisition Costco’s size. “If a $100 billion deal came along that Charlie [Munger] and I really liked, we’d get it done,” he said in May 2018. With Buffett set to turn 90 in August, it would be uncharacteristic to not want to do one last splashy transaction.It also wouldn’t be the first time Berkshire acquired one of its stock holdings. Berkshire owned shares in Precision Castparts before that deal. It also took a stake in the BNSF railroad in 2007 and kept adding to that position until it eventually purchased the whole company. Berkshire’s ownership of Geico even dates back to the 1950s when Buffett first bought shares and as a curious young investor began a serendipitous friendship with the insurer’s former CEO, Lorimer Davidson, as Buffett often retells it.Whether as a takeover candidate or stock pick, Buffett’s best option may be right under his nose. (1) One well-known shareholder, Bill Ackman’s Pershing Square Capital Management, even exited its Berkshire position, deciding itcan find worthwhile investing opportunities faster than Berkshire can at this rate.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Tara Lachapelle is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering the business of entertainment and telecommunications, as well as broader deals. She previously wrote an M&A column for Bloomberg News.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Anyone who has ever waited at Primark to pay for cheap workout attire or a bargain dress knows just what a challenge it is to keep the snaking line in the right place. With precautions to control the novel coronavirus’s spread, that logistical nightmare will get even worse. Every second cash register will be shut and there’ll be an employee in charge of enforcing the regimented flow of customers — in one way and out another.Social-distancing rules governing shops are just one of the reasons why any honeymoon for retailers in the first days of reopening may be short lived. Many will soon have to confront hard decisions about whether to shut some stores definitively and how to fend off online competition in a world where people may still be hesitant to go out to shop. Recovery will be a long slog, with more pressure on profits than before the Covid-19 outbreak.Non-essential stores in England, which were forced to close in March, will be permitted to open from June 15. Early indications are good. Ikea stores on the outskirts of London and in the West Midlands drew huge queues when the purveyor of flat-packed furniture (classified as essential) reopened earlier this week. In the U.S., where some states have moved quickly to reopen for business, signs have been encouraging — at least until the civil unrest that forced some store closures again.Take TJX Cos., owner of T.J. Maxx, one of the most touchy-feely retail experiences. It might seem that treasure hunting for a designer gem would be less appealing during a pandemic. But in late May the company said that overall, sales were above the year-earlier period in the 1,100 stores that had been open for at least a week. Even Macy’s Inc., which got caught in the department-store maelstrom, said sales were moderately higher than anticipated.It’s a similar picture in Europe. Earlier this week, Primark, owned by Associated British Foods Plc, said that suburban outlets, such as the one in Hilversum in the Netherlands, were comfortably ahead, even though sales in city-center stores in Berlin and Amsterdam were at less than half of what they were a year ago.There will be pent-up demand when stores open in England, too. During lockdown, online shopping has flourished. Initially, demand was for home furnishings and clothing basics, such as underwear and workout gear. But warm weather, along with a slew of special offers, has encouraged more fashion purchases, such as day dresses, over recent weeks. More markdowns, needed to clear out unsold spring and summer stock, could prompt people to splurge when they can get back out to shop again.But a surge at the reopening doesn’t necessarily mean an enduring rebound. The pandemic has had great human and economic costs, with U.K. unemployment expected to spike in the second quarter. Even if their finances have held up, furloughed workers may be reluctant to spend. People make the most drastic changes to their spending when they lose their job or see their friends and family being laid off. Meanwhile, even though economies are gradually reopening, cancelled weddings, parties and overseas holidays will likely mean a lower level of clothing demand for the remainder of this year.Those who do feel brave enough to splash out may get frustrated with long waits to get into stores or check out. That could be bad news for discount retailers that rely on a high number of relatively low-value transactions. Primark could be hardest hit by social-distancing measures at its busiest stores, which accounted for 10-20% of its total sales before the pandemic, parent Associated British Foods said.Store closures during lockdown pushed even more people to shop online, a trend that’s likely to continue. The digital share of non-food sales in the U.K. could increase to 41% over the next 18 months or so, from about 30% at the end of 2019, according to Richard Hyman, the independent retail analyst. Shifting business online comes with additional costs too.All of these forces will make chains think hard about which stores are worth keeping in their networks. In the U.S., Nordstrom Inc. said it would close 16 of its 116 department stores. Expect similar decisions in Europe, especially if the additional costs associated with equipping stores for social distancing can’t be shared with landlords in the form of lower rents.But some companies are poised to make the most of the turmoil. While Primark may have to deal with some tricky in-store logistics, it should still emerge a winner, given its focus on value, along with cheap-chic rivals Hennes & Mauritz AB and Inditex SA’s Zara. Perhaps that’s why Primark, which has shunned online commerce, is actually opening new stores — such as in Manchester’s Trafford Centre — rather than closing any. Online retailers such as Germany’s Zalando SE and Britain’s Asos Plc, as well as companies with big digital businesses, such as Next Plc, should also be well placed.But even for the winners, the next year or so will be testing. The changes roiling the industry in the space of these five months would have taken five years in normal times. That’s a lot for even the most nimble retailers to deal with. This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Andrea Felsted is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering the consumer and retail industries. She previously worked at the Financial Times.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Amazon.com Inc. is in preliminary talks to buy a stake in No. 2 Indian carrier Bharti Airtel Ltd. for at least $2 billion, Reuters reported, joining Facebook Inc. and other U.S. giants in betting on one of the world’s fastest-growing internet arenas.The U.S. online retailer is in early-stage discussions to buy about a 5% stake in the Indian wireless operator, Reuters said, citing anonymous sources. A deal will help Amazon access Bharti’s 300 million subscribers -- a user base akin to the entire U.S. population. On Friday, the Indian carrier said in a statement it wasn’t considering any proposal to sell a stake to Amazon, referring to reports as “speculative.”American technology and investment giants have been buying stakes in Indian companies to build their presence in Asia’s second-most populous nation. Facebook agreed to invest about $5.7 billion into a unit of Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Ltd. in April, while Microsoft Corp. is reportedly considering a stake in the same company.Amazon already has deep roots in India, where Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos has visited and vowed to build one of his biggest e-commerce operations outside of the U.S. Bezos, now the world’s richest man, said during a trip in January that his company would invest another $1 billion on top of the billions it’s shelled out to bring small and medium-size businesses online. Amazon is now vying with Walmart Inc.’s Flipkart to tap an increasingly affluent population adopting smartphones at a rapid clip.Read more: Jeff Bezos’s India Visit Marked by Probe and ProtestsAn Amazon spokeswoman in India declined to comment. “We routinely work with all digital and OTT players and have deep engagement with them to bring their products, content and services for our wide customer base. Beyond that there is no other activity to report,” a Bharti spokesperson said.An influx of capital would be welcome to New Delhi-based Bharti Airtel, which has come under pressure to beef up its offerings ever since Ambani’s technology venture went on a deal spree to secure about $10 billion in investment from Facebook to KKR & Co. Airtel’s billionaire Chairman Sunil Mittal may be looking to leverage the diverse businesses in his empire just as Ambani goes into overdrive to transform his oil-and-petrochemicals company into an Indian e-commerce and digital payments titan with Jio Platforms.Read more: How Facebook’s Reliance Deal Upends a $1 Trillion Digital ArenaIn its 25 years of operations, Bharti Airtel has survived frequent policy changes in one of the world’s toughest telecommunications markets. It lost its position as India’s largest wireless carrier last year to Ambani’s Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd., which debuted in 2016 and shook up the industry with free calls and cheap data. The most recent blow to Bharti Airtel came in October, when the nation’s top court in a shock ruling ordered it to pay $3 billion in back fees.The technology ambitions of Ambani, Asia’s richest man, have turned the spotlight on his telecommunications rivals, including Vodafone Idea Ltd., the struggling Indian business of British operator Vodafone Group Plc. The Financial Times reported May 28 that Alphabet Inc.’s Google is considering acquiring a stake in that venture. Vodafone Idea said it isn’t currently considering any such proposal.Besides telecommunications, Mittal’s Bharti Enterprises has businesses spanning insurance, real estate, education and farm food.(Updates with Bharti Airtel’s comment from the second paragraph)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
The next hurdle will be making sure the city can keep the spread of the disease under control as more activity resumes.
Among the Dow Jones stocks, Apple and Microsoft are among the top stocks to buy and watch in June 2020.
Many companies have made statements in support of racial equality, but experts and activists say they must also take action in their communities.
Target today announced a $10 million commitment in addition to ongoing resources to advance social justice and support rebuilding and recovery efforts in local communities.
The roaring convertible securities market had record monthly issuance in May. The strong pace is now continuing into June as companies like (PANW) and (SPLK) tap the market with offerings of over $1 billion. Issuance so far this year has been $51.7 billion and should rise to $52.8 billion based on two announced deals that are expected to be priced Friday. The total for all of last year was $53.1 billion, Bank of America Securities data show.
The $1 trillion container shipping industry is in a slowdown. Many are also cutting down the number of voyages and providing short-term storage for clients as the industry, which includes heavyweights like Maersk, MSC and Hapag-Lloyd, faces its biggest downturn since the 2008 financial crisis. Civil unrest in the United States has compounded their problems by further clouding the prospect for a recovery in the world's biggest retail sales market.
(Bloomberg) -- EBay Inc. raised its forecast for revenue and earnings in the current quarter as people flock to the online marketplace amid the Covid-19 pandemic that has left most physical stores shuttered for more than two months.EBay said it now expects sales of as much as $2.8 billion in the second quarter, up from a previous forecast for as much as $2.48 billion. In a filing the company said it sees adjusted earnings per share of as much as $1.06, up from 80 cents previously.More people are being drawn to EBay’s marketplace across a wide variety of categories, from home and garden to electronics, fashion and auto parts, EBay said. The site has seen about 6 million new and reactivated buyers added in April and May. Tens of thousands of small-business sellers have also flocked to the platform since March. Shares in the San Jose, California-based company jumped as much as 12%, hitting an intraday high of $51.88. The stock has gained 38% this year.EBay earlier this year named former Walmart Inc. executive Jamie Iannoneas chief executive officer. Activist investors Elliott Management Corp. and Starboard Value have been pushing EBay to increase profitability by selling pieces of itself following years of stagnation in its core marketplace business.The company in February completed the sale of its event-tickets marketplace StubHub to Viagogo for $4.05 billion and is exploring options for the classifieds business. EBay is also trying to boost revenue from its advertising and payments businesses. In the statement, EBay said revenue from its classifieds business is at the high end of its previously disclosed expectations, with automotive subscription revenue recovering as dealerships reopen across international markets.To further engage new buyers, EBay is making additional investments in marketing and technology to keep people coming back and buying on the site more often.EBay didn’t update its full-year guidance at this time, but said it will likely be above previously announced ranges. In April, the company said it expects 2020 revenue of as much as $9.76 billion and adjusted earnings per share of as much as $3.10Taking a step to address the wave of protests over racial injustice sweeping the U.S. in the past week, EBay said it is making a donation of more than $1.3 million, split between the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Equal Justice Initiative.(Updates with shares in third paragraph.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Euphemisms allow us to avoid confronting the cold, hard truth. Their ambiguity makes the terrible seem merely bad and the bad seem almost OK. It is a softening of subjective reality that allows us to happily live in deluded denial. This isn't a great strategy for relationships, for careers and, especially, for investors.Consider that we no longer have car crashes that kill more than 40,000 Americans a year. Instead, we have “accidents” caused by inattentive, reckless or -- to use a euphemism --impaired drivers. Companies don’t fire thousands of employees at a time, driving the unemployment rate higher; they downsize or, even worse, right-size. Even the word euphemism is itself a euphemism. It is a lie designed to hide an ugly truth from ourselves. “Banana” was an infamous economic euphemism during the 1970s. Alfred Kahn, then chairman of the Council on Wage and Price Stability, was told never to use the word “depression” or even "recession" when speaking at the White House or in public. To warn of potential economic trouble, he discussed "the worst banana you ever saw."As it turns out, refusing to use the word “recession” was a poor political strategy for Kahn’s boss, President Jimmy Carter. He lost his re-election bid in a landslide. Or perhaps it goes down easier to note that Carter “came in second” due to a “kumquat.”(1)Euphemisms don't help us make better decisions or confront challenges directly. As reported by Bloomberg News and the New York Times, the skyrocketing use of the word “unprecedented” during quarterly earnings conference calls serves as a reminder. We all understand the extent of lockdown orders, with second-quarter gross domestic product cut in half. But here's the issue: Investors don't expect management to be clairvoyant, but they do expect them to have plans for when disaster strikes and to execute that plan when necessary. This leads to three basic questions investors should ask corporate management:No. 1. What did you do to prepare for this sort of event?No. 2. How are you managing in the crisis?No. 3. What are your plans for the post-pandemic future?Some companies are much better situated by dint of their business model than others. Netflix Inc. is a natural winner in an era of sheltering at home. But entertainment giant Walt Disney Co., with its theme parks and theatrical films, was badly hit by the pandemic. It also had the foresight to diversify from those “live” businesses, with new services such as the Disney+ streaming service, which now has more than 55 million paying subscribers. Unprecedented events did not derail it from planning for home entertainment and executing that plan. Other live entertainment companies such as Live Nation Entertainment Inc., Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp. or Six Flags Entertainment Corp. were not as prescient. Consider retail companies such as Amazon.com Inc., Target Corp. and Walmart Inc. -- all have done an excellent job executing a so-called last-mile strategy. Other retailers selling essentials to the same customers have not. Investors judge these managements, in part, by how they respond to a crisis like Covid-19. This particular event never happened before, but shareholders still want to know how corporate chiefs plan on managing it.The overemphasis on "unprecedented" deserves attention because it's so trite. Novel, first-time events occur with startling regularity. The normal state of human affairs has been persistent and unprecedented change. It isn't just the global health risks of this moment; it is true in every sphere of human endeavor. The default setting of humanity is to create new ideas, innovations, concepts, business models, technologies and solutions.Under the best of circumstances, we have limited “visibility” -- another euphemism -- about almost everything. Consider corporate revenues and profits. Look how often companies update, amend and revise quarterly earnings “guidance” -- one more euphemism, this one for "forecast." Yes, these forecasts become more accurate as the end of a quarter approaches, but that's only because more hard data has accumulated. In the end, it only comes down to informed guesswork.These may be unprecedented times, but they are not really out of the ordinary. Uncertainty always rules, and no one ever knows the future. For that reasons, no one really knows or even has a good sense of when the economy will recover, how many will die and when the pandemic will be over. Pretending otherwise with euphemisms does not make it any less so.Just remember that there is exactly the same amount of uncertainty now about the future as there always is. During times of crisis, you simply lose the ability to fool yourself about it.(1) When the United Fruit Co., a large banana producer, objected to the use of the word “banana,” Kahn shifted his choice of euphemism to "kumquat.” Really.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Barry Ritholtz is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is chairman and chief investment officer of Ritholtz Wealth Management, and was previously chief market strategist at Maxim Group. He is the author of “Bailout Nation.”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
By pulling all the levers at its disposal to limit inventory, the department store chain has freed up future time and money.