Purdue Pharma’s Bankruptcy Has Cost The Company Nearly $400 Million In Professional Fees
Today in the “efficiency of the legal system” news…
Professionals working on the bankruptcy of Purdue Pharma have amassed almost $400 million of fees and expenses, making up about half of the entire amount that all individuals harmed by the firm’s drug, OxyContin, would share under a proposed settlement.
The ongoing saga has turned “into a cash machine” for lawyers and consultants who have been hired by the company and its creditors, Bloomberg noted this week. The list of those on the dole include white-shoe law firms, premier restructuring advisers and investment bankers – all of whom are charging thousands of dollars per hour for their work.
The company claims it is paying “market rates” for the professionals in its employ: “This is one of the most complex bankruptcies in history, and it merits seasoned and experienced counsel and financial advisers on all sides of the case,” it said. Should the settlement be approved by the courts, the company’s remaining assets will be handed to trusts for benefit of the states and municipalities who had to pay to handle the opioid crisis.
Bob Lawless, a law professor at the University of Illinois, told Bloomberg: “These are huge — this is a large chunk of money that would otherwise be going to pay victims of a horrible tort. You have to pay the undertaker. Whether they have to be paid that much is another question.”
Meanwhile, the bankruptcy docket is littered with letters to the judge begging for compensation, or even just information, from the company. The letters include a former baseball player who lost his son to overdose and a former Army doctor who said he had a stroke after getting hooked on opioids in 2018.
Payments to those who filed personal injury claims will range from $3,500 to $48,000 with the most compensation awarded for OxyContin deaths.
Davis Polk & Wardwell, who serves as the company’s lead bankruptcy council, has been paid more than $100 million already. They put in nearly 7,000 hours on the case in the month of October 2019 alone – amounting to more than $5 million in fees. The firm also billed Purdue for expenses that included $5,000 for meals and $3,500 per month at the Ritz-Carlton, the nearest hotel to the bankruptcy court. The firm also rented conference rooms at the hotel to meet with stakeholders.
The firm’s lead partner, Marshall Huebner, is charging $1,790 per hour for his services. Adam Levitin, a bankruptcy law professor at Georgetown University said: “Traditionally, bankruptcy has had a spirit of economy. I think that spirit has long since passed. The bottom line is bankruptcy attorneys don’t see themselves performing a service in the public interest.”
More than 600,000 claims were filed against Purdue – which Bloomberg notes is almost 10 times as many lodged against Lehman Brothers when it blew up.
Lawless continued: “In these negotiations, you want someone who has a lot of experience, someone who is well-regarded and at the top of the profession. Those people are expensive.”
The company concluded that it is “moving as quickly as possible to deliver a settlement worth more than $10 billion”.
Wed, 05/12/2021 – 20:00
The COVID Baby Bump That Wasn’t
The year 2020 generated several visible changes to the structure of our society. In the US, citizens migrated to different parts of the country, workers changed or lost jobs, and education became virtual.
One thing, however, has not changed: despite expectations of a baby boom from idle couples locked down together, birth rates continue to fall. Birth rates were already trending downwards in Western countries as more women focused on their education and careers, thus delaying plans for marriage or starting a family. The shrinking wage gap between men and women also incentivized many women to postpone childbearing to remain in the workforce longer.
This pattern is reflected in the US, where birth rates hit a 35-year low in 2019: The CDC notes birth rates declined for nearly all age groups of women under 35, remained stagnant for those 35-39 and rose for women in their early 40s.
But when state governments initiated lockdowns in March of 2020, commentators optimistically predicted an approaching Covid baby boom set to arrive around the start of 2021 as couples sheltered-in-place together. So far though, the boom hasn’t arrived.
CBS News reports that provisional data from 29 state health departments shows that births declined by approximately 7.3% in December 2020 — the biggest decrease since the baby boom ended in 1964. In fact, 2020 saw 50,000 fewer births across Arizona, California, Florida, Hawaii and Ohio than the previous year. Hawaii experienced the most significant decline, with birth rates decreasing 30.4% leading Bloomberg to conclude that the “Pandemic Baby Boom Turned Out to Be Bust Despite Lockdown.”
So Why the Baby Bust?
1. First Comes Love
You know the old children’s rhyme about sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G? First comes love. Then comes marriage. Then comes a baby in a golden carriage.
Well, 2020 probably didn’t have much kissing as lips hid behind masks and dating morphed from movie dates, candlelit dinners and romantic walks along the beach to lonely nights on the sofa watching apocalyptic films (or chick flicks), screen-lit virtual dinners, and socially-distanced outdoor picnics.
Adding to restrictions on available date-night activities, 7 in 10 people believe dating is expensive: in 2019 RealSimple said “a single person spends about $168 per month on dating.” USA Today reported a study which found that 21% of millennials believe they need to reach a certain income level before pursuing a relationship, and 22% of singles said they were deterred from pursuing a relationship based on the potential partner’s financial situation.
In 2020, increased financial pressures forced many millennials — adults between the ages of 24 and 39 — to move back home with their parents. Pew Research notes that financial pressures or job loss accounted for 18% of pandemic-induced moves, while 23% of young adults moved due to college campus closures. Overall, there was a 6-percentage point increase in 18-29 year olds living with parents between January and July 2020, a 5-percentage point increase from July of the previous year. Last year, the percentage of young adults living at home had surpassed Great Depression-era levels with 52% living at home by July.
Source: Pew Research
Financial pressures and alternative living situations could serve as one explanation for why there was a drop in birth rates for women in this age group.
2. Then Marriage?
If love comes before marriage, then we should expect a domino effect resulting in fewer upcoming nuptials. Weddings can take an average of 13-18 months to plan.
Under Covid, event venue cancellations, restrictions on large gatherings and inability for friends and family to travel across state and national boundaries left couples all over the world scrambling as their weddings were cancelled once, twice, three times as restrictions were implemented and later reintroduced.
As unromantic as it is to talk about, the fact remains that marriage provides added legal and financial stability to having children. Reuters notes that in Italy, marriages fell over 50% in the first 10 months of 2020. By December, 9 months after initiating lockdowns, there was a bambino bust: births had dropped 21.6%. A decrease in the number of weddings is correlated with lower demand for baby carriages. British imports of baby carriages plunged “to the lowest level since records began in 2000.”
3. And Babies!
The 2020 restrictions on “non-urgent” and “elective” procedures served a devastating blow to the one in seven couples that have difficulty conceiving. In 2018, over 74,000 American babies were conceived through IVF, or in-vitro fertilization — a treatment which requires carefully scheduled medications and regular appointments, treats a range of infertility issues caused by problems with sperm, ovulation, endometriosis or egg quality.
The BBC reported that, last April, the UK banned all new fertility treatments. This means some couples have or will miss their last chance to conceive. “If you’re 25,” says Dr Barry Witt, a fertility centre medical director in Connecticut, “you can wait a year. If you’re 40 that’s a different story.”
The “time crunch” has led to bouts of depression, anxiety, anger and desperation amidst patients waiting to resume treatments, “because they can’t wait for a year or two because chances of success could diminish dramatically.” Dr Marco Gaudoin says that, “Statistically from the age of 34 onwards, for every month that passes your chances drop by around 0.3%. So after six months it’s [dropped] about 2%.”
4. A Lonely Road to Labor
Few people would willingly take on additional stressors during lockdowns, uncertainty and financial stress during Covid. Depriving expectant mothers of significant milestones, such as baby showers and gender reveal parties isolates them from supportive networks of friends and family essential to reducing stress and improving mood.
Stress undoubtedly increased following hospital guidance which would allow the mother to have only one visitor by her side during labor, delivery, and postpartum — in some instances visitors were banned altogether.
During a 4-day ban, one expectant mother was told that her husband would not even be allowed to enter the hospital to fill out paperwork or carry her heavy hospital bag. She reported that “[the hospital] wanted labours to move along as efficiently as possible. Instead of 48 hours, we’d only get to stay in the hospital for 24.”
Fear and stress can negatively impact the well-being of infants and development of the fetus. A 2004 study found that mothers living within 2 miles of the World Trade Center and whose infants were in utero during 9/11 had reduced birth weights, gestation periods and head circumferences (indicative of brain development) — an effect that was even more pronounced for mothers in their first trimester.
5. A Healthy Baby?
Adding to pregnancy concerns were questions about how Covid could affect embryos and developing fetuses. One New York Times article asking “Why Women May Face a Greater Risk of Catching Coronavirus” noted a CDC statement “that it has observed miscarriage and stillbirth in pregnant women infected with other coronaviruses like SARS and MERS.”
Some professionals were so cautious they told their patients to “just stay home” as IVF provider Dr. Aimee Eyvazzadeh did. She advised expectant mothers to:
avoid anything that looks like a human… sounds like a human… walk[s] like a human… or breathes like a human. Wrap yourself in bubble wrap.
During Covid, expectant mothers’ fears have only been exacerbated by headlines warning, “Pregnant Women are at Higher Risk For Severe Covid-19 And Death.” According to the article,
After adjusting for age, race, ethnicity, and underlying conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and chronic lung disease, pregnant women were three times more likely to be admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU), and 2.9 times more likely to receive mechanical ventilation compared to nonpregnant women in the same age group.
But Forbes noted that this could also be due to the physiological changes associated with pregnancy — including increased heart rate and oxygen consumption, decreased lung capacity, and decreased function of the immune system.
6. Unemployment and Loss of Health Care
Because of increased unemployment after the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, the number of women with employer-sponsored health coverage fell for the first time. A Brookings analysis found that this “led to a large decline in birth rates, after a period of relative stability”:
In 2007, the birth rate was 69.1 births per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44; in 2012, the rate was 63.0 births per 1,000 women. That nine percent drop meant roughly 400,000 fewer births.
A study analyzing 40 million US birth records from 1975 to 2010 noted a similar pattern: “a one percentage point increase in the unemployment rate experienced at 20 to 24 is associated with an overall loss of 14.2 conceptions [per 1,000 women].”
And this pattern has continued during Covid. Under growing economic and social insecurity 40% of women reported in a Guttmacher Reproductive Health Survey that they have “changed their plans about when to have children or how many children to have.”
According to KFF, 61% of American women aged 19 to 64 (i.e. 59 million females) had employer-sponsored health insurance coverage in 2019. But, as my colleague Amelia Janaskie wrote, women have been disproportionately affected by the 2020 lockdowns because they make up a greater portion of in-person service industries for which teleworking is less feasible.
Uninsured women often have inadequate access to care, get a lower standard of care when they are in the health system, and have poorer health outcomes. Healthcare coverage is essential to help cover medical costs of pregnancy, such as ultrasounds, prenatal tests and care — costs that can quickly add up.
7. The Baby’s Drinking Alcohol
Babies remain expensive until adulthood. In 2019 the average cost in most US states for a vaginal birth was $5,000–$11,000 and $7,500–$14,500 for a cesarean (assuming there are no complications during birth).
Depending on location and household income, new parents can expect to spend $20,000 to $50,000 during the first year of their newborn’s life. And New York Life wrote in 2015 that middle-income households could expect to spend between $12,350 and $13,900 on their children annually up to age 17. With job insecurity being high in 2020, the added cost of childbirth could be infeasible to many women.
* * *
Covid has only exacerbated a downward trend in birthrates; Brookings expects to see between 300,000 and 500,000 fewer births in 2021. The social impacts of such a significant demographic shift will be enormous.
Wed, 05/12/2021 – 19:40
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) announced Wednesday that the state will soon hold lottery drawings exclusively for vaccinated adults, and winners will take home $1 million each.
What are the details?
DeWine revealed the new plan during an address to his state, touting the progress Ohioans have made in the fight against COVID-19 and announcing that state government’s coronavirus restrictions would end as of June 2 — outside of nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
He then offered incentives for more people to get vaccinated against the virus.
“Two weeks from tonight on May 26th, we will announce a winner of a separate drawing for adults who have received at least their first dose of the vaccine,” DeWine explained in a tweet. “This announcement will occur each Wednesday for five weeks, and the winner each Wednesday will receive one million dollars.”
The Republican noted that the drawings would be conducted by the Ohio Lottery, sponsored by the Ohio Department of Health, and “the money will come from existing federal Coronavirus Relief funds.”
“I know that some may say, ‘DeWine, you’re crazy! This million-dollar drawing idea of yours is a waste of money,'” he wrote in a later tweet. “But truly, the real waste at this point in the pandemic — when the vaccine is readily available to anyone who wants it — is a life lost to COVID-19.”
The governor also announced that 12 to 17-year-olds who get vaccinated (now that Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine is approved for that age group) will be offered a lottery of their own, where winners “will receive a full, four-year scholarship at our State of Ohio universities,” including “tuition, room and board, and books.”
DeWine noted that 78% of Ohioans 65 and older have been vaccinated, and he is making a push for more of the rest of the population to get the shots.
“Our cases are down, but that’s only because 42% of our population can no longer get the virus and can no longer spread it” due to vaccination, DeWine said, according to WOIO-TV.
How are people reacting?
The feedback on DeWine’s lottery was mixed on social media.
Some people praised the scheme, with one tweeting, “This is genius. That 5 million dollar cost is much less than what the marketing cost would be to convince even half the amount of people to get a dose of the vaccine that a **very slim** chance at one million dollars would convince. Props to whoever thought of that.”
Another wrote, “It’s a crazy idea, but it will almost certainly get *a lot* of people who otherwise would not get the vaccine to do so. If it gets a few 100,000 extra people vaccinated, it will save the state a ton of money in the long run.”
Others slammed the move. One person reacted, “So now we’re using tax payers money to bribe parents into getting Covid shots for kids. Lol. DeWine has got to go. This guy is a clown. We have such terrible leadership at the highest levels in Ohio. @GovMikeDeWine role as Governor will terminated next election. Mark my words.”
Someone else wrote, “What the hell is this, Mike? I mean, we’re used to Republicans wasting our tax money, but I’m pretty sure a lottery wasn’t part of the stimulus deal. A million dollars could be used so much better elsewhere. Does Washington know you’re misappropriating our money?”
Chicago Gun Network Traced To Enlisted Soldiers At Ford Campbell
Chicago is a dangerous liberal-run city with recent crime statistics that show gun violence is out of control. One unlikely source of gun violence is three enlisted soldiers at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, who operated a gun smuggling operation into the metro area.
Demarcus Adams, 21; Jarius Brunson, 22; and Brandon Miller, 22, were arrested Tuesday by Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command agents for pedaling dozens of firearms onto the streets of Chicago, including pistols recovered at a mass shooting, according to NBC Chicago.
The enlisted soldiers were charged with making false statements while purchasing dozens of firearms, transferring firearms to an out-of-state resident, wire fraud, money laundering, conspiracy, and selling guns without a license.
Agents said the three purchased 91 firearms from multiple dealers around Fort Campbell and supplied them to associates in Chicago. There was no word on who exactly were these “associates.”
NBC said the three soldiers were expected to appear before a U.S. judge in Nashville Tuesday. If they’re convicted, each could face up to two decades in federal prison.
“I can confirm that the Soldiers involved in the case are assigned to Fort Campbell,” 101st Airborne Division spokesperson Lt. Col. Kari McEwen told Army Times. “We will continue to cooperate fully with law enforcement authorities in this investigation.”
Two years since Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot won that runoff election, her multi-year plan to combat violent crime across the city is in shambles. Most recent crime statistics show that murders jumped 56% from April 26 to May 2 compared with the same period last year. The number of shooting incidents also spiked 40% during the same time year-over-year.
Chicago police data show year-to-date (May 2) murders were at 195 and shootings were 865, up from 160 murders and 650 shootings reported by the same time in 2020.
Who would’ve ever thought enlisted soldiers were funneling serialized guns that they bought onto Chicago streets. Idiots.
Wed, 05/12/2021 – 19:20
Have been warning you for many years about the planned total financial/economic collapse & hyperinflation,… …which will be directly followed by ‘The Greatest Revolution Of All Time’ in the US and planned all-out civil war in the US and Europe,… …which will be directly followed by planned WW3, …which is predicted to be abruptly put … Read more
Israel's Security Cabinet Approves Expanding Gaza Strikes As Riots Spread In Jewish-Arab Cities Decision by ministers means conflict with Hamas likely to last at least several days more…https://t.co/QFgQ8N3ZGC — Infinite Unknown (@SecretNews) May 12, 2021 * * * PayPal: Donate in USD PayPal: Donate in EUR PayPal: Donate in GBP
"Literally Armageddon": 53 Killed In Gaza & 5 Israelis Dead As UN Warns "Full-Scale War" Imminent Netanyahu vowed the militants would pay a "heavy price" as UN warns region on the brink: "We're escalating towards a full-scale war."https://t.co/9IXFqTDN9f — Infinite Unknown (@SecretNews) May 12, 2021 * * * PayPal: Donate in USD PayPal: Donate in … Read more
Trudeau: 75% of Canadians need one vaccine dose before measures are relaxedhttps://t.co/XhnvN3tlyR — Infinite Unknown (@SecretNews) May 12, 2021 * * * PayPal: Donate in USD PayPal: Donate in EUR PayPal: Donate in GBP
? Source Full running order here: https://www.ukcolumn.org/ukcolumn-news/uk-column-news-12th-may-2021 * * * PayPal: Donate in USD PayPal: Donate in EUR PayPal: Donate in GBP
– The vaccine is the pandemic: MULTIPLE countries seeing spike in covid deaths AFTER covid vaccines began * * * PayPal: Donate in USD PayPal: Donate in EUR PayPal: Donate in GBP
Imagine my total absence of shock… Shock: Canadian Government Openly Embraces Transhumanismhttps://t.co/dIMLBhHUBN — Infinite Unknown (@SecretNews) May 12, 2021 * * * PayPal: Donate in USD PayPal: Donate in EUR PayPal: Donate in GBP
– More Than 100 Patients Die After Taking First Or Second Shot Of COVID-19 Vaccine In A Hospital In India * * * PayPal: Donate in USD PayPal: Donate in EUR PayPal: Donate in GBP
They are coming for your children… US teens could start getting Covid vaccines THURSDAY: Former CDC director admits kids are unlikely to die from virus but says getting vaccinated will allow them to 'take off their masks and have a normal school experience'https://t.co/se5WLWoK91 — Infinite Unknown (@SecretNews) May 12, 2021 Gandalf (reading): "They have taken … Read more
Wyoming Becomes 11th State To Ban Vaccine Passportshttps://t.co/WxXyqE5KWl — Infinite Unknown (@SecretNews) May 12, 2021 * * * PayPal: Donate in USD PayPal: Donate in EUR PayPal: Donate in GBP
https://twitter.com/SecretNews/status/1392621184999731205 * * * PayPal: Donate in USD PayPal: Donate in EUR PayPal: Donate in GBP
U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers To “Resume” Border Wall Construction
President Biden is finally wising up after stoking a crisis at the southern U.S. border, which started after the 2020 election. Fox News reports the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will restart border wall construction in Rio Grande Valley.
Fox News’ Bill Melugin tweeted, “Fox News has confirmed via the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that construction on a 13.4 mile stretch of border wall in the Rio Grande Valley will *RESUME* after pressure from local residents & politicians.”
BREAKING: .@FoxNews has confirmed via the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that construction on a 13.4 mile stretch of border wall in the Rio Grande Valley will *RESUME* after pressure from local residents & politicians.
The Biden admin previously halted all wall construction in Jan.
— Bill Melugin (@BillFOXLA) May 12, 2021
For months, the Biden team downplayed the massive increase in refugees at the border – even going radio silent about the disaster. By April, the president finally admitted the federal government was facing a “crisis” at the border with the massive influx of migrant children.
The same Trump wall that Biden and his team criticized repeatedly appears to be restarting construction. Perhaps, former President Trump was right about the border and the need for a wall. This proves Biden and his team are clueless.
Trump was right, “build that wall.”
Wed, 05/12/2021 – 19:00
Nuclear Reactions At Chernobyl "Cause For Concern"https://t.co/SW5EZf6iiJ — Infinite Unknown (@SecretNews) May 12, 2021 * * * PayPal: Donate in USD PayPal: Donate in EUR PayPal: Donate in GBP
The same is happening in Israel and India. Coming to a country near you. Just wait and see. – UK Report Predicts Up To 70% Of People Who Die In ‘Third Wave’ Of Pandemic Will Have Received Two Doses Of COVID Vaccine * * * PayPal: Donate in USD PayPal: Donate in EUR PayPal: Donate … Read more
FYI… Source * * * PayPal: Donate in USD PayPal: Donate in EUR PayPal: Donate in GBP
– The post-vaccine mutant covid strain is HERE, and it’s resistant to all current vaccines * * * PayPal: Donate in USD PayPal: Donate in EUR PayPal: Donate in GBP
Business owners at 'breaking point,' ready to defy lockdown: CFIBhttps://t.co/HjQLeQOQoB — Infinite Unknown (@SecretNews) May 12, 2021 * * * PayPal: Donate in USD PayPal: Donate in EUR PayPal: Donate in GBP
US Spends 90% More Than It Collects In First 7 Months Of Fiscal 2021https://t.co/1nGeI0m6Jx — Infinite Unknown (@SecretNews) May 12, 2021 * * * PayPal: Donate in USD PayPal: Donate in EUR PayPal: Donate in GBP
New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang appeared to apologize for a tweet condemning the terrorist attacks by Hamas militants on Israel after public outrage by the left and some of his own supporters.
“I’m standing with the people of Israel who are coming under bombardment attacks, and condemn the Hamas terrorists,” said Yang in a tweet on Monday.
Yang, who is one of the frontrunners in the mayoral race, was harangued by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) about the tweet on Tuesday but by Wednesday he acquiesced and cited many other detractors in his apology.
“I spoke to a group of volunteers for the campaign yesterday, some of whom have been with me for years. Many of them were upset with my recent tweet expressing solidarity with the people of Israel in conjunction with the violence in the region this week that has claimed the lives of innocents and children on both sides,” said Yang in the lengthy statement posted to Twitter.
“They felt that my tweet was overly simplistic in my treatment of a conflict that has a long and complex history full of tragedies. And they felt it failed to acknowledge the pain and suffering on both sides. They were, of course, correct,” he continued.
“I mourn for every Palestinian life taken before its time as I do for every Israeli,” he continued. “Suffering and pain and violence and death suffered by anyone hurts us all. All people want to be able to live in peace. We all ways that for ourselves and our children.”
Despite the clarification by Yang, many of his detractors were still unhappy that he did not condemn Israel in his new statement.
“The most telling part of @AndrewYang’s erasure of Palestinian human rights, is he even used his apology to to say he’s choosing sides. And that side is Israel,” responded one critic on Twitter.
Yang wasn’t the only mayoral candidate to have public relations troubles this week. Two candidates were mocked and ridiculed after they severely underestimated the cost of housing in NYC during a candidate interview.
Here’s more on Yang’s flip flop on Israel:
Andrew Yang apologizes for pro-Israel tweet after criticism from the left | New York Post
SoftBank Reports Record Profits For Japanese Firm But Shares Slide As Market Demands Buybacks
SoftBank just capped off a series of robust quarterly earnings reports by delivering the biggest-ever quarterly profit for a Japanese firm: On Wednesday, the Japanese telecom firm with a VC arm reported net income of $17.7 billion – or ¥1.93 trillion – during the three months ended on March 31. This brought SoftBank’s annual net profit of ¥4.99 trillion (or $45.9 billion) for the 12 months period ended in March, marking a record not just for SoftBank, but for any Japanese company.
But investors found reason to doubt, as SoftBank shares slumped more than 3% after the earnings report was released. It’s important to note that unlike other companies that earn cash income by extracting oil (like Exxon) or selling digital advertising (like Facebook), practically all of SoftBank’s profits were attributed to investment gains in the vast portfolio of public and private companies owned by the firm. In Q1, these gains were largely driven by the newly public Coupang, a South Korean e-commerce giant struggling to emulate Amazon, which was responsible for nearly all of the firm’s profits.
As the FT’s Lex columnist pointed out, Of the 125 portfolio companies in SoftBank’s two Vision funds, gross returns depend on just a handful. Coupang, DoorDash and Uber make up 80% of the first fund’s gross return.
SoftBank founder and CEO Masayoshi Son argued during a presentation following the earnings report that investors aren’t giving him enough credit for all the value he has created at SoftBank. But with the WeWork fiasco still fresh in investors’ memories, we don’t blame them for still being skittish given the extreme volatility the firm has experienced in its investment returns.
As its earnings numbers showed, SoftBank’s ‘Vision Fund’ arm went from being the source of the company’s biggest losses ever just one year ago to the main driver of the firm’s profits. Vision Fund’s take amounted to ¥2.3 trillion in the quarter ended in March.
But while Masa tried to couch these volatile returns as part of a “new normal” at SoftBank, investors clearly still have some concerns.
“Our profit and revenue are both measured in trillions of yen, but just a year ago we had a record loss,” Son said during a post-earnings briefing with analysts and reporters. “For SoftBank, profits and losses in trillions of yen are the new normal.”
Their biggest concern is whether SoftBank will look to lock in more of its tech-heavy gains by buying back more of its stock. A massive share buyback program announced last year has already run out, though not before helping send SoftBank shares close to record highs, and reversing some of the firm’s post-WeWork losses.
On the subject of more buybacks, Masa sounded noncommital, which analysts said helped trigger a selloff in SoftBank shares.
“Yes, we will consider buying back our own shares,” Masa said. But he stressed that there are a lot of factors that go into these decisions, and that buybacks can’t simply be deployed to prop up the share price (even though ‘returning capital to shareholders’ is literally their only purpose).
Here’s a breakdown of the company’s Q1 profits: Coupang contributed $24.5 billion to Vision Fund’s Q4 profit. Auto1 Group, a German wholesale platform for used cars which went public in February, contributed $1.8 billion of the gains, while Uber was responsible for a $200M loss. SoftBank doesn’t need to sell shares to book income, so most of its profits are unrealized in the form of equity gains.
Kirk Boodry, an analyst at Redex Research in Tokyo, told Bloomberg that while he understand’s Masa’s rhetoric, he understands why investors are uncomfortable with the intense uncertainty baked into the company’s outlook.
“I get his points, but the last two years have shown there can be extreme volatility in returns and little agreement on future prospects.”
A senior analyst at Jeffries put it another way:
“The problem facing SoftBank is that the good news is already out,” said Atul Goyal, senior analyst at Jefferies. “What is less visible are the potential losses on blue-chip public stock investments and derivatives. The negatives are pretty opaque and that’s where investors will be looking at during earnings.”
SoftBank has a portfolio of 224 companies across three different funds as of the end of March, and Son says the company could see between 10 and 20 portfolio companies opt for public listings every year for the foreseeable future.
But replicating last year’s success will require SoftBank to duplicate the blockbuster returns in its investment portfolio. With a rout in US tech stocks already spreading to Asia, investors have reason to be skittish about SoftBank. After all, this is still the firm that once valued WeWork at $47 billion.
Wed, 05/12/2021 – 18:40