Microsoft said on Monday that it would buy Nuance Communications, a provider of artificial intelligence and speech-recognition software, for about $16 billion, as it pushes to expand its health care technology services.
In buying Nuance, whose products include Dragon medical transcription software, Microsoft is hoping to bolster its offerings for the fast-growing field of medical computing. The two companies have already partnered on ways to automate the process of transcribing doctors’ conversations with patients and integrating that information into patients’ medical records.
Nuance is also known for providing the speech recognition software behind Siri, Apple’s virtual assistant. In recent years, however, it has focused on creating and selling software focused on the medical field.
Under the terms of the deal announced on Monday, Microsoft will pay $56 a share in cash, up 23 percent from Nuance’s closing price on Friday. Including assumed debt, the transaction values Nuance at about $19.7 billion.
2015 acquisition of LinkedIn for $26.2 billion.
“Nuance provides the A.I. layer at the health care point of delivery and is a pioneer in the real-world application of enterprise A.I.,” Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s chief executive, said in a statement.
One of the most persistent investment trends is the migration of money out of stock mutual funds and into exchange-traded funds, which are easier to trade, have lower operating expenses and often have favorable tax treatment.
Over the last 10 years, a net $900 billion has flowed out of stock mutual funds and $1.8 trillion has flowed into stock E.T.F.s, according to Morningstar.
Eager to give the public what it wants, and to keep shareholders from walking out the door with their assets, some fund providers have begun to convert stock mutual funds into E.T.F.s. Others run E.T.F. versions of their popular mutual funds, and one company, Vanguard, allows tax-free direct swaps of mutual fund positions into equivalent E.T.F.s.
E.T.F.s are simpler and cheaper for managers to run than mutual funds. Investors benefit when the savings and convenience are passed on to them, and from other inherent advantages that drove the rise in E.T.F.s in the first place.
“There are real benefits to having more E.T.F.s, especially in larger, more liquid funds,” said Christopher Cordaro, chief investment officer of RegentAtlantic, a Morristown, N.J., financial-planning firm. “If I’ve got two versions of something and the E.T.F. has a lower-cost portfolio, it’s an easy decision to use the E.T.F. over the mutual fund.”
The decision to test the conversion concept was not all that easy for Guinness Atkinson Asset Management, which was the first fund provider to do it, said Todd Rosenbluth, director of E.T.F. and mutual fund research at CFRA Research. Jim Atkinson, Guinness Atkinson’s chief executive, said the plan was studied for two years. It was carried out in late March when Guinness Atkinson Dividend Builder and Guinness Atkinson Asia Pacific Dividend Builder became E.T.F.s listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
“This is a trial balloon for other funds,” he said. “Operationally, we want it to go OK.”
If it does, the firm’s alternative energy fund is up next. Mr. Atkinson conceded that while “there may be funds that are better as open-end mutual funds, our intention is to convert all of our funds.”
Dimensional Fund Advisors is sending aloft a trial balloon of its own. It plans to convert six stock mutual funds into E.T.F.s, with the first four conversions set for June. The new structure will allow it to reduce its annual management fee to 0.23 percent from about 0.32 percent on average.
A third fund provider, Foothill Capital Management, filed last month for approval to convert its Cannabis Growth Fund, with about $7 million of assets, into an E.T.F.
E.T.F.s are cheaper to run in part because the management company can stay out of the way and let buyers and sellers deal with one another. Operating a mutual fund means handling new investments and redemptions every day and having cash on hand in case redemptions significantly exceed sales.
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Another advantage often accruing to E.T.F. shareholders is favorable tax treatment. Mutual funds generally have to distribute capital gains each year, whereas an E.T.F., like a stock, incurs tax liability only when the owner sells at a profit.
Converting a mutual fund to an E.T.F. is legally a merger of the old fund with the new, Mr. Atkinson said, and is thus not a taxable event.
Vanguard is using a different technique to let investors in 47 of its index mutual funds, 36 that own stocks and the others bonds, move their assets into E.T.F.s free of tax consequences. Each E.T.F. was created as a share class of the equivalent mutual fund, which the law regards as a nontaxable transfer.
Vanguard has no plans to convert any mutual funds, said Rich Powers, its head of E.T.F. and index product management, nor does the company expect to create E.T.F. share classes for any actively managed mutual funds.
Other fund providers run E.T.F. versions of their large index-based mutual funds, but Vanguard has a patent on the technique of tax-free transfers between share classes. Mr. Powers said there were discussions with other fund providers about licensing it, but none have taken the plunge, perhaps because the patent expires in two years and other companies may be waiting until then to offer such transfers.
Whichever companies follow in the footsteps of Guinness Atkinson and Dimensional in making conversions are not expected to be industry giants. Indeed, several of the largest fund providers — BlackRock, Vanguard, T. Rowe Price and Fidelity — said they had no intention to convert their mutual funds.
There are two reasons that conversions are more appealing to smaller firms. Mr. Cordaro noted that mutual funds can be bought and sold free of charge on platforms run by brokerages. The brokerages need large, popular fund providers — the BlackRocks of the world — to attract investors, but smaller managers need the platforms more than the platforms need them, so they often have to pay to be on them. E.T.F. managers face no such demand.
The other impediment for large managers is a feature of E.T.F.s that they might view as a bug, at least when it comes to actively managed portfolios: the requirement that most E.T.F.s disclose their holdings daily.
Disclosure is seldom a problem for smaller funds, which usually complete portfolio trades the same day. Mr. Atkinson said that is the case with the two funds that have been converted. But large funds may need several days to execute significant portfolio changes to avoid moving the market. If an E.T.F. discloses that it has begun buying or selling a particular stock, traders may jump in and do the same to try to take advantage of anticipated price movements.
Another issue that Mr. Powers cited to explain why Vanguard does not offer actively managed E.T.F.s, and would not be inclined to convert actively managed mutual funds, is that there is no way to restrict investment in an E.T.F. If a mutual fund in a frothy market segment attracts too much money, making managing the portfolio unwieldy, the manager can limit new investment, but that isn’t allowed with an E.T.F.
E.T.F. conversions may be limited to smaller funds, but Mr. Cordaro would worry about trying one with anything too small.
“There’s an ongoing downside to smaller, more thinly traded E.T.F.s when you have turmoil in the markets,” he said. “During big down days, when there’s a lot of dislocation or volatility, there can be a big discount” to a fund’s net asset value, “or a big impact on the bid-ask spread,” the difference between the price at which buyers buy and the slightly lower price at which sellers sell.
Whatever size portfolio might be the object of a conversion, Mr. Rosenbluth anticipates more of them after the first have had any kinks resolved and have been shown to be successful.
“We’re likely to see more of these once these pioneering strategies make the effort and we see that investors don’t revolt, and stay within the fund,” he said.
A potential limit on conversions is that “some investors are still comfortable with mutual funds,” Mr. Rosenbluth added. “What I hear from asset managers is they want to give investors choice.”
The age of electric planes may still be years away, but the fight for that market is already heating up.
Wisk Aero, a start-up developing an electric aircraft that takes off like a helicopter and flies like a plane, on Tuesday sued another start-up, Archer Aviation, accusing it of stealing trade secrets and infringing on Wisk’s patents.
The lawsuit brings into public view a dispute between two little-known companies in a business that has become a playground for billionaires. It also entangles giants of aviation and technology. Wisk is a joint venture of Boeing and Kitty Hawk, which is financed by Larry Page, who co-founded Google. Archer’s investors include United Airlines, which is a major Boeing customer and plans to buy up to 200 aircraft from the start-up.
The niche market for electric vehicles and planes has become frenzied in recent months as so-called blank check companies, which have little more than a stock market listing and a pot of cash, have snapped up fledgling businesses with little or no revenue, let alone profits. Investors in the blank-check firms — formally known as special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs — are hoping to acquire businesses that they believe could follow Tesla’s recent trajectory on the stock market. To entice those investors, start-ups like Archer promise top-notch technology and optimistic business plans.
the lawsuit accuses two engineers of downloading thousands of files containing confidential designs and data before leaving Wisk to join Archer. Wisk accused a third engineer of wiping history of his activities from his computer before leaving for Archer.
“Wisk brings this lawsuit to stop a brazen theft of its intellectual property and confidential information and protect the substantial investment of resources and years of hard work and effort of its employees and their vision of the future in urban air transportation,” the lawsuit says.
Archer denied wrongdoing.
“It’s regrettable that Wisk would engage in litigation in an attempt to deflect from the business issues that have caused several of its employees to depart,” Archer said in a statement. “The plaintiff raised these matters over a year ago, and after looking into them thoroughly, we have no reason to believe any proprietary Wisk technology ever made its way to Archer. We intend to defend ourselves vigorously.”
Archer also said it had placed an employee accused in the suit on paid leave “in connection with a government investigation and a search warrant issued to the employee, which we believe are focused on conduct prior to the employee joining the company.” Archer said it and three employees who had worked with the individual had been subpoenaed in that investigation and were cooperating with the authorities.
accused one of its former employees and Uber of stealing trade secrets to gain an advantage in the race to develop autonomous cars. The companies settled the case in 2018, and the former Waymo employee, Anthony Levandowski, a onetime confidant of Mr. Page’s, was sentenced in 2020 to 18 months in prison. Former President Donald J. Trump pardoned Mr. Levandowski in January.
Archer announced its merger in February with a SPAC, Atlas Crest Investment, in a deal that valued the company at $3.8 billion. Wisk said its suspicions were confirmed at that time when Archer released a presentation that contained designs similar to those in a Wisk patent filing.
when announcing the transaction.
“We had 35, 40 people on this — and we attacked this like venture growth would or anybody else,” Mr. Moelis said. “And we did it fast, too.”
A spokeswoman for Moelis declined to comment.
Other companies trying to make electric aircraft include Joby Aviation, which announced a $6.6 billion deal with a SPAC led by the LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman in February, and the German start-up Lilium, which went public last month by merging with a SPAC led by a former General Motors executive, Barry Engle.
according to SPAC Research — more than in all of 2020.
But regulators and some investors say more scrutiny is needed. The Securities and Exchange Commission published two notices last month warning companies considering merging with SPACs to ensure that they are ready for all the legal and regulatory requirements being a public company entails. Many investors known as short sellers, who specialize in betting that share prices of companies are bound to fall, have targeted SPACs like Atlas Crest, which is among the 20 most-shorted SPACs.
The market for electric aircraft is in its infancy but holds huge promise. The prospect of “Jetsons”-like flying vehicles has inched closer to reality in recent years thanks to advances in battery and aircraft design. A high-stakes race to build the first viable electric plane is underway, and some airlines are betting that such vehicles can help them reach their goals of eliminating or offsetting their greenhouse gas emissions.
Scott Kirby, the chief executive of United, said the Archer aircraft were unlikely to be used for commercial flights but were ideal for short trips to and from an airport.
“They’re not only more environmentally friendly, they’re far quieter than a helicopter,” Mr. Kirby said Tuesday during an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations. “And, because they have 12 rotors, they’re, I believe, going to ultimately be safer.”
Still, widespread use of electric air taxis is likely years away. Such aircraft may never become more than a luxury used by very rich people because businesses and governments may come up with far cheaper ways to transport people without emissions.
Topps, known for its trading cards and Bazooka gum, is going public by merging with a blank-check firm in a deal that values the company at $1.3 billion, the DealBook newsletter was the first to report.
The transaction includes an investment of $250 million led by Mudrick Capital, the sponsor of the special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, along with investors including Gamco and Wells Capital. Michael Eisner, the chairman of Topps and former chief executive of the Walt Disney Company, will roll his entire stake into the new company and stay on.
“Everybody has a story about Topps,” Mr. Eisner said. That’s what initially attracted him to the trading card company, which he acquired in 2007 via his investment firm, Tornante, and Madison Dearborn for $385 million. Buying Topps was a bet on a brand that elicits an “emotional connection” as strong as Disney, the company Mr. Eisner ran for 21 years.
In the years since Mr. Eisner’s initial purchase, Topps has focused on a shift to digital, starting online apps for users to trade collectibles and play games. It also created “Topps Now,” which makes of-the-moment cards to capture a defining play or a pop culture meme. (It sold nearly 100,000 cards featuring Senator Bernie Sanders at the presidential inauguration in his mittens.) And it has moved into blockchain, too, via the craze for nonfungible tokens, or NFTs.
especially trading cards. Topps generated record sales of $567 million in 2020, a 23 percent jump over the previous year.
The secondhand market is particularly hot, with a Mickey Mantle card recently selling for more than $5 million. “Topps probably made something like a nickel on it, 70 years ago,” said Jason Mudrick, the founder of Mudrick Capital. NFT mania will allow Topps to take advantage of the secondhand market by linking collectibles to digital tokens. Topps is also growing beyond sports, like its partnerships with Marvel and “Star Wars.”
It continues to see value in its core baseball-card business, as athletes come up from the minor leagues more quickly. “The trading card business has been growing for the last several years,” Michael Brandstaedter, the chief executive of Topps, said. “While it definitely grew through the pandemic — and perhaps accelerated — it did not arrive with the pandemic.”
That resilience is part of the bet that Mudrick Capital is making on the 80-year old Topps. It’s a surer gamble, Mr. Mudrick said, than buying one of the many unprofitable start-ups currently courting SPAC deals. “Our core business is value investing,” he said.
Tribune Publishing, the newspaper chain that includes The Chicago Tribune, The Daily News and The Baltimore Sun, said on Monday that it has begun serious discussions about a sale of the company to a pair of bidders who came through with an offer nearly two months after Tribune agreed to sell itself to Alden Global Capital, a New York hedge fund.
The new bid, which is greater than the amount offered by Alden, was made on Thursday by Stewart W. Bainum Jr., a Maryland hotel magnate, and Hansjörg Wyss, a Swiss billionaire who made his fortune as a manufacturer of medical devices.
The two have joined together in a company called Newslight. Tribune Publishing announced on Monday that it would “engage in discussions and negotiations” with Mr. Bainum and Mr. Wyss. The company added that, for now, it will not “terminate the Alden merger agreement or enter into any merger agreement with Newslight, Mr. Bainum or Mr. Wyss.”
Until recently, it looked as though Alden Global Capital would almost certainly become the next owner of Tribune. Late last month, Mr. Wyss emerged as a surprise new player, telling The New York Times that he would team up with Mr. Bainum in a bid for the chain. On Thursday, Mr. Wyss and Mr. Bainum submitted their bid, which valued Tribune at $18.50 a share, beating Alden’s offer of $17.25.
reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal.
Tribune Publishing said on Monday that its special committee had determined that the competing bid from Mr. Wyss and Mr. Bainum would be reasonably expected to lead to a “superior proposal” than the Alden bid.
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But the Tribune advised caution, telling shareholders, “There can be no assurance that the discussions with Newslight and its principals will result in a binding proposal.”
Nearly two months ago, Mr. Bainum had reached a nonbinding agreement to establish a nonprofit that would buy The Sun and two other Tribune-owned Maryland newspapers from Alden, for $65 million, after the Alden-Tribune deal gained shareholder approval. That agreement ran into trouble soon after it was made, however. Last month, Mr. Bainum, the chairman of Choice Hotels International, one of the world’s largest hotel chains, made a bid for all of Tribune, offering $18.50 a share.
After considering the bid from Mr. Bainum last month, Tribune said it still favored the agreement with Alden, which had solid financing. At the same time, the board informed Mr. Bainum that he was free to find backers to make his offer more attractive. He did just that by joining with Mr. Wyss.
opinion essay in which two former Chicago Tribune reporters, David Jackson and Gary Marx, warned that Alden would create “a ghost version of The Chicago Tribune.” Other Tribune journalists, from California to Maryland, have led campaigns to persuade local benefactors to buy Tribune Publishing, or at least one of its papers.
Mr. Wyss, who lives in Wyoming, said he joined the effort to buy Tribune because of his belief in a robust press. “I don’t want to see another newspaper that has a chance to increase the amount of truth being told to the American people going down the drain,” he said in the interview last month.
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Many companies made changes to survive the pandemic. For tech companies, the changes were also about seizing opportunities to thrive as life abruptly moved online. Few companies have juggled these risks and rewards in as many industries, across as many countries, as Prosus, an Amsterdam-based conglomerate that in 2019 was spun out of Naspers, the South African tech and media giant.
Prosus’ holdings run from e-commerce and classifieds to food delivery, fintech and more. The group is valued at around $180 billion, which makes it one of continental Europe’s 10 largest companies. It operates in more than 80 countries and owns sizable stakes in the internet giants Tencent of China and Mail.ru of Russia. The companies that Prosus controls employ around 20,000 people, and many more work as contractors or at companies in which Prosus holds smaller stakes.
Uber, DoorDash and others. But Prosus companies like Delivery Hero and iFood took steps to help preserve long-term good will with its partners at the expense of short-term profits. In Brazil, for example, “we paid restaurants much quicker than we usually did,” Mr. van Dijk said. “From a cash-flow point of view, that was actually pretty important” in keeping restaurants in their good graces, reducing potential tensions between restaurants struggling during the pandemic and online delivery apps seeing demand soar.
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It was a similar story in India for classifieds. “We reduced fees substantially, or we waived fees,” he said. “That allowed people to preserve cash. When things started to come back again, there was a lot of appreciation around that.”
digital services taxes throughout Europe, meant to collect more revenue from multinational companies that do extensive business in countries without much of a physical presence within their borders. Those wouldn’t apply to Prosus, Mr. van Dijk said — “we invest locally and pay taxes” — but he added that the charges could erode the industry’s profit margins.
“I understand where it comes from,” he said, but “sometimes the regulation is a little blunt.”
What could hurt Prosus, Mr. van Dijk said, are changes to the gig economy, particularly efforts to entitle delivery drivers to worker benefits. Some drivers prefer the flexibility of being contractors, he said, and “we try to pay people properly regardless of what the legislation is.” As far as he could recall, Prosus has never lobbied against classifying workers as employees, as rivals like Uber have.
Another area to watch is China, which has moved to rein in some of its homegrown internet behemoths. Though officials have focused largely on Alibaba, Tencent hasn’t escaped their gaze: The company, which Prosus bought into back in 2001, was among those fined last month for violating antitrust rules. It is Prosus’ single biggest investment, and a tougher crackdown could batter the conglomerate’s market value.
Despite the stakes, Mr. van Dijk downplayed the threat. “Our impression is that China is still very supportive of its tech giants,” he said.
Adevinta of Norway for $9.2 billion. That defeat followed a losing effort to acquire the restaurant delivery company Just Eat, which Takeaway.com bought for $7.8 billion.
Perhaps surprisingly, Mr. van Dijk said Prosus hadn’t encountered much competition from special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs, which have raised nearly $100 billion this year and are very active acquirers of tech companies. This may be in part because SPACs are largely a U.S. phenomenon, although other countries have been trying to court the blank-check firms.
Mr. van Dijk said Prosus might eventually find itself competing with SPACs, particularly for later-stage private companies. In the meantime, Prosus itself invested $500 million in a SPAC last year when the shell company merged with Skillsoft, an education technology firm.
Lately, Prosus has mostly been investing in its existing businesses. “Putting money into there is still a good idea,” Mr. van Dijk said. And a few months ago the company announced that it would buy back $5 billion of its shares.
Things are looking slightly more measured these days, Mr. van Dijk said, with valuations coming down “to much more sustainable levels.” For a serial dealmaker, that means opportunity: “It’s easier to do acquisitions in a market that is cooling off.”
SAN FRANCISCO — Pinterest has held talks to buy VSCO, a photography app that spawned a teenage social media craze, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.
The discussions are ongoing, said the people, who declined to be identified because they were not authorized to speak publicly. A deal price couldn’t be learned; Pinterest has a market capitalization of about $49 billion, while VSCO has raised $90 million in funding and was last valued at $550 million. An acquisition may not materialize, the people cautioned.
Representatives from Pinterest and VSCO (pronounced “vis-coe”) declined to comment on deal talks.
Julie Inouye, a spokeswoman for VSCO, said the company was focused on expanding its business. “We’re always meeting with different companies across the creative space at any given time and do not discuss rumors or speculation,” she said.
Pinterest and VSCO, which stands for Visual Supply Company, are part of a group of tech companies that are highly focused on digital images and visual editing and that rely less on social networking features. Pinterest, a digital pin board site that went public in 2019, lets its users discover and save images to inspire creative projects or to plan important aspects of their lives, including home renovations, weddings and meals.
an app for editing and sharing images and videos. In 2019, it became popular with a Generation Z group that came to be known as “VSCO girls,” who were known for wearing Crocs and carrying Hydro Flasks. The idea of VSCO girls went viral, inspiring social media imitation, mockery, memes and Halloween costumes.
For Pinterest, buying a once-buzzy start-up that was popular with younger audiences and that has expertise in photo- and video-editing technologies could bolster its core service, the people said.
Since Pinterest went public, its revenue has grown, though analysts have said they don’t expect Pinterest to become regularly profitable until 2022. It has also expanded internationally.
During the pandemic, the company experienced a surge of interest as people were locked down and turned to more digital activities. Pinterest added 100 million monthly active users last year and now has a total of 450 million monthly active users.
The San Francisco company also faced social unrest last year. In December, it agreed to pay $22.5 million to settle a gender discrimination and retaliation lawsuit from its former chief operating officer, one of the largest publicly announced individual settlements for gender discrimination. Two female employees of color who quit last year also publicly discussed their experiences with racist and sexist comments, pay inequities and retaliation at the company.
Founded in 2011, VSCO became known among younger users as a kind of anti-social network. The app does not have likes, comments or follower counts, so it appeared to put less pressure on users to build up a fan base. VSCO also eschews advertising, instead earning money by charging people for extra features. Of its 100 million registered users, more than two million are paying subscribers.
When VSCO girls became a cultural phenomenon in late 2019, investor interest in the start-up swelled. But the fad has since cooled off. When the pandemic hit, VSCO laid off 30 percent of its employees. In December, it acquired Trash, a mobile app for video editing, and said it planned to continue acquiring companies in 2021.
Lynn E. Turner, a former chief accountant for the Securities and Exchange Commission, called the proposed fix “an excellent idea.” Because sponsors are the ones advertising “here’s what we’re going to do in this time period,” he said, “they should be locked into that.”
Mr. Palihapitiya was less enthusiastic.
“This isn’t a very good idea,” he told me. “Why would a sponsor agree to a five-year lockup when management wouldn’t, nor would other investors including PIPE investors?” (At the time of the deal, institutional investors are often invited to buy shares with favorable terms through what’s called a private investment in public equity, or PIPE.)
That is true. Management can typically sell shares after a short restricted period. But, as Mr. Turner pointed out, isn’t it the sponsor that is selling the deal to the public?
“What if management lied?” Mr. Palihapitiya argued. “Should the sponsor now be on the hook for bad behavior of management?” He said there were “too many corner cases where this fails.”
Mr. Palihapitiya said he had a better idea: “Make a sponsor invest at least as much as 10 percent of the deal size,” which is far more than most sponsors do. “The more they invest, the more they would need to scrutinize the projections,” he said. “This has always been the only meaningful way to align sponsors, management and investors.”
In some ways, the market is already forcing some sponsors to agree to longer lockups. Michael Klein, a former banker who has become a serial SPAC deal-maker, recently agreed to keep his stake in Lucid Motors, a high-flying electric vehicle maker, for at least 18 months as a way to seal the deal.
And with more and more SPACs losing their shine — most SPACs that went public in recent weeks are now trading below their offering price — investors may demand more from sponsors, perhaps even before regulators do.
But, in the end, investors shouldn’t have to ask sponsors to commit to their own deals.
The growth of the shipping industry and ship size has played a central role in creating the modern economy, helping to make China a manufacturing powerhouse and facilitating the rise of everything from e-commerce to retailers like Ikea and Amazon. To the container lines, building bigger made sense: Larger ships allowed them to squeeze out savings on construction, fuel and staffing.
“Ultra Large Container Vessels (U.L.C.V.) are extremely efficient when it is about transporting large quantities of goods around the globe,” Tim Seifert, a spokesman for Hapag-Lloyd, a large shipping company, said in a statement. “We also doubt that it would make shipping safer or more environmentally friendly if there would be more or less-efficient vessels on the oceans or in the canals.”
A.P. Moller-Maersk said it was premature to blame Ever Given’s size for what happened in the Suez. Ultra-large ships “have existed for many years and have sailed through the Suez Canal without issues,” said Palle Brodsgaard Laursen, the company’s chief technical officer, said in a statement on Tuesday.
But the growth in ship size has come at a cost. It has effectively pitted port against port, canal against canal. To make way for bigger ships, for example, the Panama Canal expanded in 2016 at a cost of more than $5 billion.
That set off a race among ports along the East Coast of the United States to attract the larger ships coming through the canal. Several ports, including those in Baltimore, Miami and Norfolk, Va., began dredging projects to deepen their harbors. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey spearheaded a $1.7 billion project to raise the Bayonne Bridge to accommodate mammoth ships laden with cargo from Asia and elsewhere.
The race to accommodate ever-larger ships also pushed ports and terminal operators to buy new equipment. This month, for example, the Port of Oakland erected three 1,600-ton cranes that would, in the words of one port executive, allow it to “receive the biggest ships.”
But while ports incurred costs for accommodating larger ships, they didn’t reap all of the benefits, according to Jan Tiedemann, a senior analyst at Alphaliner, a shipping data firm.
Companies were quick to speak out during the racial justice protests last year, putting out statements of solidarity and posting black squares on Instagram. But after Georgia Republicans passed broad voting restrictions, Atlanta’s corporate giants have been much more muted — and activists are now talking boycotts, The Times’s David Gelles writes.
Among the targets:
Delta, which has publicly defended gay rights and said it stood with Black people after the police killings of George Floyd and others. But on the voting legislation, the airline has only issued a statement about a need for broader voter participation. It told employees that it had “engaged extensively” with lawmakers in creating the legislation, and that the measure had “improved considerably” during the process, though it noted that “concerns remain.”
Coca-Cola, which pledged last summer to “invest our resources to advance social justice causes.” When it came to the recent bill, Coke said that it was aligned with local chambers of commerce, which also spoke mainly of increasing voter participation and avoided sharp criticism. (Late yesterday, Coke said it was “disappointed” in the new law, but added, “We don’t see this as the final chapter.”)
“It’s not as though corporations are unwilling to speak powerfully about social justice issues,” Sherrilyn Ifill, the president of the NAACP Legal Defense, told David. Companies spoke out forcefully against bills on gender and bathroom access, even threatening to pull out of states like Indiana and, yes, Georgia.
What changed? Companies may be shying away from political fights, after spending four years speaking out against the Trump administration. And the Georgia laws were spearheaded by mainstream Republicans, making executives less eager to cross lawmakers they may need on other issues.
Ms. Ifill raised a provocative third potential reason. “Why is it that corporations that could speak so powerfully and unequivocally in opposition to discrimination against the L.G.B.T.Q. community and immigrants are not speaking as clearly about the disenfranchisement of Black people?” she said. “This is a race issue.”
For activists, the next step is calling for boycotts on companies with big Georgia presences, including Coke, Delta, Home Depot and UPS. If “Coca-Cola wants Black and brown people to drink their product, then they must speak up when our rights, our lives and our very democracy as we know it is under attack,” Bishop Reginald Jackson of the African Methodist Episcopal Church told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
HERE’S WHAT’S HAPPENING
The Suez Canal is clear. Now what? The 224,000-ton Ever Given was freed from the vital shipping passage days after being stuck, hindering global trade. After the celebrations will come two big questions: What happened, and how can the disruptions be sorted out?
prevented 90 percent of Covid-19 infections by two weeks after the second shot. But President Biden and the head of the C.D.C., Dr. Rochelle Walensky, urged Americans to maintain virus safety measures in the face of “impending doom” from a potential fourth wave of cases.
The White House pushes for tax increases to pay for its infrastructure and jobs plan. As it rolls out its multitrillion-dollar spending initiative, the Biden administration is likely to call for about $3 trillion in new taxes, The Washington Post reports.
President Tayyip Reccip Erdogan of Turkey fired another top central bank official. The removal of Murat Cetinkaya, a deputy governor, was announced with no explanation. It came 10 days after Mr. Erdogan fired the bank’s chief, setting off a sell-off in Turkey’s currency.
The Supreme Court wonders what to do in an investor fraud lawsuit against Goldman Sachs. Justices noted that both sides agree that general statements about professional integrity could be the basis for a lawsuit, and that their positions had moved closer over the course of litigation.
huge stock sales tied to Archegos Capital Management, one thing has become clear: Cooperation is not the finance industry’s strong suit.
Archegos’ main lenders met on Thursday to discuss an orderly wind-down of the firm’s trades, according to The Wall Street Journal. The idea was to limit the damage from several banks dumping huge blocks of stock in ViacomCBS and other companies, potentially tanking prices and hurting their own balance sheets.
You can guess what happened next. Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley sold small amounts of stock after that meeting. But Goldman Sachs opened the floodgates the next day, quickly followed by Morgan Stanley. By market close, the two had sold nearly $20 billion worth of Archegos assets.
That left Goldman and Morgan Stanley with relatively little damage to their businesses, while banks that didn’t move as quickly — notably Credit Suisse and Nomura — warned investors that they could suffer huge hits. As one banker involved told the FT, “The reality is in a fire sale, if you’re not first out the door you’re going to get burned.”
What a SPAC believer thinks of SPAC mania
Kevin Hartz, the founder of Eventbrite, believes in the value of SPACs: In February, his first SPAC (named “One”) acquired the industrial 3-D printing company Markforged in a $2.1 billion deal. His second blank-check fund — named “Two,” of course — raised $200 million yesterday. Still, he told DealBook that he believes some SPACs pose risks to retail investors.
Below are edited excerpts from their conversation.
On why S.E.C. scrutiny is needed:
Because people are getting hurt. “For some millennial family to invest in a SPAC, or invest in a SPAC merger, and then see that crater is why we need the S.E.C. to be more involved here,” he said.
What could happen next:
Mr. Hartz pointed to the dot-com bubble as a warning: “We still kind of point to 1999, 2000 as an indicator of what SPACs will need to go through, unfortunately, and that is kind of extreme euphoria, followed by the reality of most losing money for investors.”
corporations and governments has grown in recent years. Yet when it comes to the Supreme Court, some are resisting efforts to allow more sunlight into the institution, as demonstrated in the debate over a bipartisan bill that aims to televise the court’s proceedings.
No Supreme Court hearing has ever been filmed, though Congress has been trying to get cameras in federal courts since 1937. Most state courts allow cameras, and some federal circuit courts permit video with limits. But Chief Justice John Roberts and the five other veterans on the bench have said they fear that the presence of cameras would transform oral arguments into showy performances. (The court’s three most recent appointees have said they would consider it.)
Seeing arguments in “monumental cases” shouldn’t be a privilege of the few, said Senator Dick Durbin, the Democratic chairman of the Judiciary Committee, who is sponsoring the Sunshine in the Courtroom Act. Adding cameras “opens our democracy and gives millions of Americans a window into the room where decisions are made that have lasting effects for generations,” he told DealBook.
Then again, the court has adapted during the pandemic, allowing live audio feeds of arguments. Justices may clamp down on the public’s access to the court when the pandemic lifts, but the tech precedent may make that more difficult.
replace President Andrew Jackson on the bill. “The primary reason currency is redesigned is for security against counterfeiting,” Lydia Washington, a representative for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, told DealBook. “The redesign timeline is driven by security feature development.”
The Obama administration said it would unveil a design “concept” by 2020, to coincide with the centennial of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. Extensive redesign work was reportedly done, but in 2019 President Trump’s Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, said the project would be delayed until at least 2026. (Insiders said they had always doubted that the 2020 deadline could be met).
It turns out that the complex design and testing process for currency can’t be hurried. “No final images have been selected,” Ms. Washington said. (The Treasury Department did not respond to a request for comment).
THE SPEED READ
Recent trades in the private markets reportedly valued ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, at more than $250 billion. (Bloomberg)
The food service Deliveroo lowered the high end of valuation expectations for its forthcoming I.P.O., to £7.85 billion ($10.8 billion). (Reuters)
Politics and policy
Best of the rest
Goldman Sachs said its interns would work out of its offices this summer. (Bloomberg)
If the minimum wage had grown at the same rate as Wall Street bonuses since 1985, workers would be paid $44 an hour today. (Insider)
Take a peek at the potential offices of the future: hot desks, Zoom rooms and more. (NYT)
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