Archive for Huileng Tan

Robinhood shares surged over 30% after crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried disclosed a 7.6% stake in the trading platform

Sam Bankman-Fried FTX CEO crypto
Crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried took a 7.6% stake in Robinhood Markets.
  • Crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried disclosed that he owns about 56.3. million shares in Robinhood Markets.
  • News of his 7.6% stake in Robinhood sent shares of the trading platform up over 30% in late trade.
  • Bankman-Fried is the founder and CEO of cryptocurrency exchange FTX.

Shares in Robinhood Markets surged more than 30% in late trade after crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried disclosed a 7.6% stake in the online brokerage.

Bankman-Fried acquired about 56.3 million shares in Robinhood markets through his investment firm, Emergent Fidelity Technologies, according to a Thursday regulatory filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

That makes the 30-year-old's stake worth about $482 million, based on Robinhood's closing share price of $8.56. Bankman-Fried paid about $648.3 million for the shares, according to the SEC filing.

Bankman-Fried is the founder and CEO of cryptocurrency exchange FTX. He has a net worth of $11 billion, per the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

California-based Robinhood was founded in 2013 but was thrust into the limelight last year on the back of a meme-stock craze. It had 22.7 million users at the end of 2021 — an on-year increase of 81%, the company said at its full-year results announcement in January.

The no-commission trading platform lost $3.7 billion in 2021. Its stock, which debuted at $38 a share in July 2021, is down over 70% since its IPO. Revenue fell 43% in the first quarter of 2022 from a year ago as trading activity fell, the company disclosed in April. It has flagged crypto as a growth area.

Robinhood share price closed 5.03% higher at $8.56 on Thursday. They were last up about 24% at $10.60 a share in after-hours trade after surging as much as 37% to $11.70.

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Oil giant Saudi Aramco is now the world’s most valuable company, bumping Apple from the top spot

Logo of Aramco behind security personnel.
Saudi Aramco is now more valuable than Apple.
  • Saudi Aramco's market value surpassed that of tech giant Apple on Wednesday.
  • The oil market has been boosted by fears of a supply crunch due to the war in Ukraine.
  • Tech stocks have been hit by growth concerns on the back of interest rate hikes.

On Wednesday, oil giant Saudi Aramco overtook tech titan Apple as the world's most valuable company.

Apple's market cap fell to $2.37 trillion after its share price tanked 5.2% on Wednesday amid a rout in technology stocks. Meanwhile, state-controlled Aramco's market capitalization stood at 9.1 trillion Saudi Arabian Riyals ($2.43 trillion.)

The value of the two companies could change again due to fluctuations in share prices, but the move on Wednesday underscores broader trends in the global economy.

The energy market is booming. The war in Ukraine has pushed up prices due to sanctions and boycotts against Russia and supply chain challenges. Benchmark US West Texas Intermediate was trading around $105 a barrel on Thursday, while international benchmark Brent crude was around $107 a barrel. Both grades are up 40% year-to-date.

That sent Aramco's net profit more than doubling to $110 billion in 2021. Meanwhile, Apple warned of supply chain constraints in its last earnings release. At the same time, investors are fleeing tech stocks due to fears that rising interests will curb future earnings.

Aramco's share price on the Saudi Stock Exchange is up about 30% this year so far. In contrast, Apple's share price is down about 20% year-to-date.

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An extreme heatwave is triggering blackouts across India — and it’s buying Russian natural gas to alleviate its energy crisis

A man covers his head and neck to protect from heat during a heat wave in India.
India is buying discounted Russian LNG amid an extreme heatwave.
  • India is experiencing an extreme heatwave with March and April temperatures hit 122-year highs.
  • The scorching weather has caused a surge in electricity demand for cooling and irrigation.
  • Electricity demand has outstripped supply, spurring India to buy discounted Russian LNG.

An extreme heatwave in India is causing power cuts and outages, leading the country to buy discounted liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Russia.

India has been experiencing extreme temperatures in the last two months, with March and April temperatures hitting 122-year highs in parts of the country, reported the Times of India, citing the country's meteorological department.

In the capital of New Delhi, temperatures topped 110°F for several consecutive days last month, CBS reported. Even at night, the mercury has not dipped below 86°F, the news outlet added.

The scorching weather has sent residents rushing to turn on fans and ACs, while farmers are cranking up water pumps for parched fields. The surging demand for power came as industrial activity started picking up after the country lifted all pandemic-related restrictions on March 31.

"Many regions have been unable to meet high levels of early peak demand on a sustained basis, leading to extended power outages, state-imposed power cuts, and widespread train cancellations," analysts at risk consultancy Eurasia Group wrote in a note last week.

The demand has depleted fossil-fuel supplies in India, forcing the country to top up its energy with LNG on the spot market, India's Economic Times reported last week.

As Russian LNG is now shunned by most international buyers due to sanctions and boycotts over to the Ukraine war, it's priced at a discount to current market rates — making the fuel more attractive to Indian buyers, Bloomberg reported on Monday, citing traders.

Even so, India is still paying about triple the regular LNG spot price for this time of the year, India's Economic Times reported last week. LNG prices in Asia are at record highs on the back of the Ukraine war, according to S&P Global.

Gas accounts for just 4% of the India's electricity generation in 2020, according to Bloomberg.

India has not overtly condemned Russia or imposed sanctions against the country for the war in Ukraine.

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Sanctions have forced Russia to cut its oil output by 1 million barrels a day. That’s a ‘drop in the ocean,’ says the world’s largest independent oil trader.

Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin.
  • Russia produced about 11 million barrels of crude oil a day before it invaded Ukraine.
  • It exported 7 million barrels of its daily production.
  • Sweeping sanctions have forced Russia to cut its daily output by 1 million barrels.

Sanctions against Russia have knocked 1 million barrels of crude oil off its production each day — but that's just a "drop in the ocean compared to the intended impact," according to Mike Muller, the Asia head of Vitol, the world's biggest independent crude trader.

Russia was producing about 11 million barrels of crude oil a day until it invaded Ukraine in late February. Of that, it exported about 7 million barrels a day. But sweeping sanctions and boycotts of its products have disrupted trade and cut demand, forcing Russia to cut its supply. The European Union is also planning a total ban on Russian crude.

"If only one million barrels per day of that has gone missing so far, before the EU shuts the door on Russia crude — if, they indeed succeed in getting unanimity over there — that's indeed not the intended consequence of sanctions,"  Muller told Dubai-based Gulf Intelligence, an energy trade podcast. Vitol said last month it would stop trading Russian oil by the end of 2022.

Russia made $66 billion from fossil fuel exports in the two months since it invaded Ukraine, according to a report by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air released last week. The revenue was about half the $147 billion it recorded for the whole of 2021 as energy prices have surged this year.

There are still many countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America that have not imposed sanctions against Russia, Muller said in the podcast.

"Many, many pieces of the world economy are sitting on the fence — and notably the two biggest countries population-wise in the world are continuing to find ways of accessing Russian oil," he said, referring to China and India.

Despite the appearance of resilience, Russia's energy sector is likely to come under further stress as the European Union plans to ban oil from the country. S&P Global expects Russia's crude oil output to face "peak disruptions" in August, falling by about 2.8 million barrels a day.

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Uber lost almost $6 billion in the first quarter as shares of Asian ride-hailing giants Didi and Grab tanked

A passenger enters an Uber at LaGuardia Airport in New York, March 15, 2017.
  • Uber posted $6 billion in losses in the first quarter due to its investments in Didi and Grab.
  • Shares of the two Asian ride-hailing giants have plunged since they were listed in the US last year.
  • Overall, Uber's performance is up from a year ago, with bookings up 35% to $26.4 billion.

Uber posted a net loss of $5.9 billion in the first quarter, much of which came from its stakes in two Asian ride-hailing giants — Didi and Grab.

The share prices of both Asian companies have plunged since they were listed in the US last year.

This was in contrast to Uber's performance in the first quarter which saw bookings soaring 35% to $26.4 billion. Meanwhile, Uber's trips in the quarter grew 18% on-year to an average of about 19 million trips per day, the ride-hailing giant said in a Wednesday announcement. Quarterly revenue grew 136% on-year to $6.9 billion.

"Our results demonstrate just how much progress we've made navigating out of the pandemic and how the power of our platform is differentiating our business performance," said Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi in the company's earnings announcement.

Weighing on the results were $5.6 billion in losses from the value of China's Didi, Singapore's Grab and US self-driving vehicle start-up Aurora.

Didi's share price on the New York Stock Exchange is down about 61.5% year-to-date on the back of Beijing's crackdown on the country's big tech companies. The China-based ride-hailing giant is moving to delist its stock in the US.

Grab's stock price is down 56% this year so far as shares are under pressure from a worse-than-expected revenue fall in the first quarter of this year, Reuters reported in March. 

Overall, the tech-focused Nasdaq composite is down 20% year-to-date in a broad market selloff due to factors including the lingering pandemic, surging inflation, and the Ukraine war.

Uber's share price closed 4.7% lower at $28.10 on Wednesday.

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Russia is demanding payment for natural gas in rubles, and it could push Germany — Europe’s largest economy — into an economic crisis

Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin.
  • Germany has activated an emergency plan to cope with disruptions to its natural-gas supply.
  • Europe's largest economy is heavily reliant on Russia for natural gas.
  • Germans would have to ration natural gas if supplies fall short.

Germany — Europe's largest economy — has activated an emergency plan to deal with disruptions to its natural-gas supply after Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded payment in rubles.

Russian gas accounted for 55% of Germany's gas imports in 2021 and 40% of its gas imports in the first quarter of 2022, per Reuters.

Germany is in the "early warning phase" of its emergency plan now, with Berlin calling all consumers — from industry to households — to conserve energy and reduce consumption. If the situation worsens, the country could start rationing gas in the last of the three-stage plan, as outlined by the Germany economy ministry.

"There are no supply bottlenecks at present. Nevertheless, we need to step up our preventive measures in order to be ready to cope with any escalation by Russia," German economy minister Robert Habeck said in a statement on Wednesday.

On Monday, the Group of Seven rejected Putin's demands for gas supplies to be paid in rubles, citing a breach in existing agreements. But on Thursday, Putin signed a decree requiring countries importing Russian gas to pay in rubles from April 1 and threatened to cancel existing contracts of those that do not comply, Reuters reported.

Putin's decree came a day after he told German Chancellor Olaf Scholz the country can pay for gas in euros, Reuters reported, citing a German government spokesperson.

"Scholz did not agree to this procedure in the conversation, but asked for written information to better understand the procedure," said the spokesperson, per Reuters.

Imposing gas rations would hit the German economy badly.

Under the country's emergency plan, industry will be first in line for supply cuts. The move could devastate the economy and lead to job losses, business leaders and unions told German media outlet DW.

A union leader from BASF — the world's largest chemical maker — told DW all 40,000 employees in the key production site in the Western city Ludwigshafen would have to be put on shorter working hours or be laid off.

"The consequences would not only be reduced work hours and job losses, but also the rapid collapse of the industrial production chains in Europe — with worldwide consequences," said Michael Vassiliadis, the president of Germany's IG BCE chemical workers union and a BASF supervisory board member, per DW.

Last week, Germany pledged to end the use of Russian gas in 2024, Reuters reported, citing Habeck.

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Russian secret service agents seized millions of dollars of Swiss luxury watches from Audemars Piguet in apparent retaliation against sanctions

Diamond encrusted Audemars Piguet watches.
Russian secret service agents confiscated millions of dollars worth of luxury watches from Audemars Piguet last week.
  • Russia seized millions of dollars worth of Audemars Piguet watches in Moscow last week, per NZZ am Sonntag.
  • The move appeared to be in retaliation against Switzerland's sanctions over Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
  • Switzerland departed from its historically neutral status to sanction Russia over the Ukraine war.

Russian secret service agents confiscated millions of dollars of luxury watches from a Swiss watchmaker in apparent retaliation against Switzerland's sanctions over the Ukraine war, Switzerland's NZZ am Sonntag newspaper reported on Sunday.

The watches were confiscated from a local subsidiary of Audemars Piguet in Moscow earlier this month, according to the newspaper. Audemars Piguet is a nearly 150-year-old, family-owned watchmaker. The brand's luxury watches typically have an entry cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Russian authorities cited customs offenses for the seizure of the watches, but Switzerland's foreign ministry said in a confidential memo it was most likely "an arbitrary repressive measure in reaction to the sanctions," per NZZ am Sonntag.

On February 28, Switzerland departed from its historically neutral status to sanction Russia over its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. The restrictions include a ban on the export of luxury goods to Russia.

Russia was the 17th-largest market for Swiss watch exports in 2021, accounting for 260.1 million francs ($278.6 million) worth of shipments, according to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry.

Audemars Piguet and Switzerland's Department of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to Insider's requests for comment sent outside regular business hours. A spokesperson for Switzerland's foreign affairs department told Bloomberg the country's embassy in Moscow "is currently maintaining a very intensive exchange" with Swiss companies in Russia.

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The EU slapped sweeping sanctions on Russian oligarchs — but now it’s struggling to enforce them

Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin.
  • The EU is struggling to enforce its sweeping sanctions against Russian oligarchs, Reuters reported.
  • The trade block has 27 member states with different laws limiting what they can legally do.
  • Most EU countries can only freeze the assets of sanctioned individuals, but not seize them.

The European Union slapped sweeping sanctions on Russia and its oligarchs over the invasion of Ukraine — but now, the trade bloc is struggling to enforce them, Reuters reported on Thursday.

The EU's 27 member states are having trouble enforcing the sanctions because of legal and manpower-related obstacles. In particular, even when sanctions are in place, most EU countries can only go as far as freezing assets — meaning they can still be used by their owners, Reuters reported. However, those same assets cannot be sold or transferred by the owner, or seized by the state.

"In most member states, this is not possible and a criminal conviction is necessary to confiscate assets," the European Commission (EC) told Reuters.

That means an oligarch can continue living in a mansion that has been frozen by authorities.

Poland government spokesperson Piotr Muller told Reuters the country would have to change its constitution to be able to seize assets. France has frozen around 850 million euros ($937 million) in assets belonging to sanctioned individuals, but owners can still use physical properties, the country's finance ministry told the news agency. And Italian lawyers told Reuters the country would have to start separate legal proceedings to seize frozen assets.

So, even though sanctioned individuals' bank accounts and assets are technically frozen, only a small proportion of their wealth has been impacted so far, Reuters reported, citing EU officials and government information.

Tracking down the assets is another challenge, as many oligarchs have reshuffled their holdings, including shifting assets around intricate webs of onshore and offshore companies.

For instance, steel tycoon Alexei Mordashov moved $1.3 billion worth of shares in a tour operator to an offshore tax-haven the day he was hit with sanctions, regulatory and corporate filings suggest. Control of an investment company linked to another sanctioned oligarch, Roman Abramovich, was shifted to one of Abramovich's close business associates the day Russia invaded Ukraine, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Meanwhile, years before the current wave of sanctions, billionaire Alisher Usmanov moved much of his assets into trusts for the purpose of estate planning, a spokesperson for the tycoon told Reuters on Tuesday.

Last week, the EC set up a "freeze and seize" task force to enforce the sanctions against Russian oligarchs. The task force has not yet identified any asset that needs to be frozen urgently over the risk that it can be sold or moved from the EU, Reuters reported, citing a senior official from the trade bloc.

An EC spokesperson told Reuters member states have to report efforts taken to implement sanctions, but declined to say if they all complied, and did not reveal a value for frozen assets so far.

The EC did not immediately reply to Insider's request for comment sent outside regular business hours.

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Buzzfeed shares jump over 6% amid news of journalist job cuts

BuzzFeed employees working at the office
BuzzFeed announced job cuts as it posted its first set of earnings as a publicly listed company.
  • BuzzFeed's share price closed about 6.5% higher on Tuesday.
  • The digital news company posted its first set of earnings after going public in December.
  • BuzzFeed announced company-wide job cuts and offered voluntary buyouts for its news division.

BuzzFeed's share price closed over 6% higher on Tuesday amid news that the digital media company was cutting jobs.

The announcement followed BuzzFeed's first set of results after the company went public in December last year.

BuzzFeed said it was laying off about 1.7% of its workforce, Insider's Steven Perlberg reported, citing a memo from CEO Jonah Peretti. The cuts came from BuzzFeed's admin and business units as well as BuzzFeed's video team and Complex's editorial staff. BuzzFeed had acquired Complex Networks, a youth-focused media company, as part of its SPAC deal to go public in December.

BuzzFeed also announced it was offering voluntary buyouts to staff in its news division. The buyouts would be extended to any staff member on its investigations, inequality, politics, or science desks who has been in service for at least a year, Perlberg reported, citing a separate memo from interim newsroom leader Samantha Henig. BuzzFeed won its first Pulitzer Prize last year.

BuzzFeed News, which has 100 staff members, loses about $10 million a year, CNBC reported, citing people familiar with the matter. The losses at BuzzFeed's news division have spurred several significant shareholders to urge Peretti to shut down the entire newsroom, according to CNBC. One shareholder told CNBC that closing down the entire news operation would add up to $300 million in market value to BuzzFeed.

News Editor-in-Chief Mark Schoofs said in a memo that BuzzFeed News would become smaller, Perlberg reported. Schoofs also announced he was stepping down on Tuesday. 

"The next phase is for BuzzFeed News is to accelerate the timeline to profitability and undergo a strategic shift so that we will get there by the end of 2023. That will require BuzzFeed News to once again shrink in size," wrote Schoofs in the memo obtained by Insider. "We hope to reduce our size through voluntary buy-outs, not layoffs."

BuzzFeed did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

BuzzFeed made its debut on the Nasdaq on December 6 and closed 11% lower on its first day of trading. Its shares closed about 6.5% higher at $5.27 on Tuesday.

Despite its lackluster performance on the stock market, Buzzfeed's market capitalization — currently around $702 million — is still about 5% higher than Gannett's at $665 million.

"That suggests that even with financial hiccups, the market prefers an all-digital media company to one still making a transition from print," wrote Rick Edmonds, media business analyst at the Poynter Institute on Tuesday.

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The CEO of one of the world’s biggest fertilizer companies says there will be a food crisis because of the war in Ukraine and the question is just ‘how large’ it will be

A woman shops for fruits at a supermarket.
Soaring fertilizer prices are expected to feed into food inflation.
  • The CEO of Yara International, a major fertilizer producer, told WSJ there will be a food crisis.
  • Bloomberg Green Markets North America Fertilizer Price Index jumped 10% Friday to an all-time high.
  • Sweeping sanctions over the Ukraine war are limiting fertilizer supplies from major producers in Russia.

EU sanctions against Russia over the war in Ukraine are driving up fertilizer prices, leading to what one CEO said is going to be a food crisis.

"We are going to have a food crisis. It's a question of how large," said Svein Tore Holsether, the CEO of major fertilizer producer Yara International, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

His comments came as the Bloomberg Green Markets North America Fertilizer Price Index jumped almost 10% on Friday to an all-time high.

On March 11, Norway-based Yara International announced that, due to EU sanctions, it would no longer be sourcing supplies from Russia. But Holsether said he was weighing a moral dilemma even before sanctions hit, as he knew cutting Russian supplies would contribute to food inflation.

Russia accounted for almost one-fifth of 2021 fertilizer exports, according to Trade Data Monitor and Bloomberg's Green Markets. Russia is also a top exporter in key fertilizer ingredients such as urea, ammonia, and potash, per trade outlet Argus Media.

The loss of Russian fertilizer supply is expected to cause severe strain to the supply of crop nutrient, which was already under pressure before the war as European fertilizer producers cut output due to high gas prices and as freight rates soared, according to Bloomberg. There are few alternatives available.

"Replacing their volumes would take nearly half a decade at the very best, and in some cases prove nearly impossible as Russia is a large source of mineral deposits found in few other global locations," Alexis Maxwell, an analyst for Bloomberg's Green Markets, said on March 5, per the media outlet.

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