The week in investor relations: Yellen as head of US Treasury, big tech IPO and Davos in the desert
– Janet Yellen was confirmed as the first female head of the US Treasury this week, reported The Wall Street Journal (paywall). The former Fed chairwoman is tasked with spearheading the economic agenda of President Joe Biden, including a $1.9 tn Covid-19 relief package that the paper says is ‘already facing resistance from GOP lawmakers worried about its cost.’
– Kuaishou, the Chinese online social media titan that operates China’s most popular video service after ByteDance’s Douyin, has launched the country’s biggest IPO since Alibaba Group’s aborted listing of its financial services arm Ant Group in November, reported Forbes. Kuaishou is looking to raise $5.4 bn.
– ‘Things are back to business as usual in Riyadh… after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in 2018’ reported Foreign Policy in an article about the Saudi Future Investment Initiative conference, which kicked off on Wednesday, and which is widely referred to as ‘Davos in the desert’. Some of Wall Street’s biggest names were scheduled to attend, mostly virtually, according to the conference’s itinerary, including Ray Dalio of Bridgewater Associates, Larry Fink of BlackRock, David Solomon of Goldman Sachs and Thomas Gottstein of Credit Suisse, reported The New York Times.
– HSBC: Chinese stooge or Western bank? asked The Times (paywall). It reported that CEO Noel Quinn and chief compliance officer Colin Bell of the London-listed bank were forced to answer MP’s questions this week over its treatment of customers in Hong Kong following last year’s political unrest. Quinn denied that HSBC had taken a political stance when it agreed to freeze the accounts of pro-democracy activists. ‘I cannot cherry-pick which law to follow,’ MSN quoted Quinn as saying.
– Apple had a ‘blowout’ quarter, said CNBC. The tech giant reported its biggest revenue quarter ever – $111.4 bn in Q1 – with results for the quarter ending in December driven by 5G iPhone sales as well as a boost to every product category. The firm saw double-digit percentage-point growth in sales across all its products. ‘Apple’s earnings per share and sales handily beat Wall Street expectations,’ said CNBC.
– Hundreds of Chinese companies are set to report an improvement in annual earnings, noted Bloomberg. Among the 1,200 or so firms listed in mainland China that issued preliminary results in January, three quarters said earnings rose last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg as of Thursday. It said those in the communication services and healthcare sectors are set to report the biggest growth, followed by consumer staples and technology. Chinese firms have until Sunday to announce significant changes in earnings.
– As the GameStop retail investor saga continued, comments on Reddit boards including r/WallStreetBets, the sub-Reddit now famous for helping to fuel an astonishing rise in GameStop and other heavily shorted or out-of-favor stocks, pushed mall operator Macerich shares up 68 percent, reported Bloomberg. The jump allowed the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan – the company’s biggest shareholder – to cash out $500 mn. Bloomberg said shares in Macerich, a real estate investment trust based in Santa Monica, California, had lost 84 percent of their value over a three-year period ending December 31, 2020.