Morning Brief: Top Financial Stories Dominating on Thursday, May 5


Post EU’s Latest Russian Oil Ban, OPEC+ Is Expected To Raise Production Marginally

  • On Thursday, oil producer group OPEC+ is expected to approve another small production rise for June, despite persisting concerns about weakening Chinese demand, shortly after, the world’s largest trading bloc unveiled proposals for further sanctions against Russian petroleum.
  • It is widely expected that OPEC+ ministers will agree to lift production targets for next month by 432,000 barrels per day, adhering to the existing strategy of gradually unraveling record supply cutbacks.


Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Boosts Stake In Occidental Petroleum

  • Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc (NYSE: BRK-B) has bought another 5.9 million shares of Occidental Petroleum Corporation OXY, boosting its stake in the oil company to ~15.2%.
  • Occidental’s share price has doubled this year, benefiting from Berkshire’s purchases and rising oil prices, with a further boost from the Ukraine crisis.
  • Now, Berkshire owns ~142.3 million Occidental shares worth $8.8 billion, plus $10 billion of preferred stock.

US Study Shows Omicron As Severe As Previous COVID Variants

  • A large U.S. study has found that the omicron variant of the SARS-CoV2 virus is intrinsically as severe as previous variants, unlike assumptions made in earlier studies that it was more transmissible but less severe.
  • “We found that the risks of hospitalization and mortality were nearly identical between periods,” said four scientists who conducted the study based on records of 130,000 COVID-19 patients, referring to times in the past two years when different variants were dominant.
  • The studies that assumed that the omicron variant was less severe were conducted in various places, including South Africa, Scotland, England, and Canada.

Roe v. Wade Leak Effect Kicks In, Abortion Prescription Pills Interest Sees Huge Spike

  • A provider of prescription pills used to terminate a pregnancy at home has seen increased interest from U.S. women this week, following news that the Supreme Court would likely reverse a landmark 1973 decision ensuring abortion rights nationwide, nonprofit Aid Access said.
  • The court confirmed that a draft opinion signaling a reversal of the Roe v. Wade ruling, published by the news site Politico, was authentic.
  • The court also noted that it did not represent the justices’ final decision, due by the end of June.

Qantas Airways Acquires Remaining 80% Stake In Alliance Aviation For $443M

  • Australia’s Qantas Airways QABSY said it is acquiring the remaining 80% stake in Alliance Aviation Services for A$610.8 million ($443.14 million) in an all-stock deal.
  • The acquisition is expected to expand Qantas’ presence in the charter business.
  • The airways will make use of the increased activity in the mining sector after reopening international borders to serve customers.

Wall Street Journal

Bill Gates Takes Swipe At Elon Musk Over Twitter Acquisition: ‘He Actually Could Make It Worse’

  • Microsoft Corp MSFT co-founder Bill Gates on Wednesday took a swipe at Tesla Inc TSLA CEO Elon Musk’s plan to buy microblogging site Twitter Inc TWTR in a $44 billion deal.
  • The 66-year old entrepreneur and investor said he is not sure about what the motives are behind the world’s richest man buying the social media company, a platform that Musk has hailed as “the bedrock of a functioning democracy” and where he has promised to return free speech.
  • “He actually could make it worse,” Gates said at The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit.

Elon Musk Bags Over $7B In Twitter Deal Financing

  • A group of 19 investors committed ~$7.14 billion in new financing to boost the equity part of Tesla, Inc TSLA chief Elon Musk’s offer to buy Twitter, Inc TWTR.
  • The new financing commitments reduced Musk’s $12.5 billion margin loan to $6.25 billion.
  • The investors included Sequoia Capital, Oracle Corporation ORCL co-founder Larry Ellison, and VyCapital.
  • Musk looks to bring more current Twitter shareholders, including co-founder Jack Dorsey.


IMF Expresses Concern About Central African Republic’s Adoption Of Bitcoin

  • According to the International Monetary Fund, the Central African Republic’s adoption of Bitcoin as legal tender poses several issues for the country and the region.
  • The decision to adopt the cryptocurrency drew criticism from opposition parties and was made without consulting the regional central bank, which manages a common currency used by six countries, including the Central African Republic.


Twitter Faces Advertiser Skepticism At New York Event Ahead Of Elon Musk Takeover

  • Twitter Inc TWTR reportedly talked about advertising opportunities on its platform at an event in New York City on Wednesday, even as Tesla Inc TSLA CEO Elon Musk prepares to take over the company.
  • Advertisers were not fully convinced by Twitter’s showcase, according to a Reuters report, which cited three ad agency executives.
  • “It has been a quiet month here at Twitter,” Twitter vice-president of global client solutions, JP Maheu, reportedly joked at the beginning of the presentation.

Shell’s Q1 Profit Up 43% As High Oil Prices Offset Russia Exit

  • Shell Plc SHEL reported a record Q1 profit of $9.13 billion, up 43%, boosted by higher oil and gas prices, stellar refining profits, and the strong performance of its trading division.
  • The company reported the highest quarterly profit since 2008, even after writing down $3.9 billion post-tax due to its decision to exit operations in Russia.
  • Shell is also winding down oil and gas trading with Russia.
  • Shell, in early April, said it planned to take accounting charges of between $4 billion and $5 billion as a result of exiting Russia.

Intercontinental Exchange To Scoop Black Knight At 34% Premium

  • Intercontinental Exchange, Inc ICE agreed to acquire Black Knight, Inc BKI in a cash and stock transaction values Black Knight at $85 per share or a market value of $13.1 billion. The offer price implies a 33.6% premium to BKI’s May 3 closing of $63.63.
  • The transaction builds on ICE’s position as a provider of end-to-end electronic workflow solutions for the rapidly evolving U.S. residential mortgage industry.

Netflix Faces Class Action On Allegations It Withheld Crucial Information

  • Netflix, Inc. NFLX last month reported disappointing results for its first quarter, and the stock has shed over 40% since. Disgruntled investors now think the streaming giant may have misled investors in 2021 regarding its fundamental performance and have taken to legal recourse.
  • Netflix issued false and/or misleading statements regarding its business and failed to disclose material adverse facts about its business operations and prospects, shareholders alleged in a lawsuit filed with the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California earlier this week.
  • The lawsuit was brought about by Fiyyaz Pirani, trustee of Imperium Irrevocable Trust. Netflix and the company’s co-CEOs Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos as well as Chief Financial Officer Spencer Neumann were named as defendants.

Elon Musk’s Starlink Now Lets You Take Your Internet Connection Anywhere Within US — But It Comes At A Cost

  • Elon Musk’s SpaceX-owned Starlink satellite internet service has added a new portability feature.
  • Starlink users now can avail of the portability feature that will allow them to move their dishes to new locations where the service provides active coverage, information posted on the support page of the company showed.
  • Starlink charges a fee of $25 per month for activating the portability feature. An active Starlink user can enable the feature from his/her account page, and the activation is with immediate effect.

$700M Bitcoin Leaves Coinbase

  • Close to 19,000 Bitcoins BTC/USD worth $703 million were moved off cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase Global Inc COIN.
  • According to data from blockchain wallet tracker Whale Alert, anonymous whales moved the $700 million worth of BTC into cold wallets on the last day.
  • Whales were observed moving their BTC through a series of four transactions — the largest ones being 8,000 BTC and 7,794 BTC, worth $300 million and $293 million, respectively.

JD, Nio, Pinduoduo Among 80 Chinese Companies Identified By SEC For Potential Delisting: What Investors Should Know

  • The SEC continued to crack the regulatory whip on U.S.-listed Chinese companies for non-compliance with audit requirements necessitated by the “Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act.”
  • The SEC on Wednesday put out a provisional list of 80 Chinese companies, expanding its previously issued lists. Those companies that have been identified have up to 15 business days to contact the federal agency to provide evidence to prove otherwise.
  • Some of the renowned companies added to the list afresh are e-commerce retailer, Inc. JD, Bilibili Inc. BILI, Pinduoduo Inc. PDD, NetEase, Inc. NTES, XPeng, Inc. XPEV, and Nio, Inc. NIO.

Gucci To Accept Bitcoin, Dogecoin, Shiba Inu In Several Stores

  • Luxury retail brand Gucci has reportedly embraced payments in the form of cryptocurrencies in some stores operated in North America.
  • What Happened: Gucci plans to accept 10 cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin BTC/USD and Ethereum ETH/USD ,as well as meme-based Dogecoin DOGE/USD and Shiba Inu SHIB/USD , as a means of in-store payment from the end of this month, according to Vogue Business.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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