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Satchu's Rich Wrap-Up
Tuesday 08th of September 2020

A spectacular rise and fall was one Maxwell family trait Ghislaine couldn’t outrun, says Tom Bower | @Tatlermagazine

Robert Maxwell had hit rock bottom when I first met him in the spring of 1973. Damned by government inspectors as a liar and fraudster, he had been cast into the wilderness as a pariah by the City and Wall Street. Few public figures had been so humiliatingly mocked as Captain Bob, otherwise known as the Bouncing Czech.

‘I wonder if I can help you?’ I said to Maxwell that first day, as we sat in a makeshift office in Headington Hill Hall, his vast Oxford home acquired for a peppercorn rent from the local council.

‘What do you have in mind?’ growled the man famed for his girth, intimidation and brazenness. As a 27-year-old TV producer for the BBC, I had been tasked to film a 50-minute documentary about the rise and fall of Britain’s most infamous tycoon, politician and multimillionaire. ‘Well,’ I replied to the wartime refugee who had been awarded the Military Cross by Field Marshal Montgomery for charging an enemy machine-gun post in Germany in 1945, ‘I wanted to make a film about your remarkable life and achievements. It might help with your resurrection.’

As the 49-year-old pondered the offer, I threw into the conversation that my father was also a Czech refugee. That connection sealed our fate. ‘Done,’ he said, and committed himself for the next six weeks to share his life with me and the reporter Max Hastings.

As we trawled through Maxwell’s astonishing life – the peasant boy who escaped the Holocaust, established his fortune as a black-marketeer and thief while serving as a British army officer in post-war Berlin and, while working for both British and Russian intelligence, became a rich publisher and politician – we encountered an obstacle. ‘Mr Maxwell,’ I said, ‘in the interests of fairness and objectivity, I need to find someone who will say something positive about you. I’ve found lots of your critics, but no supporters. Can you suggest someone?’

‘I understand,’ Maxwell replied without a hint of surprise. ‘Let me think.’ Eventually, he proposed his former parliamentary agent, only for the hapless agent to respond, ‘I don’t know why you expect me to say anything good about Bob.’

Maxwell, unsurprisingly, hated the finished film, which portrayed him as the megalomaniac Citizen Kane. His attempt to stop it being broadcast – by bribing a BBC employee to steal the soundtrack from the editing suite during the night before transmission – failed because fortunately a duplicate soundtrack was stored elsewhere

Our relationship was abruptly terminated and Maxwell appeared destined to be forgotten. Except that 15 years later, in 1988, his resurrection was complete. Maxwell had created a global media empire that rivalled Rupert Murdoch’s, once again enjoying fame and fortune, brokering business deals and establishing himself as an unchallenged billionaire. Like Lazarus, the Bouncing Czech had risen from the dead.

That was the moment to write his biography – however, at the time, I could not have imagined the profound influence Maxwell would have on my life. The publication of Maxwell: The Outsider in 1988 was marked by 11 libel writs issued by Maxwell’s lawyers to prevent its sale. After it briefly hit No 1, Britain’s booksellers withdrew the book rather than face Maxwell in court. Yet by then, many had read my prediction that his media empire would soon crash. On 5 November 1991, while sailing on his yacht, the Lady Ghislaine, in the Atlantic, Maxwell had a heart attack and fell into the sea. Within days, his organisation was crumbling.

Secretly, Maxwell had been plundering the Daily Mirror’s pension fund – of which he was the proprietor – to support his other failing businesses. In total, more than £400 million was missing. Maxwell became known internationally as the archetype of a criminal tycoon. In his celestial banqueting chamber, enjoying his favourite Beluga caviar and Krug champagne, Captain Bob must still be chortling about his victory over Britain’s justice system and over the establishment across the globe.

Maxwell’s legacy was borne by his children. And by now, more than 30 years later, the Maxwell family would have been forgotten had Ghislaine Maxwell, the youngest of Robert’s seven surviving children (two others had died, in 1957 and 1967), not burst into the spotlight.

During her childhood, Ghislaine had witnessed her father’s merciless bullying, especially at the family’s regular Sunday lunches. Maxwell would question his children about world affairs and, in the event that they made a mistake, the meal was interrupted while he physically beat the errant child in front of the others. ‘Bob would shout and threaten and rant at the children until they were reduced to pulp,’ Betty Maxwell wrote about her husband after his death. If a comment in a school report was not perfect, Maxwell caned the child. ‘Remember the three Cs,’ he growled. ‘Concentration, consideration and conciseness.’

At the same time, Maxwell could be protective towards his youngest daughter. As a teenager, Ghislaine was once summoned to Maxwell’s office in Holborn while he was speaking to Roy Greenslade, editor of the Mirror. ‘What’s this about you nearly drowning?’ he asked his daughter. He had heard about an incident in the sea from Gianni Agnelli, the Italian tycoon with whom Ghislaine had been staying. ‘Oh, that little accident,’ replied Ghislaine. ‘There was no danger.’

‘You’re always taking risks and doing stupid, dangerous things,’ said Maxwell.

‘Oh, Daddy,’ she exclaimed, ‘I told you about jumping out of a helicopter with my skis on. It won’t happen again.’ 

Even while Ghislaine studied at Balliol, she succumbed to her father’s control over her boyfriends. Her reward in 1987 was to push the button for the bottle of champagne to crack on the bow of the newly built Lady Ghislaine, sealing her anointment as the mogul’s favourite child and obedient servant.

Does Ghislaine’s oppression at the hands of her father explain why she developed a close relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, a paedophile? Or that she seemingly became his pimp? In 2013, I met her at a summer party hosted by a London property developer, in a large compound by the sea in St Tropez. I had last seen Ghislaine 40 years earlier while filming the BBC documentary.  Not surprisingly, she knew nothing about that venture – or, curiously, about the two books I had written about her father. While we chatted over a drink, she seemed uninterested in him.Similarly, she seemed oblivious to the presence inside the glass-walled bar of a naked young woman, writhing to the music.

Nor did she express any emotion when a rocket from the party’s fireworks landed on Le Club 55 on the beach below, setting fire to a hut. The 52-year-old was hardened and alone. By then, her association with Epstein and friendship with Prince Andrew were well known.

She did not want to speak about that, except to say that her relationship with Epstein had ended years earlier. Subsequently, I was told by a member of her family that she had enjoyed two long-term relationships with other rich men after reportedly parting from Epstein in 2001. That was untrue. Their relationship had continued, even if it was no longer intimate.

In 2019, pursued by the media, and with women alleging that she had trafficked them on Epstein’s behalf, she disappeared in America. She was discovered on 2 July 2020, hiding at a luxury mansion in New Hampshire, surrounded by pine and oak forests. 

Ghislaine had wrapped tin foil around her mobile phone, in a ‘seemingly misguided attempt to evade detection by law enforcement’, noted court documents. So fastidious had she become about protecting her location that her family could reach her only by phone or email through a third party. Ghislaine Maxwell had spent almost a year as a hunted woman, undoubtedly a casualty of her father. While one can declare a final verdict on Robert Maxwell’s life, Ghislaine’s ultimate fate is yet to be written. She vigorously denies wrongdoing. Whatever the outcome, it will be one that her father could not have imagined.

Extracted from Maxwell: The Final Verdict by Tom Bower (William Collins, £9.99)

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The Disturbances of the Garden @NewYorker @JamaicaKincaid

My obsession with the garden and the events that take place in it began before I was familiar with that entity called consciousness. My mother taught me to read when I was very young, and she did this without telling me that there was something called the alphabet. I became familiar with words as if they were all wholly themselves, each one a world by itself, intact and self-contained, and able to be joined to other words if they wished to or if someone like me wanted them to. The book she taught me to read from was a biography of Louis Pasteur, the person she told me was responsible for her boiling the milk I drank daily, making sure that it would not infect me with something called tuberculosis. I never got tuberculosis, but I did get typhoid fever, whooping cough, measles, and persistent cases of hookworm and long worms. I was a “sickly child.” Much of the love I remember receiving from my mother came during the times I was sick. I have such a lovely memory of her hovering over me with cups of barley water (that was for the measles) and giving me cups of tea made from herbs (bush) that she had gone out and gathered and steeped slowly (that was for the whooping cough). For the typhoid fever, she took me to the hospital, the children’s ward, but she visited me twice a day and brought me fresh juice that she had squeezed or grated from fruits or vegetables, because she was certain that the hospital would not provide me with proper nourishment. And so there I was, a sickly child who could read but had no sense of consciousness, had no idea of how to understand and so make sense of the world into which she was born, a world that was always full of a yellow sun, green trees, a blue sea, and black people.

My mother was a gardener, and in her garden it was as if Vertumnus and Pomona had become one: she would find something growing in the wilds of her native island (Dominica) or the island on which she lived and gave birth to me (Antigua), and if it pleased her, or if it was in fruit and the taste of the fruit delighted her, she took a cutting of it (really she just broke off a shoot with her bare hands) or the seed (separating it from its pulpy substance and collecting it in her beautiful pink mouth) and brought it into her own garden and tended to it in a careless, everyday way, as if it were in the wild forest, or in the garden of a regal palace. The woods: The garden. For her, the wild and the cultivated were equal and yet separate, together and apart. This wasn’t as clear to me then as I am stating it here. I had only just learned to read and the world outside a book I did not yet know how to reconcile.

The only book available to me, a book I was allowed to read all by myself without anyone paying attention to me, was the King James Version of the Bible. There’s no need for me to go into the troubles with the King James Version of the Bible here, but when I encountered the first book, the Book of Genesis, I immediately understood it to be a book for children. A person, I came to understand much later, exists in the kingdom of children no matter how old the person is; even Methuselah, I came to see, was a child. But never mind that, it was the creation story that was so compelling to me, especially the constant refrain “And God saw that it was good.” The God in the Book of Genesis made things, and at the end of each day he saw that they were good. But, I wondered, for something to be good would there not have to be something that was not good, or not as good? That was a problem, though I didn’t bother myself with it at the time, mainly because I didn’t know how to, and also because the story had an inexorableness to it: rolling on from one thing to another without a pause until, by the end of six days, there were a man and a woman made in God’s image, there were fish in the sea and animals creeping on land and birds flying in the air and plants growing, and God found it all good, because here we are.

It was in the week after this creation, on the eighth day, that the trouble began: loneliness set in. And so God made a garden, dividing it into four quarters by running water through it (the classic quadrilinear style that is still a standard in garden design) and placing borders, the borders being the eternal good and evil: the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge. One tree was to be partaken of, the other forbidden. I have since come to see that in the garden itself, throughout human association with it, the Edenic plan works in the same way: the Tree of Life is agriculture and the Tree of Knowledge is horticulture. We cultivate food, and when there is a surplus of it, producing wealth, we cultivate the spaces of contemplation, a garden of plants not necessary for physical survival. The awareness of that fact is what gives the garden its special, powerful place in our lives and our imaginations. The Tree of Knowledge holds unknown, and therefore dangerous possibilities; the Tree of Life is eternally necessary, and the Tree of Knowledge is deeply and divinely dependent on it. This is not a new thought for me. I could see it in my mother’s relationship to the things she grew, the kind of godlike domination she would display over them. She, I remember, didn’t make such fine distinctions, she only moved the plants around when they pleased her and destroyed them when they fell out of favor.

It is no surprise to me that my affection for the garden, including its most disturbing attributes, its most violent implications and associations, is intertwined with my mother. As a child, I did not know myself or the world I inhabited without her. She is the person who gave me and taught me the Word.

But where is the garden and where am I in it? This memory of growing things, anything, outside not inside, remained in my memory—or whatever we call that haunting, invisible wisp that is steadily part of our being—and wherever I lived in my young years, in New York City in particular, I planted: marigolds, portulaca, herbs for cooking, petunias, and other things that were familiar to me, all reminding me of my mother, the place I came from. Those first plants were in pots and lived on the roof of a diner that served only breakfast and lunch, in a dilapidated building at 284 Hudson Street, whose ownership was uncertain, which is the fate of us all. Ownership of ourselves and of the ground on which we walk, ownership of the other beings with whom we share this and see that it is good, and ownership of the vegetable kingdom are all uncertain, too. Nevertheless, in the garden, we perform the act of possessing. To name is to possess; possessing is the original violation bequeathed to Adam and his equal companion in creation, Eve, by their creator. It is their transgression in disregarding his command that leads him not only to cast them into the wilderness, the unknown, but also to cast out the other possession that he designed with great clarity and determination and purpose: the garden! For me, the story of the garden in Genesis is a way of understanding my garden obsession.

The appearance of the garden in our everyday life is so accepted that we embrace its presence as therapeutic. Some people say that weeding is a form of comfort and of settling into misery or happiness. The garden makes managing an excess of feelings—good feelings, bad feelings—rewarding in some way that I can never quite understand. The garden is a heap of disturbance, and it may be that my particular history, the history I share with millions of people, begins with our ancestors’ violent removal from an Eden. The regions of Africa from which they came would have been Eden-like, and the horror that met them in that “New World” could certainly be seen as the Fall. Your home, the place you are from, is always Eden, the place where even imperfections were perfect, and everything that happened after that beginning interrupted your Paradise.

On August 3, 1492—the day that Christopher Columbus set sail from Spain, later having a fatal encounter with the indigenous people he met in the “West Indies”—the world of the garden changed. That endeavor, to me, anyway, is the way the world we now live in began; it not only affected the domestic life of Europeans (where did the people in a Rembrandt painting get all that stuff they are piling on?) but suddenly they were well-off enough to be interested in more than sustenance, or the Tree of Life (agriculture); they could now be interested in cultivating the fruits of the Tree of Knowledge (horticulture).

Suddenly, the conquerors could do more than feed themselves; they could also see and desire things that were of no use apart from the pleasure that they produced. When Cortés saw Montezuma’s garden, a garden that incorporated a lake on which the capital of Mexico now sits, he didn’t mention the profusion of exotic flowers that we now grow with ease in our own gardens (dahlias, zinnias, marigolds).

The garden figures prominently in the era of conquest, starting with Captain Cook’s voyage to regions that we now know as Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea, and Tahiti, its aim, ostensibly, to observe the rare event of the transit of Venus. On this trip, in 1768, the first of Cook’s three voyages around the world, he brought with him the botanist Joseph Banks and also Daniel Charles Solander, a student of Carolus Linnaeus. The two took careful notes on everything they saw. Banks decided that the breadfruit of the Pacific isles would make a good food for slaves on British-owned islands in the West Indies; the slaveholders were concerned with the amount of time it took the enslaved people to grow food to sustain themselves, and breadfruit grew with little cultivation. And so the Pacific Islands came to the West Indies. Banks also introduced the cultivation of tea (Camellia sinensis) to India.

Then there is Lewis and Clark’s expedition from the Mississippi River to California. On that adventure, which was authorized by President Thomas Jefferson and was inspired by Cook’s scientific and commercial interests, the explorers listed numerous plant species that were unknown to John Bartram, botanist to King George III, who ruled the United States when it was still a colony. Bartram’s son, William, a fellow-botanist, later wrote a book about his own explorations, which is said to have influenced Wordsworth, Coleridge, and other English Romantic poets.

There now, look at that: I am meaning to show how I came to seek the garden in corners of the world far away from where I make one, and I have got lost in thickets of words. It was after I started to put seeds in the ground and noticed that sometimes nothing happened that I reached for a book. The first ones I read were about how to make a perennial border or how to get the best out of annuals—the kind of books for people who want to increase the value of their home—but these books were so boring. I found an old magazine meant to help white ladies manage their domestic lives in the nineteen-fifties much more interesting (that kind of magazine, along with a copy of “Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management,” is worthy of a day spent in bed while the sun is shining its brightest outside). But where did plants, annual and perennial, pristinely set out in something called a border, and arranged sometimes according to color and sometimes according to height, come from? Those books had no answer for me. So one book led to another, and before long I had acquired (and read) so many books that it put a strain on my family’s budget. Resentment, a not unfamiliar feeling relating to the garden, set in.

I began to refer to plants by their Latin names, and this so irritated my editor at this magazine (Veronica Geng) that she made me promise that I would never learn the Latin name of another plant. I loved her very much, and so I promised that I would never do such a thing, but I did continue to learn the Latin names of plants and never told her. Betrayal, another feature of any garden.

How did plants get their names? I looked to Linnaeus, who, it turned out, liked to name plants after people whose character they resembled. Mischievous, yes, but not too different from the doctrine of signatures, which attempted to cure diseases by using plants that resembled the diseased part of the body. I was thinking about this one day, stooped over and admiring a colony of Jeffersonia diphylla, whose common name is twinleaf. Jeffersonia diphylla is a short woodland herbaceous ephemeral whose leaf is perforated at the base so that it often looks like a luna moth, but the two leaflets are not identical at the margins, and each leaf is not evenly divided: the margins undulate, and one leaflet is a little bigger than the other. But isn’t Thomas Jefferson, the gardener, the liberty lover and slaveowner, often described as divided, and isn’t it appropriate that a plant such as the twinleaf is named for him? The name was bestowed by one of his contemporaries, Benjamin Smith Barton, who perhaps guessed at his true character. It was through this plant that I became interested in Thomas Jefferson. I have read much of what he wrote and have firm opinions about him, including that his book “Notes on the State of Virginia” is a creation story.

It was only a matter of time before I stumbled on the plant hunters, although this inevitability was not clear to me at all. Look at me: my historical reality, my ancestral memory, which is so deeply embedded that I think the whole world understands me before I even open my mouth. A big mistake, but a mistake not big enough for me to have learned anything from it. The plant hunters are the descendants of people and ideas that used to hunt people like me.

The first one I met, in a book, of course, was Frank Smythe. No one had ever made me think that finding a new primrose—or a new flower of any kind—was as special as finding a new island in the Caribbean Sea when I thought I was going to China to meet the Great Khan. A new primrose is more special than meeting any conqueror. But Smythe gave me more than that. I noticed, when reading his accounts, that he was always going off on little side journeys to climb some snow-covered protuberance not so far away, and then days later returning with a story of failure or success at reaching or not reaching the peak, and that by the way he had found some beauty of the vegetable kingdom on the banks of a hidden stream which would be new to every benighted soul in England. But his other gift to me was the pleasure to be had in going to see a plant that I might love or not, growing somewhere far away. It was in his writing that I found the distance between the garden I was looking at and the garden in the wilderness, the garden cast out of its Eden which created a longing in me, the notion of “to go and to see.” Go see!

I end where I began: reading—learning to read and reading books, the words a form of food, a form of life, and then knowledge. But also my mother. I don’t know exactly how old I was when she taught me to read, but I can say for certain that by the time I was three and a half I could read properly. This reading of mine so interfered with her own time to read that she enrolled me in school; but you could be enrolled in school only if you were five years old, and so she told me to remember to say, if asked, that I was five. My first performance as a writer of fiction? No, not that at all. Perhaps this: the first time I was asked who I was. And who am I? In an ideal world, a world in which the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge stand before me, before all of us, we ask, Who am I? Among the many of us not given a chance to answer is the woman in the library in St. John’s, Antigua, two large rooms above the Treasury Department, a building that was steps away from the customs office and the wharf where things coming and going lay. On that wharf worked a stevedore who loaded onto ships bags of raw sugar en route to England, to be refined into white sugar, which was so expensive that we, in my family, had it only on Sundays, as a special treat. I did not know of the stevedore, the lover of this woman who would not allow her children to have much white sugar because, somewhere in the world of Dr. Pasteur and his cohort, they had come to all sorts of conclusions about diseases and their relationships to food (beriberi was a disease my mother succeeded in saving me from suffering). Her name was Annie Victoria Richardson Drew, and she was born in a village in Dominica, British West Indies. ♦

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The Spire "A dark and powerful portrait of one man's will". It deals with the construction of the 404-foot high spire loosely based on Salisbury Cathedral

“A dark and powerful portrait of one man’s will”. It deals with the construction of the 404-foot high spire loosely based on Salisbury Cathedral; the vision of the fictional Dean Jocelin.

"People went from broad to narrow," he said, "and we think they will continue to go that way - spend more and more time in the niches -because now the distribution landscape allows for more narrowness"

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Beijing accuses New Delhi of 'severe military provocation' but India denies its soldiers crossed the disputed border. @AJENews
Law & Politics

Beijing's defence ministry accused India of "severe military provocation" after soldiers crossed the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the western border region on Monday and "opened fire to threaten the Chinese border defence patrol officers".

"The Chinese border defence troops were forced to take corresponding countermeasures to stabilise the terrain situation," said Zhang Shuili, spokesperson for the Western Theater Command of the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

The statement did not make clear what those measures were or whether Chinese troops also fired warning shots.

China's western military command said the incursion occurred on Monday along the southern coast of Pangong Lake in the area known in Chinese as Shenpaoshan. 

On the Indian side, the area is known as Chushul where the two countries' local military commanders have held several rounds of talks to defuse the tense standoff.


Trying to escape Xi's Chokehold. 

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Teaser for a phenomenal article by @rowanjacobsen in @BostonMagazine about SARS2 origins research @Ayjchan
Law & Politics

and why it’s a challenging space to be in. Blown away by how well the article explains the mysteries surrounding COVID-19 and what’s at stake for science. Digital version in October!

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Top 5 countries in number of reported #COVID19 deaths/day @EricTopol

1. India (new at #1)

2. United States

3. Brazil

4. Mexico (sharp increase)

5. Colombia

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SoftBank Shares Drop on Concerns About Massive Options Bet @WSJ.
World Of Finance

Shares in SoftBank Group Corp. 9984 -1.02% tumbled 7% on Monday, as investors reacted to news of a massive bet the company has placed on a rise in tech stocks.

The size of the bet—which used stock options tied to as much as $50 billion in individual tech stocks, as reported by The Wall Street Journal—means SoftBank could win big if the market goes its way, or lose a sizable down payment for the options if tech share prices drop, as they did at the end of last week.

Details about the trade remain sketchy, so it is unclear just how risky that bet is for the Japanese conglomerate. The company, best known for its $100 billion venture-capital vehicle, the Vision Fund, hasn’t published any details of the trade. A company spokesperson declined to comment.

SoftBank shares fell 7% to ¥5,881 on Monday, pulling Japan’s benchmark Nikkei Stock Average down 0.5%.

“The scale is what is concerning,” said David Gibson, an analyst at Astris Advisory Japan. If SoftBank is betting on tens of billions of dollars worth of shares, “it’s a change in the risk profile of the company.”

SoftBank’s billionaire founder Masayoshi Son built his reputation on making smart investments on fast-growing privately held tech firms. But last month he announced a new asset-management unit that plowed billions of dollars into the public markets as well. The bulk of the money has come from more than $50 billion in asset sales that SoftBank is in the process of executing.

Although much of that cash is earmarked for share buybacks or debt redemption, until those deals are completed SoftBank is parking the money in tech companies such as Amazon.com Inc. or Microsoft Corp. SoftBank held almost $4 billion worth of such stocks as of the end of June, according to regulatory filings.

SoftBank’s aggressive use of its cash holdings to invest in the market isn’t “usual in our corporate culture,” said Pierre Ferragu of New Street Research. 

Most companies invest excess cash in Treasurys or corporate bonds. “It’s very unsettling for investors,” he said, until they know more details about the trade.

SoftBank may get little credit from investors. Even if they made $5 billion, “it’s a one-off, you don’t know what risk they’ve taken,” said Mr. Ferragu.

Investors and options traders have been trying to piece together the contours of SoftBank’s position through options data available to the market. 

Some institutional holders of SoftBank say the company is a sophisticated investor and is unlikely to be taking a lot of risk in the trade.

One possibility is that SoftBank’s trade let the company bet on the direction of share prices while limiting the amount of money it could lose. Investors often do this by buying and selling options—contracts that confer the right to buy a stock at a certain price at a later date. For bullish bets, options let investors make money when the stock price goes up, while if it goes down, they would only be out the premiums paid to own the options. SoftBank likely also sold options at a higher price, further limiting its risk, investors say.

SoftBank’s options bet was big enough, however, that people familiar with the trade said it represented billions of dollars in premiums. Some of that money could go to waste if the underlying shares didn’t perform as expected.

It isn’t clear if the trade has made SoftBank money or whether it has been able to realize any gains or losses. Tech stocks moved sharply last week and are likely to have changed the value of the positions.

SoftBank’s investment record has recently been tarnished by the implosion of some high-profile bets such as an investment in U.S. office-share firm WeWork, which resulted in billions of dollars in write-downs during the past year.

But its share price has rallied since the spring, when Mr. Son signaled the company would change tack. He promised to sell huge chunks of SoftBank’s best-known assets to shore up its balance sheet. It has since announced sales of stakes in T-Mobile US Inc., Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group and SoftBank’s Japanese telecom unit.

Peter Garnry, head of equity strategy at Saxo Bank, said the company’s embrace of options trading in big tech stocks could cause investors to again rethink their long-term opinion of SoftBank. 

“Why would this company have any edge in this new segment,” he said.

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Nigeria Sells Dollars to Ease Backlog Trapping Foreign Funds
World Currencies

The Nigerian central bank has started to sell dollars to clear a backlog of demand for the greenback that has kept foreign investors trapped in Africa’s largest economy. The bank sold foreign currency spot and 150-day forwards on Monday and Wednesday to corporates and investors that have waited for five months to get their money out of the country, people with knowledge of the matter said. 

The bank sold foreign currency spot and 150-day forwards on Monday and Wednesday to corporates and investors that have waited for five months to get their money out of the country, people with knowledge of the matter said. Central bank spokesman Isaac Okorafor confirmed that the monetary authority has intervened in the market to draw down the backlog, declining to say how much it has sold in the foreign-exchange market.

The West African nation was hit by a severe shortage of dollars after the central bank halted its weekly interbank foreign-currency sales in March. The outbreak of the coronavirus and consequent lockdown of major economies led to the slump in the price of crude, which accounts for more than 90% of the nation’s foreign-exchange earnings.

Dollar sales, even in low volumes, could help ease pressure on the official exchange rate of naira, which has lost over 24% of its value since March as the central bank was forced the devalue it twice. 

“The resumption of sales should allow investors to exit the economy and could also attract more funds,” said Oluwasegun Akinwale, a research officer at Nova Merchant Bank Ltd. in Lagos. “It should result in gradual convergence of rates toward the fundamental value.” 

However, currency stability will depend on the pace of dollar sales from authorities because the real size of the backlog is unknown, said Opeyemi Ani, a senior analyst at Cordros Securities Ltd. Lagos-based FSDH Group estimates the backlog could be as high as $7 billion, or about a fifth of Nigeria’s net foreign reserves.

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Moody's podcast on sovereign defaults: Govt debt-to-GDP not particularly predictive. @emmuser

Better indicators to monitor potential default:

1) Debt affordability (e.g. interest payments-to-revenue) 

2) FX exposure (e.g. FX debt as % of total debt) 

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Vice-President Chiwenga says the govt will turn around the health delivery system and introduce "health tourism". @BrezhMalaba
Law & Politics

Vice-President Chiwenga says the govt will turn around the health delivery system and introduce "health tourism". He accuses striking health professionals of using patients like "pawns in a game of chess". Chiwenga says salaries of doctors and nurses have been increased.

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“Mortuaries are abnormally full, which means that the mortality rate has increased. But we are not getting the right statistics. We are only claiming that the curve is flattening” @TheStarKenya

The government’s claim that the Covid-19 curve is flattening is untrue, the doctors' union has said.

Central Kenya secretary general of Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union Gor Goody challenged the government to do a mortality audit and it  will realise the country is still losing many patients to the disease.

“Mortuaries are abnormally full, which means that the mortality rate has increased. But we are not getting the right statistics. We are only claiming that the curve is flattening. How is it flattening?” she posed.

She said the country has no capacity to conduct increased testing due to shortage of staff and resources.

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by Aly Khan Satchu (www.rich.co.ke)
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September 2020

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