“CEO pay grew an astounding 943% over the past 37 years, greatly outpacing the growth in the cost of living, the productivity of the economy, and the stock market, disproving the claim that the growth in CEO pay reflects the ‘performance’ of the company, the value of its stock, or the ability of the CEO to do anything but disproportionately raise the amount of his pay.”
For the past two years, we have highlighted the 100 most overpaid CEOs of S&P 500 companies, and the votes of large shareholders, including mutual funds and pension funds on their pay packages.
What has changed since the first report? Not much. Executive pay has continued to increase. Although mutual funds and pension funds are doing better at exercising their fiduciary responsibility by more frequently voting their proxies against some of the most outrageous CEO pay packages. Of the mutual funds with the largest changes in voting habits from last year, all of them opposed more of the pay packages than they had the prior year.
As we noted in our prior reports, the system in place to govern corporations has failed in the area of executive compensation. Like all the best governance systems, corporate governance relies on a balance of power. That system envisions directors representing shareholders and guarding the company’s assets from waste. It also envisions shareholders holding companies and executives accountable.
In its latest annual letter, released at 8am on Saturday, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway said Q4 profit rose 15% on a rise in gains from investment. Net income rose to $6.29 billion, or $3,823 a share, from $5.48 billion, or $3,333 the previous year, while operating earnings, which exclude some investment results, were $2,665 a share, a slight miss to the $2,717 consensus estimate. In 2016, the 86-year-old billionaire added new companies to his assorted conglomerate portfolio, and completed the purchases of battery giant Duracell and aerospace supplier Precision Castparts, which helped to boost profit in his company’s manufacturing segment.
Among other notably operational highlights, Berkshire said it had booked a $1.2 billion gain from converting its preferred stake in Dow Chemical to common stock, and that it had sold all of the Dow common it converted by Dec. 31. Berkshire also revealed that its massive holdings of Apple stock, which as of December 31, had risen to 61.2 million shares making Berkshire one of the Top 10 holders of Apple, was acquired last year for $6.747 billion, or an average of roughly $110 per share. The stake was valued at more than $8.3 billion as of Friday’s $136.66 closing price, leading to a $1.6 billion unbooked gain. In addition to apple, Berkshire’s other Top 15 investments are laid out below:
Ironically, even though Berkshire – along with Goldman and JPM – has been among the biggest beneficiaries of the “Trump rally”, with Berkshire Class A shares climibg 15% since Nov. 8, bringing the company’s market capitalization above $400 billion for the first time, beating the S&P’s 11% increase, there were no explicit mentions of Donald Trump’s name anywhere in the letter. There were, however, various veiled references to the new president.
As we previously noted, while speculatrs had been reducing their shorts in Treasury futures, they had added to Eurodollar shorts – pushing their bets on Fed rate hikes to record highs. However, as Bloomberg notes, signals are starting to emerge that traders who built up that heavy short, or hawkish, eurodollar base since the start of 2016 could be starting to throw in the towel on a March Fed rate hike.
CME confirmed that Wednesday saw record volume in fed fund futures of 658.7k contracts, beating the previous record of 613k on Nov. 9, the day after the U.S. presidential election. Over the course of Wednesday’s session, a total of 283k Apr fed funds futures contracts traded, largest single-day volume seen in the contract. Open interest in the contract rose by 109k, suggesting some short covering before the minutes and potential new longs after the minutes.
Marine Le Pen’s French election victory odds reached their highest level of the campaign overnight and it appears global investors are starting to panic-bid protection against the consequences for French stocks…
Oddschecker indicates Le Pen’s incessant rise in popularity…
The US Senate has confirmed President Donald Trump’s nomination for treasury secretary, a former Goldman Sachs banker and hedge fund manager.
The Senate confirmed Steve Mnuchin’s nomination to be secretary of the Department of the Treasury by a vote of 53-47.
Mr Mnuchin spent 17 years at Goldman before becoming a hedge fund manager, film financier and chairman of Pasadena-based OneWest Bank. His confirmation as secretary means that former Goldman employees hold two of the top economic jobs in the US, as former president and chief operating officer Gary Cohn left the bank to become director of the White House’s National Economic Council.
Back in late 2015, when the Chinese stock bubble had violently burst and was suffering daily moves of 10% in either direction as retail traders scrambled to get out of what until recently was a “sure thing”, Beijing did what it does best, and found a convenient scapegoat on which to blame the market crash – which was function of the country’s relentless debt bubble and lack of trading regulations – in late 2015 it arrested one of the most prominent hedge fund traders, Xu Xiang, also known as “hedge fund brother No. 1” and “China’s Carl Icahn” for his phenomenal, and rigged, winning record in the stock market, who ran the Shanghai-based Zexi Investment.
Which is not to say that Xu wasn’t engaged in shady activites: while the country’s stock prices plummeted in 2015, Zexi’s investments earned an average 218%, far more than the second-most profitable player, Shen Zhou Mu Fund, which reported a 94% yield, according to market analysis website Licai.com.
Daiwa Asset Management is set to start operating a mutual fund that invests in stocks related to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s infrastructure investment policy. Daiwa will launch the product on Tuesday.
The open-end mutual fund — the first of its kind in Japan since Trump’s election victory in November 2016 — is likely to be made available to retail investors by the end of the month.
The U.S. infrastructure builder equity fund, which invests in U.S. companies, will quantify how much each stock will benefit from Trump’s infrastructure policy, based on criteria such as sales ratio in the U.S. and the degree of obsolescence of the target infrastructure. The details of the portfolio will be determined by how much share prices are undervalued and how competitive the companies are.
The portfolio, comprising 30-50 companies — mostly in the construction, transport and materials sectors — will be adjusted as appropriate as Trump’s policy takes form.
Trump has pledged to spend $1 trillion to overhaul the country’s aging infrastructure over the next decade.
Even without the curbs imposed on them, e-retailers don’t seem to have made too much money in FY16. While for some companies, the losses doubled, for others, it trebled, indicating many of them are simply buying revenues. In other words, they are driving sales by offering customers big discounts and spending large sums on advertising and promotions. This strategy should pay off in the long run, but for now while top lines may have grown, the losses, too, have ballooned. At Paytm, for instance, revenues have risen by nearly 200%, losses have increased fourfold.
While there’s no doubt more shoppers are buying on the Internet, the initial spurt in online spends appears to have been driven by discounts.
It’s not surprising therefore that investors are reluctant to fund too many e-commerce businesses at lofty valuations.
Between January and November, just $3.7 billion has been invested in these ventures, about half the $7.5 billion which came in during the comparable period of 2015, data from Tracxn Technologies shows.
How disillusioned investors are is clear from the markdown in the valuation ofFlipkart—the e-retailer is now valued at $5.54 billion, down from $11 billion as on 31 March, 2016, and the peak of $15 billion in June 2015.
On Tuesday afternoon, the billionaire founder and CEO of Japan’s Softbank and was seen entering the Trump Tower, to meet with the President-elect. It appears that they had fruitful conversations, because just a few minutes later, Trump – who earlier in the day lambasted Boeing over charging too much for Air Force 1 sending its stock lower – tweeted some words of praise for the Japanese businessman.
At 2:10pm eastern, Trump tweeted “Masa (SoftBank) of Japan has agreed to invest $50 billion in the U.S. toward businesses and 50,000 new jobs…” and in a follow up Tweet added “Masa said he would never do this had we (Trump) not won the election!”
As Dow Jones adds, $50 billion of the $100 billion investment will come from a joint investment fund Softbank had set up with Saudi Arabia. Son also said that he set up the meeting with Trump and “likes him very much”, however he declined to comment on his interest in T-Mobile.
It was not immediately clear what investments the Japanese investor would make, or what kinds of jobs he would create. However, as an immediate result of the benevolent tweets showing that Trump is favorably inclined toward SoftBank and vice versa, Sprint stock, which SoftBank already owns some 80% of and has been pushing for a merger with T-Mobile, spiked confirming that in the “Trump Normal” the biggest stock market catalyst will no longer be Fed headlines but Trump tweets.