Category Archives: Companies

Good News for Hedge Fund Managers

The hedge fund industry has taken some hits in the last couple of years.  One way this was experienced was through the significant depletion of profits of hedge fund managers’ in 2016.  But today, hedge funds are generally faring much better; hedge fund managers are once again enjoying better returns with greater investment gains and fewer are losing money.

Brahman Capital Corp is one example of this.

“At its apex around two years ago, Brahman managed more than $5 billion, as principals Mitchell Kuflik and Robert Sobel bet big on hedge-fund favorite Valeant Pharmaceuticals Inc. When Valeant’s stock plummeted from $257 to $14 a share, Brahman fell in turn, as the firm reported losses and investors pulled their money. Brahman sold Valeant stock last year and with what is now $3.8 billion of remaining cash pivoted to new ideas like a stake in travel company Expedia, people close to the firm said. This year, Brahman’s main fund is up 17%, the people said.”

More than successful returns, some hedge fund managers are finding that they want to find more hedge funds in which to invest.  This sentiment was echoed by APG Group NV hedge fund manager Ronald Wuijester who said:

“We would like to invest more in hedge funds and private equity but the very best of them virtually have no capacity to accept more of our money.  We don’t want to be on a gliding scale where we accept a lower return for the same amount of risk.”

Hedge funds are back.  Compared to 2016, today’s outlook for hedge fund managers is extremely positive.

Defunct Cambridge Analytica Under Investigation by Justice and CIA

The New York Times is reporting that the FBI and the US Justice Department are investigating the out-of-business political data company Cambridge Analytica. The company was recently implicated in a scandal over how it used the information it mined from Facebook users, bringing into question any ties it may have had with Russian agents engaged in meddling in the US elections.

Prosecutors from the US government have been questioning former employees and banks associated with Cambridge Analytica, said the Times, citing an American official and others familiar with the investigation.

The company already announced its intention to close by the end of this month since it lost many clients and faced growing legal fees as a result of reports that the company had taken personal data about millions of Facebook users without their knowledge, as far back as 2014.

The company is being accused of using the data of about 87 million Facebook users improperly. Cambridge Analytica was hired by the now President Trump’s 2016 election campaign. As a result several investigation were launched in the US and also in Europe.

Smyth Toys Buys European Divisions of Toys ‘R’ Us

 

Toys R Us Quioccasin Rd Richmond, VA. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Smyth Toys, a company based in Galway, Ireland, has agreed to purchase some of the European divisions of Toys ‘R’ Us. This is Smyth’s first time selling on the mainland of Europe. When the deal is implemented Smyth will run 93 brick and mortar shops and four online stores in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

The buyer was found by Lazard, an investment bank, which was employed to look for buyers for Toys ‘R’ Us international subsidiaries after the giant US retailer filed for bankruptcy in March.

Smyths was founded in County Mayo and is owned by four brothers from Galway; Tommie, Tony, Liam and Padraig Smyth. The brothers own 21 stores in the Republic of Ireland and an additional 90 or so in Britain and Northern Ireland. The company has been growing quickly since 2007 when it entered the UK market, and is planning on opening more shops in Luton and Dundee in the near future.

Toys ‘R’ Us announced in January that it was going to close about 20% of its US stores as part of its strategy to come out of one of the largest in history bankruptcies by a specialty retailer. The plan did not work out and the Toys ‘R’ Us subsidiary in Britain was forced to close all 100 shops after not finding a buyer.

A bid was made on the Canadian division of the toy retailer by Fairfax Financial Holdings for $300 million.

Apple and Tools for Parental Control

 JANA Partners – one of Apple Inc.’s biggest investors – earlier this year wrote to the multinational technology company about technology and children safety.  Apple Inc. only found out about JANA’s (and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) that co-wrote the letter request) sentiments, before the letter was publicized.

Apple Inc. claimed the letter was not a result of prior talks that had taken place with either JANA or CalSTRS but nonetheless immediately responded with a promise to upgrade its current child safety features – something it has been offering since 2008.

The letter publicly reported on the Think Differently About Kids website, included the following statement:

“In partnership with experts including Dr. Michael Rich, founding director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Boston Children’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School Teaching Hospital and Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, and Professor Jean M. Twenge, psychologist at San Diego State University and author of the book iGen, we have reviewed the evidence and we believe there is a clear need for Apple to offer parents more choices and tools to help them ensure that young consumers are using your products in an optimal manner.”

The letter also offered initial steps for Apple to follow.

ECS Federal Acquired by On Assignment

In recent news, ECS Federal has been acquired by On Assignment. The deal is said to have come to $775 million and brings On Assignment into the federal market. As Roy Kapani, ECS’ majority owner and founder said,

“This is a terrific outcome for our company, partners and talented employees.”

ECS CEO George Wilson said, “Same strategy, same management team, more resources.”
On Assignment has big plans with the acquisition. They will change their name when the deal finishes to be ASGN Inc. They hope that ECS will become a $1 billion platform by the target date of 2021. ECS will now have access to digital, creative and life sciences; while On Assignment will have access to ECS’s development capabilities and cloud, cyber and artificial intelligence.

The acquisition is an interesting example of a commercial company that is turning its attention to the federal market. As investment banker Jean Stack of Baird explained,
“This is illustrative of strong buyer interest in companies with scale and demonstrated growth, with priority national security customers, and in growth markets like cyber, analytics and IT modernization.”