Timing & trends

3G Billionaires Snap Up Real Estate Bargains in Covid Hotbed


The private equity titans behind 3G Capital Inc. and their families are taking advantage of distressed real estate prices in Brazil, where the economy has been battered by Covid-19 and the botched government response.

Firms linked to billionaires Jorge Paulo Lemann, Marcel Telles and Carlos Alberto Sicupira are increasing bets on strip malls, office space and long-term rental apartments. The goal is to seize opportunities created by the pandemic in a nation that’s leading the world in daily Covid deaths.

“The next 18 months will be very challenging for commercial real estate and that’s the time to make purchases, because sellers tend to get more flexible on prices,” said Fabio Itikawa, chief financial officer of Sao Carlos Empreendimentos e Participacoes SA, which was created by the 3G founders and is now owned by their heirs.

Brazil is suffering its worst phase of the pandemic, with more than 340,000 dead from the disease and records being broken daily for the number of new cases. Vaccinations are progressing slowly, with only 10% of its 212 million inhabitants having received their first shot and just 2.9% fully immunized, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The forecast for shipments of new doses was recently cut. The economy is struggling as some activities are in lock-down with rising unemployment and dwindling growth.

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Are you ready for “The Social Network II”

How the billionaire Winklevoss twins are betting on a decentralized future

Many of us know Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss as the statuesque Harvard rowing twins who sued Mark Zuckerberg for ownership of Facebook.

That image — along with Justin Timberlake’s curly hair as Sean Parker (“a billion dollars is cool”) — was seared into the public consciousness by the 2010 movie The Social Network.

Since then, the Winklevii have cut their own path… one that potentially threatens Facebook itself.

The Winklevii scored a $65m legal settlement…

… against Zuckerberg in 2008. And, as reported by Forbes, they have since built a multibillion-dollar fortune with bets on Bitcoin and startups focused on a crypto/decentralized future:

  • Bitcoin: The twins started investing in the crypto asset in 2012 when it was priced at $8. With the price now hovering at ~$58k, they turned a $10m bet into a $6B fortune.
  • Gemini: In 2014, the twins founded cryptocurrency exchange Gemini, which trades 33 crypto assets. While much smaller than Coinbase, Forbes notes that the exchange could raise money at a $5B valuation.
  • Nifty Gateway: In November 2019, they acquired Nifty Gateway, a non-fungible token (NFT) art marketplace that helped propel digital artist Beeple, who recently sold an NFT for $69m at a Christie’s auction. In March, Nifty Gateway processed 70% of the $188m in art sold across the top 7 NFT marketplaces.
  • BlockFi: The twins backed this crypto startup, which lends money against crypto holding and just raised $350m at a $3B valuation.
  • Protocol Labs: An open-source project that helps build decentralized services. One example is Filecoin, a decentralized computer storage system where users earn money by renting out their own storage space.

Winklevii companies make money from marketplace and trading fees

And not the monetization of personal information… like, say, Facebook. The twins’ portfolio doesn’t just have a different business model than Zuckerberg’s baby; it has a totally different operating philosophy.

“The idea of a centralized social network is just not going to exist 5 or 10 years in the future,” Tyler Winklevoss tells Forbes.

While this prediction sounds extreme, there is momentum towards stripping power away from the Big Tech platforms… especially after Donald Trump was wiped off the internet virtually overnight after the Capitol riots.

The Winklevoss bets are on a decentralized future, including a social network — BitClout — that resides on a blockchain and isn’t controlled by a single entity.

However it plays out, we’re ready for The Social Network II.


Markets Rally, but what about COVID?


This morning: Markets look set to rally strongly into Q2, but are they over-exuberant? The rise in deaths and new strains in Brazil hints the Covid war isn’t won yet, there are rising political risks in Europe, and widening wealth inequality is apparent everywhere. Just how solid are our expectations of stability, renewed global travel and recovery if Covid is here for the long-term?

We are now properly into the second quarter and, cosmetically, what’s not to like? These godless ‘Muricans kept markets open over the religious weekend (lest we forget; all the Sons of Adam were celebrating), and markets are all higher. Sentiment is opening up strong. No one seems particularly worried about the risks of rising bond yields or inflation – for the moment. The market has moved on. Summer is coming so buying boots on!

Driving the market’s strength are a number of factors including Friday’s blow-out US employment numbers and service sector growth on Monday. Low interest rates into perpetuity looks to be nailed on. As a result, the Dow and S&P are both at record levels. The frothy mood has been fuelled with some very strong sales numbers from Tesla and a host of puff-articles suggesting Bitcoin is apparently the perfect hedge on everything.

Meanwhile, Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure fiscal spending plans have been seen as positive; even as the programme runs into predictable speedbumps from Republicans fuming about higher corporate taxes, while the Democrat left says it’s not enough. Janet Yellen’s call for a global corporate tax rate will fall on deaf ears. That’s all normal noise… The end of the pandemic means everything will get better! I can’t wait for normalisation – and the pubs to reopen!

But, there are always spoilers.

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When Rich People Get Bored


(CNN)It’s been a great time to be selling really, really expensive cars.

“I’ve been in this business 40 years and I’ve never seen it like this,” said Brian Miller, president of Manhattan Motors, a high-end dealership that sells Bentleys, Lamborghinis and Bugattis, among other ultra-luxury brands.
While auto sales as a whole have suffered from factory shutdowns and other disruptions due to the pandemic, sales of super-expensive cars, like Ferraris, Bentleys and Lamborghinis, finished 2020 at a blistering pace.
In the United States, overall passenger car sales were down 10% last year compared to 2019. Even as auto sales recovered strongly in the fourth quarter, they only just matched the pace seen in the fourth quarter of 2019, said Tyson Jominy, vice president for data analytics at J.D. Power.
But sales of cars costing more than $80,000 were almost double in the fourth quarter what they had been the year before. And for cars costing more than $100,000, sales in the US were up 63% that quarter, said Tyson Jominy, vice president for data analytics at J.D. Power.
“There’s a fairly fantastic wealth effect going on,” Jominy added. Read More

April Fools’ pranks are never as clever as you think they are

Volkswagen could end up in hot water over its ‘Voltswagen’ marketing stunt

New York (CNN Business)Volkswagen of America says its “Voltswagen” name change was merely a joke “in the spirit of April Fools’ Day” to promote a new electric car. But even if it was meant as a lighthearted marketing gag, the move could land the carmaker in some serious trouble.

The situation may have put the company at risk of running afoul of US securities law by wading into the murky waters of potentially misleading investors.
“This is not the sort of thing that a responsible global company should be doing,” said Charles Whitehead, Myron C. Taylor Alumni Professor of Business Law at Cornell Law School.
In case you missed it, this week the carmaker entered the spotlight after announcing that, at least in America, it was changing its name to “Voltswagen,” and would use the new name in ads and on its electric vehicles. Volkswagen later backtracked and said it’s definitely not changing its name and that the whole thing was an April Fools’-inspired marketing ploy.
On Wednesday, it released yet another statement explaining: “Volkswagen of America developed and implemented a marketing campaign to draw attention — also with a wink — to Volkswagen’s e-offensive” and the launch of its new ID.4 all-electric SUV in the United States.
But here’s the thing: People took the first, untrue statement about the name change seriously.


Scientists Implant and Then Reverse False Memories in People


Researchers have demonstrated just how easy it is to trick the mind into remembering something that didn’t happen. They also used two very simple techniques to reverse those false memories, in a feat that paves the way for a deeper understanding of how memory works.

Our brains are far from perfectly functioning recorders of our life events.

The human memory system is fallible and malleable, so much so that it is possible—and even quite common—for people to possess false memories. Memory glitches can lead to all sorts of wider social implications, especially in the legal and forensic field. But now, for the first time ever, scientists have evidence showing they can reverse false memories, according to a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“The same way that you can suggest false memories, you can reverse them by giving people a different framing,” the lead researcher of the paper, Aileen Oeberst, head of the Department of Media Psychology at the University of Hagen, told Gizmodo. “It’s interesting, scary even.”

Short-term memory allows us to be present in the moment, while long-term memory helps piece together our identity through the recollection of our past experiences, among other things. Yet, especially the farther back we go, the more our recollection gets murky. For example, when you think back to your childhood, you are reconstructing your past while also being affected by the current circumstances: who is asking, why, and how, Oeberst explained.

“As the field of memory research has developed, it’s become very clear that our memories are not ‘recordings’ of the past that can be played back but rather are reconstructions, closer to imaginings informed by seeds of true experiences,” Christopher Madan, a memory researcher at the University of Nottingham who was not involved in the new study, told Gizmodo.

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