US Senate passes bill in support of pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong

22 November 2019

The Noise 

  • The US Senate passes bill in support of pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong. The bill lays out a process for the President to impose sanctions and travel restrictions on those seen to be arbitrarily punishing activists in Hong Kong, and creates a requirement for an annual review of the special treatment Hong Kong receives under US law. The move has unsettled markets slightly, with particular weakness in emerging markets, over concerns that it may destabilise the international trade discussions.  

  • The pound has gained ground against the dollar and hit a six month high against the euro this week, as opinion polls point to a Conservative majority in the December General Election. Analysts are forecasting sizeable swings in the currency depending on the election outcome. 

  • Saudi Aramco has hired no less than 25 banks to work on its upcoming IPO, which is set to become one of the biggest listings in history. According to the price range set by the oil giant on Sunday, it could be worth up to $1.7 trillion.

The Numbers


The Nuance

If Saudi Aramco reaches the top end of its expected market value, it will beat Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba’s record as having the largest stock market debut in history, and will join the throng of companies that jostle for the spot as biggest listed company in the world.  

The oil giant only plans to sell 1.5% of the company (around 3 billion shares) on the kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s stock exchange, and initial plans to sell a larger proportion on multiple stock exchanges around the world have been scaled back. It will be interesting to see what investor demand for shares in the company actually looks like; on the one hand the increased investor focus on environmental, social and governance (ESG) characteristics of companies naturally places fossil fuel firms at a disadvantage, and from a long term investor’s perspective it’s hard to ignore the geopolitical risks and the fact that oil prices are likely to come under pressure from global measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions. On the other hand; it is the most profitable company in the world. The company currently plans to pay a dividend of $75 billion next year, more than five times larger than that of Apple. In a world starved of yield that might well be enough to whet investor appetite for crude oil.

Quote of the week

If you have 271 works by Picasso and you want to put them on the international market, you need a certificate of authenticity Jean-Jacques Neuer, lawyer to the Picasso family
A decade long saga came to a close this week, as French courts decided to uphold a decision to deliver a suspended jailed sentence to Pablo Picasso’s electrician, for hoarding 271 of the artist’s works in his garage. The works – including drawings, lithographs and extremely rare Cubist collages - had been stashed in over a dozen bin bags and held by Pierre and Danielle Le Guennec since the 1970s, claiming initially that the works were a “gift” from the artist for his service.

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