|Bid||47.31 x 1400|
|Ask||47.32 x 2900|
|Day's range||47.30 - 47.98|
|52-week range||43.40 - 58.26|
|Beta (5Y monthly)||1.21|
|PE ratio (TTM)||18.85|
|Earnings date||11 Feb 2020|
|Forward dividend & yield||1.40 (2.93%)|
|Ex-dividend date||01 Jan 2020|
|1y target est||52.30|
(Bloomberg) -- U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson risked a rift with President Donald Trump as he gave Huawei Technologies Co. the green light to help develop Britain’s next-generation broadband networks.While the U.K. government announced it will keep what it calls high-risk vendors such as Huawei out of the most sensitive core parts of its 5G mobile networks, the company will be able to supply other equipment that is critical to the roll-out of broadband such as antennas and base stations.That is a blow to the Trump administration, which wanted Johnson to impose an outright ban on the Shenzhen-based tech giant, citing concerns that its gear could be vulnerable to infiltration by Chinese spies. The two men spoke about the U.K. decision on Tuesday, according to Johnson’s office. American officials had warned the U.S. may be forced to hold back secret intelligence from the U.K. in future, if Johnson pressed ahead with giving Huawei a role. The company has always denied it poses any security risk.A key pillar of Johnson’s vision for a future outside the world’s richest single market is a trade deal with the U.S. and the Huawei license risks setting up a clash with Trump. On their call on Tuesday, Johnson “underlined the importance of like-minded countries working together to diversify the market and break the dominance of a small number of companies,” his office said.The initial reaction from Washington was muted.A senior U.S. administration official expressed disappointment at Johnson’s decision, but also hope that the U.S. and the U.K. could still find some way to exclude components from untrusted vendors in 5G systems in future. Trump himself has yet to comment, and is preparing to announce his Middle East peace plan later Tuesday.Read More: U.K. Still Wary of China Hacking Threat After Limiting HuaweiReactions from Congress were more critical. “Here’s the sad truth: our special relationship is less special now that the U.K. has embraced the surveillance state commies at Huawei,” said Republican Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska.Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee suggested curtailing intelligence-sharing with any allies whose networks run on the equipment of “untrusted” vendors. “If we have exhausted our carrots with the Brits, it may be time to use a stick,” Blackburn said in a statement. Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, in a reference to Brexit, said: “I fear London has freed itself from Brussels only to cede sovereignty to Beijing. Allowing Huawei to build the U.K.’s 5G networks today is like allowing the KGB to build its telephone network during the Cold War.”In London, too, senior members of Johnson’s ruling Conservative Party expressed dismay at his decision. Former party leader Iain Duncan Smith, and ex-cabinet minister David Davis warned of the security risks the Chinese company posed. “The size and complexity, the problem we are trying to protect against, is enormous,” Davis told the House of Commons. “Huawei should be banned from our networks.”The widely-expected announcement by Johnson’s government is a compromise between the outright ban on Huawei sought by the U.S. and the access sought by telecommunication companies. While it ends months of political wrangling in the U.K., the process remains fraught with peril for Johnson as he prepares to end Britain’s 47 years of European Union membership and plans to negotiate a new trade deal with the U.S.Market ShareUnder the U.K.’s policy, a cap of up to 35% will be imposed on Huawei’s share of the non-sensitive parts of the next-generation networks, such as antennas, masts and even fixed-line fiber-to-the-home components.High risk vendors, a category which would also include China’s ZTE, which is already banned from the U.K., are also to be “excluded from sensitive geographic locations, such as nuclear sites and military bases.”The 35% cap will be kept under review and could reduce over time, the government said. The cap is roughly in line with Huawei’s current overall market share in 4G, and Huawei said it was expected and reasonable. U.K. officials said the cap could be reduced over time, and the aim is to work with allies to help develop alternatives and get to a stage where the country doesn’t need to rely on high-risk vendors at all.However, the cap may mean that phone carriers like BT Group Plc’s EE, Vodafone Group Plc and Three have to rejig their 5G plans to comply. Three, a unit of Hong Kong-based CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd., had been depending on Huawei to deliver the entirety of its 5G radio-access network, with Nokia chosen to provide the core.Dave Dyson, chief executive officer of Three U.K., said in a statement: “We note the government’s announcement and are reviewing the detail.”Ericsson AB and Nokia Oyj are the primary Huawei rivals in networking equipment now, but the U.K. decision may help create more options for certain segments of wireless networks. Cisco Systems Inc., Juniper Networks Inc., Ciena Corp. and Infinera Corp. may benefit as wireless operators look for alternative suppliers, said Woo Jin Ho, a Bloomberg Intelligence analyst.Huawei ReassuredIn a statement, Huawei Vice-President Victor Zhang said it was “reassured” that the U.K. will let the company keep working with carriers on 5G.“This evidence-based decision will result in a more advanced, more secure and more cost-effective telecoms infrastructure that is fit for the future,” he said, committing to build on Huawei’s more than 15 years supplying U.K. telecom operators.The Confederation of British Industry, the leading business lobby in the country, said “this solution appears a sensible compromise that gives the U.K. access to cutting-edge technology, whilst building in appropriate checks and balances around security.” Vodafone, which uses Huawei in its U.K. radio network, said “we aim to keep any potential disruption to customers to a minimum.”By curbing Huawei’s access but still allowing the supplier to play a role in 5G, British officials are betting they can manage any security risks at home and still maintain intelligence-sharing ties with the U.S. and other allies.Johnson discussed Huawei in a phone call with Trump on Friday, and clearly wasn’t swayed by the push for a total ban. The prime minister said the U.K. could have the best of both worlds: retaining access to the best technology while protecting the data of consumers. British security services deem the risks manageable.For the U.K. timing of its announcement is particularly sensitive. U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, who had warned Johnson’s predecessor not to “wobble” on the issue, is due to visit on Wednesday.Huawei has been a key supplier to the U.K. and many other European phone networks for over a decade so this decision will be closely watched by others. In fact, many European nations are leaning in the same direction as the U.K.QuickTake: Can a 70-Year-Old Spy Alliance Endure in Era of 5G?The EU will publish its own guidelines on Wednesday which give leeway to member states to restrict or ban Huawei without forcing them to do so. According to a draft of the document seen by Bloomberg, countries should consider banning suppliers based in countries with insufficient “democratic checks and balances” from core 5G components.Canada has also indicated interest in a similarly split decision -- allowing Huawei while also pledging to contain any security risk.A key concern of the U.S. is that other countries will copy-and-paste the U.K.’s solution, relying on its regulatory system and high level of access to Huawei technology.“The U.K. model isn’t easily replicated,” warned Ian Levy, technical director of the National Cyber Security Centre, in a blog published alongside the decision. “The approach we’ve come up with for the U.K. is specific to the U.K. context. Others shouldn’t assume they’re getting the same level of protection for modern networks if they do similar things without performing their own analysis.”The market is broken, he added, because it’s not commercially attractive to build good security into networks.(Updates with Huawei alternatives in 16th paragraph)\--With assistance from Olivia Konotey-Ahulu, Josh Wingrove and Kevin Cirilli.To contact the reporters on this story: Thomas Seal in London at email@example.com;Alex Morales in London at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Flavia Krause-Jackson at email@example.com, Tim Ross, Rebecca PentyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
Check out these three high-yield tech stocks we found using our Zacks Stock Screener that dividend investors might want to buy right now...
The role of a business chief executive far extends beyond buoying up a balance sheet and delivering profit for stakeholders.
Enterprises are focusing on enhancing workspace communication to boost productivity, which puts Microsoft and Slack under the spotlight.
(Bloomberg) -- When Salesforce.com Inc. emerged two decades ago, it lashed out at the software establishment: large companies that allegedly locked clients into dated products. Now, a coalition of newer rivals have extended that criticism to the cloud applications pioneer. Ten software upstarts kicked off a public campaign Thursday that knocks customer relationship management, or CRM, titans, including Salesforce, Oracle Corp. and SAP SE, by saying the large companies keep clients trapped in subpar software suites, potentially shutting out smaller rivals with newer technology.The “Platform of Independents” leading the effort include Segment Inc., Amplitude Inc., Outreach Inc., Pendo.io Inc. and Drift.com Inc. Some of the companies are privately held unicorns, with valuations exceeding $1 billion. Each caters to a different software niche. The campaign began with a two-page ad in Thursday’s print edition of the Wall Street Journal and includes a web page and information sessions for prospective clients. More than 190 companies co-signed the main tenet of the campaign, that CRM software “isn’t enough” to provide good customer experiences to consumers.“We, as independent software companies, have built our products with the belief that a business should never be locked into a suite, never forced to have a one-size-fits-all technology approach, and its data should never be siloed,” the companies said in a statement. “It’s time to break free of the data monopoly.”The smaller companies argue the large software makers focus more on selling bundled packages of products than serving their clients’ needs with continuous innovation. Large technology companies have come under increasing antitrust scrutiny for their business practices, including how they wield power to maintain advantages over smaller firms. Beyond panning the quality of the bigger players’ technology, the chief executive officers of the startups said their larger rivals use acquisitions to bolster their market power.“If any of these guys becomes too big, that’s a threat to all of us in this ecosystem,” said Spenser Skates, CEO of Amplitude, which helps clients understand user behavior to improve product experiences. “Salesforce bought MuleSoft, Cisco bought AppDynamics. This is continuing to happen. It’s definitely a concern.”Representatives for Salesforce, Oracle, SAP, and Microsoft didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Salesforce has been well served by its strategy in the CRM market. The company’s shares climbed about 19% last year. Oracle’s stock rose about 17%. Salesforce led the market for customer-management applications with 16.8% as of 2018, the last full year for which data is available, according to research firm IDC. Oracle was next with 5.7% while SAP came in third with 5.6%. Adobe Inc. and Microsoft Corp. rounded out the top five.Salesforce, founded in 1999, is the youngest company in the group. The others have been around for about four decades.“I think there’s something significantly broken that there’s been no big CRM company built in the last 10, 15, or 20 years,” Peter Reinhardt, the CEO of Segment, which helps companies compile their data about consumers, said in an interview.Reinhardt, who spearheaded this campaign, said he isn’t interested in being acquired. Rather, he wants to work more closely with his Platform of Independents peers to jointly sell packages of software solutions to clients, as a way to counter the selling advantages and software product bundles of larger companies. And Reinhardt is optimistic that a shakeup is possible in enterprise technology.“I think we have a temporarily dominant set of companies,” he said. “But I think there’s a huge opportunity for another rewrite of the CRM world.”(Updates with 2019 share performance in the eighth paragraph.)To contact the author of this story: Nico Grant in San Francisco at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew Pollack at email@example.com, Mark MilianFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
Viavi Solutions (VIAV) partners with Ingram Micro to deploy avant-garde test instruments for fiber and cable networks to a large number of businesses across the United States.
Avnet's (AVT) Partner Program will enable developers to reduce time and costs required to build IoT applications and scale their businesses.
(Bloomberg) -- With all eyes this week on the CES trade show in Las Vegas, famous for a mind-boggling array of personal gadgets, it’s worth considering something counterintuitive: Venture capitalists like consumer technology a lot less than they used to.According to PitchBook data compiled for Bloomberg, last year the normal order of funding in venture capital flipped. Enterprise technology companies, which specialize in software or services for businesses—long the dowdiest landing pad for venture dollars—attracted $30.42 billion, PitchBook data shows, about one-third more cash than consumer technology companies.That funding total is growing fast. Enterprise companies’ venture haul for 2019 was almost double the previous year’s. Meanwhile, the cash going to consumer companies fell by almost a quarter between 2018 and 2019, according to PitchBook data, to $23.26 billion.Those numbers mark the first time in at least last five years that pure enterprise companies have raised more money than consumer-facing tech, the data shows. (Though a separate "undetermined" category, where the distinction between enterprise and consumer technology is not as clear, regularly outpaces both.) The switch comes at a time when enterprise companies’ initial public offerings have been warmly received by investors. For example, shares in video communications company Zoom Video Communications Inc. almost doubled after its April initial public offering. And security company Crowdstrike Holdings Inc. is up almost two-thirds following its June debut. Meanwhile, the most hotly anticipated consumer IPOs have underperformed. Ride-hailing service Uber Technologies Inc. is down by about a third since its June offering, and in an extreme case, co-working company WeWork’s plan for the public markets dramatically crumbled last fall.But public market reception isn’t the only thing driving investment. The enterprise industry—less saturated by existing industry giants—has become a destination for some of the most talented entrepreneurs, and VCs know it. While corporate software may sound painfully boring, advancements in cloud computing and machine learning mean enterprise companies can give employees creative outlets. Investors liken the new opportunities to those once sparked for consumer startups by the advent of smartphones. In the consumer world, large companies are famous for edging out or buying up threatening upstarts. Either outcome means entrepreneurs in the giants’ crosshairs will never get to lead sizeable independent companies. While some large enterprise companies follow that playbook—SAP SE and Salesforce.com Inc. have cemented reputations as acquisition-hungry—enterprise founders often enjoy more latitude to say no to acquisition offers, with less fear that the bigger company will crush them.Cloud-monitoring business Datadog Inc., for example, turned down a bid from Cisco Systems Inc. just days before its IPO in September. And Slack Technologies Inc. continues to grow even as Microsoft Corp. has spent years pushing Teams, its own answer to office messaging.It helps that cutting-edge enterprise software requires a degree of specialization that can be hard to replicate. And increasingly, enterprise customers are open to working with startups, blunting the reputational advantage big brand-name companies enjoy when they roll out a competing product.For insights into how founders are thinking, consider Oleg Rogynskyy, whose business analytics company, People.ai, is the second enterprise startup he's founded. His career could have gone in a consumer direction if he had pursued the first business he got funding for—a photo feed he started in college in 2007. It could have turned into Instagram, maybe, or it could have gone the way of countless other less lucrative photo-sharing startups (remember Hipstamatic, PicPlz and Path?).Switching to enterprise was a good move, Rogynskyy says now. He believes enterprise companies can more easily grow to $100 million in revenue and reach IPO faster than their consumer counterparts, even if those IPOs might raise less capital. “The outcomes are smaller,” Rogynskyy says, “but the odds are higher.”This article also ran in Bloomberg Technology’s Fully Charged newsletter. Sign up here. And here’s what you need to know in global technology news:Leaked Facebook Executive Memo Grapples With Its Role In U.S. ElectionsThe New York Times obtained a memo written by Andrew Bosworth, the head of virtual and augmented reality at Facebook, mulling the social network's role in the rise of President Trump. As World Leaders Shun TikTok, Impersonators Creep InAs TikTok catches fire among the younger set, world leaders and politicians have kept their distance amid national security concerns about the Chinese-owned app.Bitcoin Goes Ballistic After Breaking Through $8,000 LevelBitcoin climbed to the highest since November after breaching the $8,000 price level.Google Says Over 500 Million People Use Its Assistant MonthlyGoogle said its digital assistant is used by more than 500 million people every month. Depending on your perspective, that’s either a win for Google, or a big miss.To contact the author of this story: Sarah McBride in San Francisco at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Anne VanderMey at email@example.com, Mark MilianFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- For Paul Boudre, U.S. President Donald Trump’s push against Chinese telecommunications companies is less about espionage than the race for technological supremacy.Boudre, the chief executive officer of Soitec, a French maker of semiconductor materials that go into 5G equipment, automobiles, cloud computing and IT infrastructure, says Trump’s actions are aimed primarily at allowing American firms to catch up.“Trump’s kick in the pants for companies is to wake them up and to catch up,” Boudre said in an interview Tuesday in Paris. “Trump is the emissary saying that if nothing is done, we’ll be blown away. That’s why he’s been trying to put a brake on the advances that China has made.”With the “everything-connected” era well under way, the race for a technological edge is intensifying. Trump has repeated railed against China and its companies, including Huawei Technologies Co., citing industrial espionage and intellectual property theft. He has limited their access to the U.S. market and to American suppliers, while also pressing allies from Japan to The Netherlands to review policies toward the Asian giant.The executive push and the infrastructure policy are driving U.S. companies like Cisco, Qorvo Inc., Skyworks Solutions to accelerate their research, a move that could allow American players to get new 5G technologies rolling out potentially in 2021, Boudre said.“Technology has become political today,” he said.Supply ChainsThe U.S. pushed to block the sale of chip manufacturer ASML’s technology to China by sharing a classified intelligence report with the Dutch government, Reuters reported on Monday, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter.Soitec, which has factories and licenses for producing the substrate for handsets and infrastructure in France, Singapore and China, can provide “China Free” material if requested, Boudre said, adding that no such demands have been made by its clients.“What’s happened with Trump is a modification of supply chains,” he said. “Huawei won’t rely exclusively anymore on Qorvo, Skyworks, Qualcomm, because there is a risk. So they’ve developed relations with Murata, STMicro and others.”Developments in the U.S. 5G market this year and next will be a test of whether Trump’s policies were fruitful, Boudre said.“Clearly, two technologies are now being implemented,” with China’s 5G building on 4G, while the U.S.’s 5G that’s more of a new development called “millimeter wave.” The U.S. technology may hit the broad market in 2021, Boudre said, with Cisco driving the innovation. Qualcomm’s modem chip using millimeter wave technology is likely to hit the market in 2020.Soitec RisingWhile Trump’s moves have roiled trade and supply chains for companies building 5G and other technologies, Soitec has been spared, the executive said.The company, whose material goes into almost every smartphone in the world, plans to double sales in the next three years, reaching $1 billion in its fiscal year 2022, and sees revenue tripling in the next five years or so.Founded in the early 1990s in the French Alps, Soitec, which now employs 1,500 people, sits at the heart of the revolution that’s made possible everything from mobile phones, personal assistants like Amazon.com Inc.’s Alexa and Google’s Nest, to 5G antennas and connected devices in cars.In the automotive sector, where Europe has an edge, Soitec is working with Robert Bosch GmbH, Audi AG, STMicroelectronics NV and others to define future components, Boudre said. In artificial intelligence, he sees a shift of computing power from the cloud to devices lifting demand for Soitec’s materials, which allow chipmakers to combine computing, memory and connectivity on a single chip.The extent of all that growth will be evident when the company discusses its long-term plans in June, Boudre said.Soitec’s stock rose 85% in 2019, making it among the top 10 performers of the benchmark SBF120 index.\--With assistance from Caroline Connan and Francine Lacqua.To contact the reporters on this story: Helene Fouquet in Paris at firstname.lastname@example.org;Rudy Ruitenberg in Paris at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Giles Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org, Vidya RootFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- A salacious three-year legal battle involving a former partner at Sequoia Capital, a onetime exotic dancer and a promised $40 million hush money payment has come to an end.A California Superior Court judge ruled in favor of venture capitalist Michael Goguen, finding his former mistress Amber Laurel Baptiste committed fraud and extortion when she threatened to publicize false claims, including that he gave her a sexually transmitted infection. The judge ordered Baptiste to pay back the full $10.25 million she got from Goguen. After a three-day trial that Baptiste didn’t attend, the court also approved a restraining order to protect Goguen and his current wife, Jamie Goguen.Unless an objection is filed by the end of next week, the Dec. 20 ruling becomes final and caps a saga that sent Silicon Valley’s gossip mill into overdrive and extinguished Goguen’s two-decade investing career at one of world’s most prestigious venture firms. Baptiste’s allegations surfaced just as the MeToo movement was beginning to take shape, drawing heightened scrutiny of executive wrongdoing. The decision is a rare moment of possible redemption for a powerful man accused of sexual misconduct.Baptiste said she stands by every claim she made in her initial lawsuit and plans to file an objection to the ruling before the deadline. She said she has already spent nearly $5 million of the money Goguen gave her on legal fees and is in the process of hiring what would be her sixth attorney. “I will continue to fight this all the way to the end,” Baptiste said.Goguen said by phone from his home in Whitefish, Montana, that the ruling concludes a “heartbreaking and devastating” chapter of his life. He said many friends and colleagues have treated him “like a leper” since Baptiste went public with her allegations in 2016. Even after defeating Baptiste’s original suit in September, the scandal continued to impede Goguen’s efforts to operate his new VC fund. Goguen stopped short of celebrating the verdict as a victory. “I’ve become jaded,” he said.At Sequoia, Goguen specialized in finding and funding technology startups that specialized in networking and cybersecurity. Initial public offerings and sales of some of those companies to Cisco Systems Inc. delivered riches to Goguen and the VC firm. Baptiste’s suit in 2016 had an immediate impact, with Sequoia scrubbing Goguen from the company website and removing him from the boards of 11 companies. Sequoia said at the time that the allegations against Goguen were “unproven and unrelated” to the firm. “Still, we decided his departure was appropriate,” Sequoia said. A spokeswoman for the firm declined to comment on the new ruling.Goguen and Baptiste have said they met in 2002 at strip club in Dallas where she was working, and they began spending time together. In 2014, Goguen paid Baptiste $10 million in what was to be the first of four installments to sever communication and keep details of their affair and other allegations under wraps.In her 2016 complaint, Baptiste alleged that Goguen sexually abused her for more than a decade, infected her and then reneged on a promise to pay the full $40 million. Goguen countersued, calling the affair consensual and accusing her of extortion. Goguen claimed he stopped paying her because she violated their contract by continuing to contact him and then broke their confidentiality agreement with her suit.Baptiste soon parted ways with her attorney and claimed that Goguen’s lawyers were working with a private investigator to stalk her. She has said Goguen was using his wealth and power to overwhelm her.Last year, Goguen defeated Baptiste’s suit before it went to trial. A judge ruled in September that Baptiste had failed to provide evidence for her claims or undergo mental and physical examinations required by the court.In the December decision on Goguen’s countersuit, Judge Danny Chou ruled that Baptiste forged the date and results of medical tests accusing Goguen of giving her the infection. He found that Goguen agreed to the payment in order to stop Baptiste from spreading false claims to create a “media circus.”Chou also found Baptiste fraudulently solicited donations from Goguen for a nonprofit she established called Every Girl Counts. The organization was supposed to help feed, clothe and shelter three dozen young girls. But Baptiste didn’t provide any such services and instead spent more than $40,000 of the charity’s funds to commission fantasy paintings of herself, according to the ruling.Seeing the countersuit through was a necessary step toward clearing his name, Goguen said. After defeating Baptiste’s suit a few months ago, Goguen said the conclusion had the opposite effect of what he expected. Silicon Valley Bank and an angel investing group refused to work with him because, even though the allegations weren’t true, they didn’t want to invite negative news coverage, Goguen said.Goguen hopes the new ruling puts the matter to rest. He said if Baptiste pays back the money, he’ll donate it to charity. Goguen is now focused on his Montana-based VC firm, Two Bear Capital. He said he contributed $15 million to the initial fund, which has backed seven startups. He has no plans to return to Sequoia or Silicon Valley.The case is Baptiste v. Goguen, CIV537691, Superior Court of California, San Mateo County (San Mateo).(Updates with Baptiste comment in the fourth paragraph.)To contact the reporter on this story: Lizette Chapman in San Francisco at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Mark Milian at firstname.lastname@example.org, Peter BlumbergFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Twenty years ago, writing in Fortune magazine, I dubbed the 1990s “the Nasdaq Decade.” And why not? Practically from the moment the browser company Netscape went public, the tech stocks that dominated the Nasdaq stock exchange only went up. Cisco Systems Inc. rose 125,000% in the 1990s. Dell Technologies Inc. was up 72,000%. Shares of EToys quadrupled on their first day of trading in 1999. The Nasdaq itself rose 685%.But a few months after the decade ended, the internet bubble burst, and by 2002 the Nasdaq had declined 78%. The tech highfliers that had soared in the 1990s either went bankrupt or their valuations crashed back to earth.Financially speaking, the 2010s have been characterized by corporate mergers, aggressive activist investors, out-of-control CEO pay and “maximizing shareholder value.” But more than anything, it has been a decade awash in private equity deals. I therefore dub it the private equity decade. And I’ll admit that I’m rooting for private equity to get a comeuppance similar to the one that took place in tech after the Nasdaq decade.Private equity deals have been part of the financial landscape for decades, of course. Who can forget KKR’s $25 billion leveraged buyout (as they were called then) of RJR Nabisco in the late 1980s — a deal memorialized in the classic book “Barbarians at the Gate?” Indeed, some of the biggest private equity deals on record — TXU Energy, First Data, Alltel, Hilton Worldwide — took place in the frothy years before the 2008 financial crisis.What was different in the 2010s was less the size of the deals as their proliferation. In 2009, private equity firms completed 1,927 deals worth $142 billion, according to the financial data firm Pitchbook. By 2018, there were 5,180 private equity deals worth $727 billion.Why so many deals? One reason is more firms are holding more capital than they know what to do with; Bain & Co. recently estimated that private equity firms have a staggering $2 trillion in “dry powder” that they need to deploy. But another reason is that there just aren’t as many big deals available as there used to be, so firms have had to move down the food chain to find companies willing to be bought out. Many, if not most, of the deals in the past few years have been for less than $500 million. I half expect the bodega down the street to be bought out.What has also become clear this decade is the high-minded rationale the private equity industry once used to justify its deals has largely evaporated. You don’t hear much anymore about how taking a company private will remove short-term incentives, impose necessary restructuring, yadda, yadda, yadda.The main thing private equity has done this decade is to pile debt onto companies — imposing repayment costs while pulling out fees and dividends that have no bearing on what the private equity firm has actually done. Famously, Toys “R” Us went bankrupt because it was buried in private equity debt. So did Gymboree, Sports Authority, Linens ’n Things, and many others. In 2017, when the Limited announced it was shutting down its 250 stores — and throwing its employees out of work — the private equity firm that owned it, Sun Capital Partners Inc., reported to investors that it had nearly doubled its money, thanks to the dividends and fees it had paid itself.One private equity skeptic, Daniel Rasmussen, conducted a study to see the effect private equity firms had on the companies they bought. Using a database of 390 deals with more than $700 billion in enterprise value, he found that:In 54 percent of the transactions we examined, revenue growth slowed. In 45 percent, margins contracted. And in 55 percent, capex spending as a percentage of sales declined. Most private equity firms are cutting long-term investments, not increasing them, resulting in slower growth, not faster growth.Instead, he continued, there is a new paradigm for understanding the PE model:As an industry, PE firms take control of businesses to increase debt and redirect spending from capital expenditures and other forms of investment toward paying down that debt. As a result, or in tandem, the growth of the business slows. That is a simple, structural change, not a grand shift in strategy or a change that really requires any expertise in management.In other words, whatever larger purpose private equity might have once had, the 2010s exposed an industry that cared about lining its own pockets — often at the expense of the companies it bought. It has become dealmaking for its own sake.It seems to me that there are two likely consequences for the devolution of private equity in this decade. The first is that when the business cycle finally turns, the consequences for the thousands of companies carrying private equity debt are likely to be severe. As increasing amounts of capital have chased deals this decade, purchase prices have increased drastically. Rasmussen reports that in 2013, private equity deals were done at an average of 8.9 times adjusted earnings. Today, that number has risen to 11 times adjusted earnings. That means the debt loads are becoming heavier.The second consequence is political. If the Democrats take the Senate or the presidency — or both — the private equity model is going to be under sustained attack. Titans like Henry Kravis and Steve Schwarzman will be hauled before Congress and berated for the industry’s practices. Already, Elizabeth Warren has put forth a proposal to rein in private equity — she calls it the “Stop Wall Street Looting Act.” Among other things, it would give workers rights when a bankruptcy takes place and would put private equity firms “on the hook for the debts of companies they buy.”One other thing: In this decade of growing income inequality, nothing symbolized the gap between the haves and the have-nots like private equity. When it can walk away enriched while companies it owns go bankrupt — is that really the way capitalism is supposed to work? Perhaps the 2020s will be the decade when it starts to work for everyone again.To contact the author of this story: Joe Nocera at email@example.comTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Daniel Niemi at firstname.lastname@example.orgThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Joe Nocera is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering business. He has written business columns for Esquire, GQ and the New York Times, and is the former editorial director of Fortune. His latest project is the Bloomberg-Wondery podcast "The Shrink Next Door."For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
Cisco Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ:CSCO) is about to trade ex-dividend in the next 2 days. Ex-dividend means that investors...