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Wall Street Reacts To Ryan Cohen Going Activist On China’s Tech Giant Alibaba

Wall Street Reacts To Ryan Cohen Going Activist On China’s Tech Giant Alibaba

Until yesterday, Ryan Cohen was best known as the vice-chairman…



Wall Street Reacts To Ryan Cohen Going Activist On China's Tech Giant Alibaba

Until yesterday, Ryan Cohen was best known as the vice-chairman of meme stonk meltups and short squeeze, famous for generating eye-popping returns from investments in just a few months, including fueling repeat short squeeze in doomed stocks like GameStop (many of these staggering gains evaporated just as fast after Cohen pulled the rug on his followers and high tailed it out of GameStop and Bed Bath), and also for building into a $3 billion pet supply firm, a feat which to some has cemented his reputation as a lite version of Elon Musk.

So Monday's news that Ryan Cohen has decided to invest "several hundred million" in China's marquee stock, Alibaba (and according to some, megafraud), will be a key test for the meme-stock icon in a country where individual attempts to drive change at companies and generate stock returns remain a novelty.

As the WSJ reported, Cohen has taken a stake in Alibaba and is pushing the e-commerce leader to buy back more of its shares, in a rare case of activism targeting a prominent Chinese firm. While the stake is tiny in comparison to Alibaba’s market capitalization of nearly $300 billion, Cohen has a wide following among individual investors who often follow his lead.

Cohen, whose net worth is over $2.5 billion and whose stocks portfolio including Apple as well as Wells Fargo and Citigroup, first contacted Alibaba’s board in August to express his view that the company’s shares are deeply undervalued based on his belief that it can achieve double-digit sales and nearly 20% free-cash-flow growth over the next five years.

It's unclear if Alibaba will bother responding, especially now that China's government bought a "golden share" in tech giants Alibaba and Tencent to ensure influence over tech giants, and not to replace one pesky billionaire - Jack Ma - with another. We do know that subsequent to Cohen’s initial communication, Alibaba in November announced its board approved expanding the company’s share-repurchase program by $15 billion, to $40 billion, while also extending it through March of 2025. Alibaba said it had repurchased roughly $18 billion of its shares under its existing buyback plan, as of Nov. 16. Cohen has communicated to Alibaba’s board that the share-repurchase plan could be boosted by another $20 billion, to roughly $60 billion, the people said.

The good news for Cohen is that Alibaba’s shares have already climbed about 85% from a multiyear low in October, with its ADRs closing at $117.01 on Friday, but are still down from a high of over $300 reached in late 2020 as technology and other shares rallied in the early days of the pandemic.  Still, assuming that Cohen bought BABA shares in recent months, he is likely already sitting on a generous profit.

So will this particular activist campaign be successful or will the attempt to change policy in a systematically important Chinese company crash and burn? Before we address this, here is a snapshot of what Cohen has achieved in the stock market since 2020 courtesy of Bloomberg.

Meme-Stock Idol

GameStop soared 6,347% between August 2020 and its peak in January 2021, after an investment firm managed by the co-founder of Chewy disclosed that it had acquired a stake in the troubled video-game retailer. The stock has been trending lower since that astonishing rally.


Bed Bath & Beyond jumped 68% in a matter of about three weeks after Cohen’s investment firm RC Ventures disclosed last March a large stake in the retailer and asked that it consider a sale of the whole company. It has since dropped 87% from that peak, exacerbated by fears of an impending bankruptcy.

Pre-Meme Stock Days

Cohen plowed virtually all of his proceeds from the 2017 sale of the pet retailer Chewy into just two stocks: Apple and Wells Fargo. Cohen said at that time that his portfolio, when including dividends and a few other stock holdings, has returned more than 40% over the previous three years, beating the market.

* * *

With that in mind what does Wall Street think? According to several analysts, Ryan Cohen buying into Alibaba is another reason for optimism over China’s tech stocks, which have been getting a boost recently from signs that regulators are ending a years-long crackdown on the sector. Alibaba’s shares closed 1% higher in Hong Kong, paring an earlier advance of as much as 3%, after people familiar with the matter said Cohen has taken a stake in the e-commerce leader and is pushing the firm to buy back more of its shares.

The Cohen news follows a string of positive developments for the sector, the most notable of which was the approval of $1.5 billion in funding for billionaire Jack Ma’s Ant Group. Cohen’s move is in line with a recent wave of foreign investors, who were previously underweight on Chinese stocks, returning to the asset class amid growing optimism over the country’s reopening and pro-growth measures.

Here’s what market participants are saying: 

Union Bancaire Privee (Vey-Sern Ling)

  • “It’s positive for the stock because it helps to raise confidence, especially among Western investors who have been skeptical of China”
  • It also highlights “how undervalued the shares are, and if he encourages more buybacks then that helps shareholder returns too”
  • Cohen’s forecasts are not very different from consensus so they’re not unrealistic

Saxo Capital (Redmond Wong)

  • Cohen’s entry should work as an additional positive to get more overseas investors interested in Alibaba again
  • “Buying from high- profile investors like Cohen will add to the positive sentiment toward A-shares among overseas investors”

Grow Investment (Hao Hong)

  • Cohen is right in seeing value in Alibaba as the company is a “cash-flow machine”
  • “While Ryan is influential and the news is positive for BABA, he’s unlikely to have much sway with the board, in which the Chinese authority has golden share”
  • Allibaba’s momentum remains positive but the share price has not been going up because of Cohen

Mariana UFP (Jin Rui Oh)

  • “Cohen’s entry can be broadly positive for Alibaba’s stock, and given his wide following it should lift sentiment for Chinese tech generally”

Bloomberg Intelligence (Catherine Lim)

  • Cohen’s presence on Alibaba’s board might help raise public shareholders’ governance over strategic decisions at the company, particularly as Beijing takes a stake in the internet giant
Tyler Durden Tue, 01/17/2023 - 11:24

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Four burning questions about the future of the $16.5B Novo-Catalent deal

To build or to buy? That’s a classic question for pharma boardrooms, and Novo Nordisk is going with both.
Beyond spending billions of dollars to expand…



To build or to buy? That’s a classic question for pharma boardrooms, and Novo Nordisk is going with both.

Beyond spending billions of dollars to expand its own production capacity for its weight loss drugs, the Danish drugmaker said Monday it will pay $11 billion to acquire three manufacturing plants from Catalent. It’s part of a broader $16.5 billion deal with Novo Holdings, the investment arm of the pharma’s parent group, which agreed to acquire the contract manufacturer and take it private.

It’s a big deal for all parties, with potential ripple effects across the biotech ecosystem. Here’s a look at some of the most pressing questions to watch after Monday’s announcement.

Why did Novo do this?

Novo Holdings isn’t the most obvious buyer for Catalent, particularly after last year’s on-and-off M&A interest from the serial acquirer Danaher. But the deal could benefit both Novo Holdings and Novo Nordisk.

Novo Nordisk’s biggest challenge has been simply making enough of the weight loss drug Wegovy and diabetes therapy Ozempic. On last week’s earnings call, Novo Nordisk CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen said the company isn’t constrained by capital in its efforts to boost manufacturing. Rather, the main challenge is the limited amount of capabilities out there, he said.

“Most pharmaceutical companies in the world would be shopping among the same manufacturers,” he said. “There’s not an unlimited amount of machinery and people to build it.”

While Novo was already one of Catalent’s major customers, the manufacturer has been hamstrung by its own balance sheet. With roughly $5 billion in debt on its books, it’s had to juggle paying down debt with sufficiently investing in its facilities. That’s been particularly challenging in keeping pace with soaring demand for GLP-1 drugs.

Novo, on the other hand, has the balance sheet to funnel as much money as needed into the plants in Italy, Belgium, and Indiana. It’s also struggled to make enough of its popular GLP-1 drugs to meet their soaring demand, with documented shortages of both Ozempic and Wegovy.

The impact won’t be immediate. The parties expect the deal to close near the end of 2024. Novo Nordisk said it expects the three new sites to “gradually increase Novo Nordisk’s filling capacity from 2026 and onwards.”

As for the rest of Catalent — nearly 50 other sites employing thousands of workers — Novo Holdings will take control. The group previously acquired Altasciences in 2021 and Ritedose in 2022, so the Catalent deal builds on a core investing interest in biopharma services, Novo Holdings CEO Kasim Kutay told Endpoints News.

Kasim Kutay

When asked about possible site closures or layoffs, Kutay said the team hasn’t thought about that.

“That’s not our track record. Our track record is to invest in quality businesses and help them grow,” he said. “There’s always stuff to do with any asset you own, but we haven’t bought this company to do some of the stuff you’re talking about.”

What does it mean for Catalent’s customers? 

Until the deal closes, Catalent will operate as a standalone business. After it closes, Novo Nordisk said it will honor its customer obligations at the three sites, a spokesperson said. But they didn’t answer a question about what happens when those contracts expire.

The wrinkle is the long-term future of the three plants that Novo Nordisk is paying for. Those sites don’t exclusively pump out Wegovy, but that could be the logical long-term aim for the Danish drugmaker.

The ideal scenario is that pricing and timelines remain the same for customers, said Nicole Paulk, CEO of the gene therapy startup Siren Biotechnology.

Nicole Paulk

“The name of the group that you’re going to send your check to is now going to be Novo Holdings instead of Catalent, but otherwise everything remains the same,” Paulk told Endpoints. “That’s the best-case scenario.”

In a worst case, Paulk said she feared the new owners could wind up closing sites or laying off Catalent groups. That could create some uncertainty for customers looking for a long-term manufacturing partner.

Are shareholders and regulators happy? 

The pandemic was a wild ride for Catalent’s stock, with shares surging from about $40 to $140 and then crashing back to earth. The $63.50 share price for the takeover is a happy ending depending on the investor.

On that point, the investing giant Elliott Investment Management is satisfied. Marc Steinberg, a partner at Elliott, called the agreement “an outstanding outcome” that “clearly maximizes value for Catalent stockholders” in a statement.

Elliott helped kick off a strategic review last August that culminated in the sale agreement. Compared to Catalent’s stock price before that review started, the deal pays a nearly 40% premium.

Alessandro Maselli

But this is hardly a victory lap for CEO Alessandro Maselli, who took over in July 2022 when Catalent’s stock price was north of $100. Novo’s takeover is a tacit acknowledgment that Maselli could never fully right the ship, as operational problems plagued the company throughout 2023 while it was limited by its debt.

Additional regulatory filings in the next few weeks could give insight into just how competitive the sale process was. William Blair analysts said they don’t expect a competing bidder “given the organic investments already being pursued at other leading CDMOs and the breadth and scale of Catalent’s operations.”

The Blair analysts also noted the companies likely “expect to spend some time educating relevant government agencies” about the deal, given the lengthy closing timeline. Given Novo Nordisk’s ascent — it’s now one of Europe’s most valuable companies — paired with the limited number of large contract manufacturers, antitrust regulators could be interested in taking a close look.

Are Catalent’s problems finally a thing of the past?

Catalent ran into a mix of financial and operational problems over the past year that played no small part in attracting the interest of an activist like Elliott.

Now with a deal in place, how quickly can Novo rectify those problems? Some of the challenges were driven by the demands of being a publicly traded company, like failing to meet investors’ revenue expectations or even filing earnings reports on time.

But Catalent also struggled with its business at times, with a range of manufacturing delays, inspection reports and occasionally writing down acquisitions that didn’t pan out. Novo’s deep pockets will go a long way to a turnaround, but only the future will tell if all these issues are fixed.

Kutay said his team is excited by the opportunity and was satisfied with the due diligence it did on the company.

“We believe we’re buying a strong company with a good management team and good prospects,” Kutay said. “If that wasn’t the case, I don’t think we’d be here.”

Amber Tong and Reynald Castañeda contributed reporting.

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Petrina Kamya, Ph.D., Head of AI Platforms at Insilico Medicine, presents at BIO CEO & Investor Conference

Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb….



Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb. 26-27 at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City. Dr. Kamya will speak as part of the panel “AI within Biopharma: Separating Value from Hype,” on Feb. 27, 1pm ET along with Michael Nally, CEO of Generate: Biomedicines and Liz Schwarzbach, PhD, CBO of BigHat Biosciences.

Credit: Insilico Medicine

Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb. 26-27 at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City. Dr. Kamya will speak as part of the panel “AI within Biopharma: Separating Value from Hype,” on Feb. 27, 1pm ET along with Michael Nally, CEO of Generate: Biomedicines and Liz Schwarzbach, PhD, CBO of BigHat Biosciences.

The session will look at how the latest artificial intelligence (AI) tools – including generative AI and large language models – are currently being used to advance the discovery and design of new drugs, and which technologies are still in development. 

The BIO CEO & Investor Conference brings together over 1,000 attendees and more than 700 companies across industry and institutional investment to discuss the future investment landscape of biotechnology. Sessions focus on topics such as therapeutic advancements, market outlook, and policy priorities.

Insilico Medicine is a leading, clinical stage AI-driven drug discovery company that has raised over $400m in investments since it was founded in 2014. Dr. Kamya leads the development of the Company’s end-to-end generative AI platform, Pharma.AI from Insilico’s AI R&D Center in Montreal. Using modern machine learning techniques in the context of chemistry and biology, the platform has driven the discovery and design of 30+ new therapies, with five in clinical stages – for cancer, fibrosis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and COVID-19. The Company’s lead drug, for the chronic, rare lung condition idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, is the first AI-designed drug for an AI-discovered target to reach Phase II clinical trials with patients. Nine of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies have used Insilico’s AI platform to advance their programs, and the Company has a number of major strategic licensing deals around its AI-designed therapeutic assets, including with Sanofi, Exelixis and Menarini. 


About Insilico Medicine

Insilico Medicine, a global clinical stage biotechnology company powered by generative AI, is connecting biology, chemistry, and clinical trials analysis using next-generation AI systems. The company has developed AI platforms that utilize deep generative models, reinforcement learning, transformers, and other modern machine learning techniques for novel target discovery and the generation of novel molecular structures with desired properties. Insilico Medicine is developing breakthrough solutions to discover and develop innovative drugs for cancer, fibrosis, immunity, central nervous system diseases, infectious diseases, autoimmune diseases, and aging-related diseases. 

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Another country is getting ready to launch a visa for digital nomads

Early reports are saying Japan will soon have a digital nomad visa for high-earning foreigners.



Over the last decade, the explosion of remote work that came as a result of improved technology and the pandemic has allowed an increasing number of people to become digital nomads. 

When looked at more broadly as anyone not required to come into a fixed office but instead moves between different locations such as the home and the coffee shop, the latest estimate shows that there were more than 35 million such workers in the world by the end of 2023 while over half of those come from the United States.

Related: There is a new list of cities that are best for digital nomads

While remote work has also allowed many to move to cheaper places and travel around the world while still bringing in income, working outside of one's home country requires either dual citizenship or work authorization — the global shift toward remote work has pushed many countries to launch specific digital nomad visas to boost their economies and bring in new residents.

Japan is a very popular destination for U.S. tourists. 


This popular vacation destination will soon have a nomad visa

Spain, Portugal, Indonesia, Malaysia, Costa Rica, Brazil, Latvia and Malta are some of the countries currently offering specific visas for foreigners who want to live there while bringing in income from abroad.

More Travel:

With the exception of a few, Asian countries generally have stricter immigration laws and were much slower to launch these types of visas that some of the countries with weaker economies had as far back as 2015. As first reported by the Japan Times, the country's Immigration Services Agency ended up making the leap toward a visa for those who can earn more than ¥10 million ($68,300 USD) with income from another country.

The Japanese government has not yet worked out the specifics of how long the visa will be valid for or how much it will cost — public comment on the proposal is being accepted throughout next week. 

That said, early reports say the visa will be shorter than the typical digital nomad option that allows foreigners to live in a country for several years. The visa will reportedly be valid for six months or slightly longer but still no more than a year — along with the ability to work, this allows some to stay beyond the 90-day tourist period typically afforded to those from countries with visa-free agreements.

'Not be given a residence card of residence certificate'

While one will be able to reapply for the visa after the time runs out, this can only be done by exiting the country and being away for six months before coming back again — becoming a permanent resident on the pathway to citizenship is an entirely different process with much more strict requirements.

"Those living in Japan with the digital nomad visa will not be given a residence card or a residence certificate, which provide access to certain government benefits," reports the news outlet. "The visa cannot be renewed and must be reapplied for, with this only possible six months after leaving the countr

The visa will reportedly start in March and also allow holders to bring their spouses and families with them. To start using the visa, holders will also need to purchase private health insurance from their home country while taxes on any money one earns will also need to be paid through one's home country.

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