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Week Ahead – RBA rate decision, Fed speak and BoE monetary policy hearing

US The month started with a bang with the US jobs report but the following week is looking a little more subdued, starting with the bank holiday on Monday….

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The month started with a bang with the US jobs report but the following week is looking a little more subdued, starting with the bank holiday on Monday. Economic data is largely made up of revisions and tier-three releases. The exceptions being the ISM services PMI on Wednesday and jobless claims on Thursday. That said, revised productivity and unit labor costs on Thursday will also attract attention given the Fed’s obsession with input cost, wages in particular.

We’ll also hear from a variety of Fed policymakers including Susan Collins on Wednesday (Beige Book also released), Patrick Harker, John Williams, and Raphael Bostic on Thursday, and Bostic again on Friday. 

Eurozone

Next week is littered with tier-three events despite the large number of releases in that time. Final inflation, GDP and PMIs, regional retail sales figures and surveys, and trade figures make up the bulk of next week’s reports. Not inconsequential, per se, but not typically big market events unless the PMI and CPI reports bring massive revisions. We will hear from some ECB policymakers earlier in the week which will probably be the highlight, including Christine Lagarde, Fabio Panetta, Philip Lane, and Isabel Schnabel.

UK 

Next week offers very little on the data front but the Monetary Policy Report Hearing in front of the Treasury Select Committee on Wednesday is usually one to watch. While the committee’s views are typically quite polished by that point, the questioning is intense and can provide a more in-depth understanding of where the MPC stands on interest rates. 

Russia

Inflation in Russia is on the rise again and is expected to hit 5.1% on an annual basis in August, up from 4.3% in July. That is why the CBR has started raising rates aggressively again – raised to 12% from 8.5% on 15 August. Even so, the ruble is not performing well and isn’t too far from the August highs just before the superhike. We’ll hear from Deputy Governor Zabotkin on Tuesday, a few days before the CPI release.

South Africa

Further signs of disinflation in the PPI figures on Thursday will have been welcomed by the SARB but they won’t yet be declaring the job done despite the substantial progress to date. The focus next week will be on GDP figures on Tuesday, with 0.2% quarterly growth expected, and 1.3% annual. The whole economy PMI will be released earlier the same day.

Turkey

CPI inflation figures will be eyed next week, with annual price growth seen hitting 55.9%, up from 47.8% in July. The CBRT is all too aware of the risks, hence the surprisingly large rate hike – from 17.5% to 25% – last month. The currency rebounded strongly after the decision but it has been drifting lower since, falling back near the pre-meeting levels. There’s more work to be done.

Switzerland

Another relatively quiet week for the Swiss, with GDP on Monday – seen posting a modest 0.1% quarterly growth – and unemployment on Thursday, which is expected to remain unchanged. Neither is likely to sway the SNB when it comes to its next meeting on 21 September, with markets now favoring no change and a 30% chance of a 25 basis point hike.

China

Two key data to focus on for the coming week; the non-government compiled Caixin Services PMI for August out on Tuesday which is expected at 54, almost unchanged from July’s reading of 54.1. If it turns out as expected, it will mark the eighth consecutive month of expansion in China’s services sector which indicates resilience despite the recent spate of deflationary pressures and contagion risk from the fallout of major indebted property developers that failed to make timely coupon payments on their respective bonds obligations.

Next up will be the balance of trade data for August on Thursday with export growth anticipated to decline at a slower pace of 10% y/y from -14.5% y/y recorded in July. Imports are expected to contract further by 11% y/y from -12.4% y/y in July.

Interestingly, several key leading economic data announced last week have indicated the recent doldrums in China will start to stabilize and potentially turn a corner. The NBS manufacturing PMI for August came in better than expected at 49.7 (consensus 49.4), and above July’s reading of 49.3 which makes it three consecutive months of improvement, albeit still in contraction.  

In addition, two sub-components of August’s NBS manufacturing PMI; new orders and production are now in expansionary mode with both rising to hit their highest level since March 2023 at 50.2 and 51.9 respectively. Also, the Caixin manufacturing PMI for August has painted a more vibrant picture with a move back into expansion at 51 from 49.2 in July, and above the consensus of 49.3; its strongest pace of growth since February 2023.

Hence, it seems that the current piecemeal fiscal stimulus measures have started to trickle down positively into China’s economy.

India

The services PMI for August will be released on Tuesday where the consensus is expecting a slight dip in expansion to 61 from 62.3 in July, its highest growth in over 13 years. Capping off the week will be August’s bank loan growth out on Friday.

Australia

The all-important RBA monetary policy decision will be released on Tuesday. A third consecutive month of no change in the policy cash rate is expected, at 4.1%, as the recently released monthly CPI indicator has slowed to 4.9% y/y from 5.4% y/y, its slowest pace of increase since February 2022 and below consensus of 5.2% y/y.

Interestingly, the ASX 30-day interbank cash rate futures on the September 2023 contract have indicated a 14% chance of a 25-basis point cut on the cash rate to 3.85% for this coming Tuesday’s RBA meeting based on data as of 31 August 2023. That’s a slight increase in odds from a 12% chance of a 25-bps rate cut inferred a week ago.

On Wednesday, Q2 GDP growth will be out where consensus is expecting it to come in at 1.7% y/y, a growth slowdown from 2.3% y/y recorded in Q1.

To wrap up the week, the balance of trade for July will be out on Thursday where the consensus is expecting the trade surplus to narrow to A$10.5 billion from a three-month high of A$11.32 billion recorded in June. 

New Zealand

Two data to watch, Q2 terms of trade on Monday and the global dairy trade price index on Tuesday.

Japan

A quiet week ahead with the preliminary leading economic index out on Thursday and the finalized Q2 GDP to be released on Friday. The preliminary figure indicated growth of 6% on an annualized basis that surpassed Q1’s GDP of 3.7% and consensus expectations of 3.1%; its steepest pace of increase since Q4 2020 and a third consecutive quarter of annualized economic expansion.

Singapore

Retail sales for July will be out on Tuesday with another month of lackluster growth expected at 0.9% y/y from 1.1% y/y in June; its softest growth since July 2021 as the Singapore economy grappled with a weak external environment. On a monthly basis, a slower pace of contraction is expected for July at -0.1% m/m versus -0.8% m/m in June.

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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…

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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….

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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. www.insilico.com 


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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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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