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Western Economies On Brink Of Recession As Russia Sanctions Escalate

Western Economies On Brink Of Recession As Russia Sanctions Escalate

By John Kemp, Senior Market Analyst at Reuters

U.S. and European leaders…

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Western Economies On Brink Of Recession As Russia Sanctions Escalate

By John Kemp, Senior Market Analyst at Reuters

U.S. and European leaders now face an unpleasant choice as they decide how aggressively to use economic sanctions in response to Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine.

The moral imperative is to exert maximum economic pressure rapidly on Russia to end the fighting in Ukraine as quickly as possible and repel Russian forces. But the economic imperative is to protect businesses and employment at home, minimise the fallout for lower income households and sustain support for sanctions policies.

In mid-February, top policymakers appeared to have thought they could reconcile these objectives through a carefully controlled sanctions escalation strategy exempting oil and gas trade. But that plan has broken down as a result of Russia's slow progress on the battlefield and immense diplomatic and public pressure on U.S. and European leaders to maximise sanctions swiftly.

U.S. and European policymakers must choose between imposing maximum pressure on Russia by cutting off oil and gas purchases or a more modest approach that will avert recession.

Recession Indicators

Even before the invasion, the rapid economic rebound after the pandemic was beginning to decelerate, price increases were accelerating and interest rates were set to rise. The flattening U.S. Treasury yield curve indicated a heightened probability of a mid-cycle slowdown or end-of-cycle recession in the next year.

Russia's invasion and the sanctions that have followed super-charged these trends, disrupting supply chains, sending energy and food prices soaring and flattening the yield curve further. 

The financial crisis in 2008/2009 and the pandemic in 2020/2021 were demand-side shocks that could be offset by lowering interest rates, buying bonds, cutting taxes and boosting unemployment insurance. But the invasion and sanctions are a supply-side shocks that have cut the global economy’s production capacity so they cannot be offset in the same way.

Boosting demand by more bond buying, cutting taxes or increasing government spending would simply worsen the production-consumption gap and fuel even faster inflation.

The crisis threatens to disrupt global trade in critical raw materials and industrial components ranging from aluminium, nickel and noble gases to car parts, ocean shipping and overland rail freight.

But the biggest and most immediate impact is being felt in petroleum and natural gas, where Russia is one of the world’s top exporters, and grain, where both Russia and Ukraine are major global suppliers.

Energy and food prices, which were already rising before the invasion, are now climbing at the fastest rate for 50 years, at a time when wages are increasing slowly, putting pressure on businesses and household finances.

Lower income households in advanced and developing economies will be hit particularly hard since they spend a much higher share of their income on food and fuel and have fewer options to modify spending patterns.

Uncontrolled Escalation

Top U.S. and European policymakers seem to have been alert to the risks when threatening to impose unprecedented sanctions in an effort to deter Russia’s invasion. U.S. and European sanctions were carefully crafted to exclude trade in oil, gas and other energy items from the embargo and to permit energy-related financial transactions.

Planning had assumed that sanctions would be intensified progressively and measures targeting oil and gas flows would be imposed last, if at all.

The controlled escalation strategy was designed to deter and punish Russia while limiting costs for motorists, households and energy-intensive industries in the United States and Europe.

But both sides of the conflict appear to have miscalculated the resolution of the other and underestimated what it would take to bring the conflict to a swift end.

For Russia, that meant misjudging its ability to deliver a rapid victory before sanctions plunged its economy into turmoil.

The United States and Europe, meanwhile, seemed to have assumed incremental sanctions could deter an invasion or bring it to a quick halt before the wider economic fallout was felt. For the West, the result is now broader sanctions that could last longer than anticipated, increasing economic disruption.

Limiting Disruption

U.S. and European policymakers seem to have calculated they could take a strong public line on sanctions while letting oil and gas traders to continue purchasing Russian fuel. But most traders have concluded that the legal and reputational risks are too great and have shunned Russian exports, bringing oil flows to a halt. Shell felt the impact acutely. It purchased a Russian crude cargo on March 4, only to be met with such a public outcry that on March 8 it apologized and said it would stop spot purchases immediately.

Now political pressure is mounting in the United States, and to a lesser extent in Europe which is far more reliant on Russia, for a complete ban on Russian oil and gas imports.

The possibility that the United States and Europe might initiate an embargo has already sent oil and gas prices surging to levels that will be unaffordable for many households and firms if sustained for an extended period.

In response, Russia has indicated it could cut oil and gas exports if economic warfare continued to escalate, a move that would trigger an immediate full-blown energy crisis.

There is no way the United States and Europe can replace Russian oil and gas exports fully within the next 12 months or absorb the consequences of a further price spike without entering recession.

European economies, with much bigger economic exposure to Russia, are particularly at risk of heading into a downturn.

Phased Sanctions?

U.S. and European policymakers may try to announce that they will progressively reduce oil and gas purchases from Russia according to a fixed timetable over the next two to three years.  Such a phased reduction in Russian oil and gas purchases every six months would be similar to previous progressive sanctions on Iran's oil exports.

Such a move would give more time to secure replacement supplies from others including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iran, Venezuela and the U.S. shale industry over the 12-36 months. It could also give U.S. and European policymakers negotiating leverage with Russia while reducing, if not eliminating, the immediate upward pressure on energy prices.

Progressive sanctions might even prove more effective if they limit the economic fallout in North America and Europe, and make them more economically and politically sustainable in the medium term.

Tyler Durden Tue, 03/08/2022 - 23:00

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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.

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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