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Shake Shack's Great American Shake Sale Returns May 1

Shake Shack's Great American Shake Sale Returns May 1


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The third annual Great American Shake Sale returns to Shake Shacks across the nation in May

All proceeds from the Great American Shake Sale will benefit Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry campaign.

The third annual Great American Shake Sale, benefiting Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign will return to Shake Shacks across the country on May 1st.

For the entire month of May, all Shake Shack locations (except stadiums, airports, and international locations) will participate in the fundraising campaign.

Guests who donate $2 or more to the No Kid Hungry campaign will receive a voucher for a hand-spun shake for their next Shake Shack visit. All donations will benefit the campaign.

“We launched the Great American Shake Sale two years ago to support an organization and cause that we’re very passionate about,” said Shake Shack CEO Randy Garutti. “This initiative allows us to have an open and honest dialogue with our guests and staff about the serious issue of childhood hunger in America. The response has been absolutely incredible and we can’t thank our guests enough for all their support.

Shack Shack will offer seven dessert-inspired frozen custard flavors (one for each day of the week) for the month of May: Caramel Praline Cake, Lemon Meringue, Buttery Sugar Cookie, Oatmeal Crème Pie, Banana Bread, Chocolate Cheesecake, and Black & White Cookie.

Karen Lo is an associate editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @appleplexy.


These salads can make you fat (and broke)

Salad seems to be the perfect lunch: light, healthy, not too expensive.

For around $10, salad delivers a complete meal without the highly caloric bread found in its chief rival, sandwiches. Plus, salad is easy to eat at work and is packed with the fresh vegetables, hearty whole grains and clean protein needed to fuel the secret gym warrior hidden deep inside all of us.

But what if salad is a big fat lie — literally? As we found while looking at the most popular menu items at five of the nation’s favorite salad spots, plenty of these seemingly innocent lunches are bloated in both price and calories.

Here is exactly what we found:

Chop’t is the most recognizable name on our list, and for good reason. First on the salad scene, they pitch themselves as “Farm-to-Fast Food™,” offer up an ungodly number of options, and are seemingly everywhere. Despite their Starbucks-of-the-salad-world status, however, Chop’t still has some skeletons in their closet of 50 salad add-ons. For example, it costs $2.99 to add healthy grilled chicken to your salad, while their Wisconsin blue cheese (99 cents) is packed with 130 calories. Their popular Cobb salad offering looks like a safe, healthy choice, but in reality that bowl rocks 800 calories. (We used the midpoint of the calorie range for that vinaigrette in our calculations, to be safe.)

To burn off the calories in this innocent-to-the-eye salad, you’d need to do 2 hours and 13 minutes of Pilates, spend an hour and 13 minutes on the elliptical machine or an hour and 40 minutes chopping wood. That’ll warm you right up.

2. Just Salad

Photo: Emil Lendof/New York Post

Just Salad is Chop’t’s low-key and more accessible little sibling who is just obsessed with the gym. In fact, they’re so obsessed with working out and staying thin that each store is assigned a Fitness Ambassador and Nutrition Ambassador to “help bring a healthy and active lifestyle to our already health-conscious customers.” Given their focus on fitness, it is not surprising that the vegetarian Mediterranean Mix is one of their most popular salads. However, within the veggie-loaded salad lurk calorie-bomb add-ins like the 190-calorie scoop of kalamata olives and 110 calories worth of feta cheese. To burn this “light” lunch off, you’d have to do an hour and 9 minutes of Zumba, an hour and 3 minutes of high-intensity P90X, or an hour and 55 minutes of Pilates.

3. Fresh & Co

Unlike Chop’t and Just Salad, Fresh & Co presents itself as the no-nonsense salad destination for people who just want to grab a healthy salad and go. Sure, they spout the ubiquitous foodie jargon about freshness, seasonality and personal trainer-friendly food, but really, Fresh & Co is all about speed and efficiency. Get in, get out, eat your salad, and please come again. But if you slow down, take a deep breath and look a little deeper, you’ll find out that Fresh & Co’s sales pitch is pure nonsense. Take, for instance, the “Chef Designed” South Beach Salad. What do blue cheese, craisins and walnuts have to do with Miami? Why does honey balsamic dressing (250 calories) “perfectly pair” with those ingredients? And finally, who in their right mind would eat this 900-calorie monstrosity in the bikini capital of the United States?! You’d need more exercise than just a walk on the beach to burn off this salad: An hour and 40 minutes of spin class should do the trick, or you could opt for 2 hours and 9 minutes of strenuous hiking or an hour and 20 minutes on the elliptical.

4. Bareburger

Photo: Emil Lendof/New York Post

Unlike the other entries on our list, Bareburger doesn’t bill itself as a salad restaurant, but that is precisely the point. The terrible glory of salad’s seductive scheme is on full display when it is sitting on a menu next to a list of artery-clogging burgers. After all, a salad has to be better for you than a cheeseburger, right? Wrong.

In fact, an entree-size portion of the adorably named Berry Blue packs in more calories than every single signature burger on the Bareburger menu. So the next time you’re in the mood for the Supreme burger, skip the guilt and dive right in. It might be covered in cheddar cheese, bacon, onion rings, chopped fries and special sauce, but at 1,160 calories, it is still less caloric overall than the Berry Blue and its 560-calorie apple cider vinaigrette. To negate the calories of the Berry Blue, you’d need to spend an hour and 51 minutes grunting away in a Crossfit box, 2 hours and 2 minutes jogging or 5 hours and 5 minutes tucking away at barre class.

5. Sweetgreen

Head to Sweetgreen during lunch and prepare to hate the world. It’s filled to the brim with models, wanna-be models, and people who are so good-looking that they don’t feel bad eating next to models. With its glistening white walls, grainy wood tables and shiny metal appliances, the restaurant is a temple for those who want to look damn good while eating damn good-looking food. It is all set up, therefore, to be the ultimate example of salad’s false promise — except it’s not. The salads at Sweetgreen actually are healthy. They actually are full of great pre- and post-workout foods like steelhead salmon, avocado and seaweed. The only knock, if there is a knock, is that they’re expensive, but not that much more expensive than the other salads on our list. So suck it up, swallow your pride, cozy up next to a model and grab a salad like the OMG Omega at Sweetgreen. At 555 calories, with healthy fats like avocado and protein-filled toppers like steelhead, you’ll actually be the better for it. Plan on a leisurely 50 minutes of yoga, an hour and 1 minute of spin or an hour and 51 minutes of sex to burn off this true power lunch.


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China Braces for $1.3 Trillion Maturity Wall as Defaults Surge

(Bloomberg) -- Even by the standards of a record-breaking global credit binge, China’s corporate bond tab stands out: $1.3 trillion of domestic debt payable in the next 12 months.That’s 30% more than what U.S. companies owe, 63% more than in all of Europe and enough money to buy Tesla Inc. twice over. What’s more, it’s all coming due at a time when Chinese borrowers are defaulting on onshore debt at an unprecedented pace.The combination has investors bracing for another turbulent stretch for the world’s second-largest credit market. It’s also underscoring the challenge for Chinese authorities as they work toward two conflicting goals: reducing moral hazard by allowing more defaults, and turning the domestic bond market into a more reliable source of long-term funding.While average corporate bond maturities have increased in the U.S., Europe and Japan in recent years, they’re getting shorter in China as defaults prompt investors to reduce risk. Domestic Chinese bonds issued in the first quarter had an average tenor of 3.02 years, down from 3.22 years for all of last year and on course for the shortest annual average since Fitch Ratings began compiling the data in 2016.“As credit risk increases, everyone wants to limit their exposure by investing in shorter maturities only,” said Iris Pang, chief economist for Greater China at ING Bank NV. “Issuers also want to sell shorter-dated bonds because as defaults rise, longer-dated bonds have even higher borrowing costs.”The move toward shorter maturities has coincided with a Chinese government campaign to instill more discipline in local credit markets, which have long been underpinned by implicit state guarantees. Investors are increasingly rethinking the widely held assumption that authorities will backstop big borrowers amid a string of missed payments by state-owned companies and a selloff in bonds issued by China Huarong Asset Management Co.The country’s onshore defaults have swelled from negligible levels in 2016 to exceed 100 billion yuan ($15.5 billion) for four straight years. That milestone was reached again last month, putting defaults on track for another record annual high.The resulting preference for shorter-dated bonds has exacerbated one of China’s structural challenges: a dearth of long-term institutional money. Even before authorities began allowing more defaults, short-term investments including banks’ wealth management products played an outsized role.Social security funds and insurance firms are the main providers of long-term funding in China, but their presence in the bond market is limited, said Wu Zhaoyin, chief strategist at AVIC Trust Co., a financial firm. “It’s difficult to sell long-dated bonds in China because there is a lack of long-term capital,” Wu said.Chinese authorities have been taking steps to attract long-term investors, including foreign pension funds and university endowments. The government has in recent years scrapped some investment quotas and dismantled foreign ownership limits for life insurers, brokerages and fund managers.But even if those efforts gain traction, it’s not clear Chinese companies will embrace longer maturities. Many prefer selling short-dated bonds because they lack long-term capital management plans, according to Shen Meng, director at Chanson & Co., a Beijing-based boutique investment bank. That applies even for state-owned enterprises, whose senior managers typically get reshuffled by the government every three to five years, Shen said.The upshot is that China’s domestic credit market faces a near constant cycle of refinancing and repayment risk, which threatens to exacerbate volatility as defaults rise. A similar dynamic is also playing out in the offshore market, where maturities total $167 billion over the next 12 months.For ING’s Pang, the cycle is unlikely to change anytime soon. “It may last for another decade in China,” she said.More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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(Bloomberg) -- Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers said cryptocurrencies could stay a feature of global markets as something akin to “digital gold,” even if their importance in economies will remain limited.Speaking at the end of a week in which Bitcoin whipsawed, Summers told Bloomberg Television’s “Wall Street Week” with David Westin that cryptocurrencies offered an alternative to gold for those seeking an asset “separate and apart from the day-to-day workings of governments.”“Gold has been a primary asset of that kind for a long time,” said Summers, a paid contributor to Bloomberg. “Crypto has a chance of becoming an agreed form that people who are looking for safety hold wealth in. My guess is that crypto is here to stay, and probably here to stay as a kind of digital gold.”If cryptocurrencies became even a third of the total value of gold, Summers said that would be a “substantial appreciation from current levels” and that means there’s a “good prospect that crypto will be part of the system for quite a while to come.”Comparing Bitcoin to the yellow metal is common in the crypto community, with various estimates as to whether and how quickly their total market values might equalize.Yassine Elmandjra, crypto analyst at Cathie Wood’s Ark Investment Management LLC, said earlier this month that if gold is assumed to have a market cap of around $10 trillion, “it’s not out of the question that Bitcoin will reach gold parity in the next five years.” With Bitcoin’s market cap around $700 billion, that could mean price appreciation of around 14-fold or more.But Summers said cryptocurrencies do not matter to the overall economy and were unlikely to ever serve as a majority of payments.Summers is on the board of directors of Square Inc. The company said this month that sales in the first quarter more than tripled, driven by skyrocketing Bitcoin purchases through the company’s Cash App.Summers’ comments were echoed by Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, who doubted crypto’s value as a medium of exchange or stable purchasing power, but said some forms of it may continue to exist as an alternative to gold.“Are cryptocurrencies headed for a crash sometime soon? Not necessarily,” Krugman wrote in the New York Times. “One fact that gives even crypto skeptics like me pause is the durability of gold as a highly valued asset.”Summers also said that President Joe Biden’s administration is heading in the “right direction” by asking companies to pay more tax. He argued policy makers in the past had not been guilty of pursuing “too much antitrust” regulation although he warned it would be “badly wrong” to go after companies just because of increasing market share and profits.Returning to his worry that the U.S. economy risks overheating, Summers said the Federal Reserve should be more aware of the inflationary threat.“I don’t think the Fed is projecting in a way that reflects the potential seriousness of the problem,” he said. “I am concerned that with everything that’s going on, the economy may be a bit charging toward a wall.”(Adds Summers is on Square’s board in 8th paragraph)More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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First Warning Sign in the Global Commodity Boom Flashes in China

(Bloomberg) -- One pillar of this year’s blistering commodities rally -- Chinese demand -- may be teetering.Beijing aced its economic recovery from the pandemic largely via an expansion in credit and a state-aided construction boom that sucked in raw materials from across the planet. Already the world’s biggest consumer, China spent $150 billion on crude oil, iron ore and copper ore alone in the first four months of 2021. Resurgent demand and rising prices mean that’s $36 billion more than the same period last year.With global commodities rising to record highs, Chinese government officials are trying to temper prices and reduce some of the speculative froth that’s driven markets. Wary of inflating asset bubbles, the People’s Bank of China has also been restricting the flow of money to the economy since last year, albeit gradually to avoid derailing growth. At the same time, funding for infrastructure projects has shown signs of slowing.Economic data for April suggest that both China’s economic expansion and its credit impulse -- new credit as a percentage of GDP -- may already have crested, putting the rally on a precarious footing. The most obvious impact of China’s deleveraging would fall on those metals keyed to real estate and infrastructure spending, from copper and aluminum, to steel and its main ingredient, iron ore.“Credit is a major driver for commodity prices, and we reckon prices peak when credit peaks,” said Alison Li, co-head of base metals research at Mysteel in Shanghai. “That refers to global credit, but Chinese credit accounts for a big part of it, especially when it comes to infrastructure and property investment.”But the impact of China’s credit pullback could ripple far and wide, threatening the rally in global oil prices and even China’s crop markets. And while tighter money supply hasn’t stopped many metals hitting eye-popping levels in recent weeks, some, like copper, are already seeing consumers shying away from higher prices.“The slowdown in credit will have a negative impact on China’s demand for commodities,” said Hao Zhou, senior emerging markets economist at Commerzbank AG. “So far, property and infrastructure investments haven’t shown an obvious deceleration. But they are likely to trend lower in the second half of this year.”A lag between the withdrawal of credit and stimulus from the economy and its impact on China’s raw material purchases may mean that markets haven’t yet peaked. However, its companies may eventually soften imports due to tighter credit conditions, which means the direction of the global commodity market will hinge on how much the recovery in economies including the U.S. and Europe can continue to drive prices higher.Some sectors have seen policy push an expansion in capacity, such as Beijing’s move to grow the country’s crude oil refining and copper smelting industries. Purchases of the materials needed for production in those sectors may continue to see gains although at a slower pace.One example of slowing purchases is likely to be in refined copper, said Mysteel’s Li. The premium paid for the metal at the port of Yangshan has already hit a four-year low in a sign of waning demand, and imports are likely to fall this year, she said.At the same time, the rally in copper prices probably still has a few months to run, according to a recent note from Citigroup Inc., citing the lag between peak credit and peak demand. From around $10,000 a ton now, the bank expects copper to reach $12,200 by September.It’s a dynamic that’s also playing out in ferrous metals markets.“We’re still at an early phase of tightening in terms of money reaching projects,” said Tomas Gutierrez, an analyst at Kallanish Commodities Ltd. “Iron ore demand reacts with a lag of several months to tightening. Steel demand is still around record highs on the back of the economic recovery and ongoing investments, but is likely to pull back slightly by the end of the year.”For agriculture, credit tightening may only affect China’s soaring crop imports around the margins, said Ma Wenfeng, an analyst at Beijing Orient Agribusiness Consultant Co. Less cash in the system could soften domestic prices by curbing speculation, which may in turn reduce the small proportion of imports handled by private firms, he said.The wider trend is for China’s state-owned giants to keep importing grains to cover the nation’s domestic shortfall, to replenish state reserves and to meet trade deal obligations with the U.S.No DisasterMore broadly, Beijing’s policy tightening doesn’t spell disaster for commodities bulls. For one, the authorities are unlikely to accelerate deleveraging from this point, according the latest comments from the State Council, China’s cabinet.“Internal guidance from our macro department is that the country won’t tighten credit too much -- they just won’t loosen further,” said Harry Jiang, head of trading and research at Yonggang Resouces, a commodity trader in Shanghai. “We don’t have many concerns over credit tightening.”And in any case, raw materials markets are no longer almost entirely in thrall to Chinese demand.“In the past, the inflection point of industrial metal prices often coincides with that of China’s credit cycle,” said Larry Hu, chief China economist at Macquarie Group Ltd. “But that doesn’t mean it will be like that this time too, because the U.S. has unleashed much larger stimulus than China, and its demand is very strong.”Hu also pointed to caution among China’s leaders, who probably don’t want to risk choking off their much-admired recovery by sharp swings in policy.“I expect China’s property investment will slow down, but not by too much,” he said. “Infrastructure investment hasn’t changed too much in the past few years, and won’t this year either.”Additionally, China has been pumping up consumer spending as a lever for growth, and isn’t as reliant on infrastructure and property investment as it used to be, said Bruce Pang, head of macro and strategy research at China Renaissance Securities Hong Kong. The disruption to global commodities supply because of the pandemic is also a new factor that can support prices, he said.Other policy priorities, such as cutting steel production to make inroads on China’s climate pledges, or boosting the supply of energy products, whether domestically or via purchases from overseas, are other complicating factors when it comes to assessing import demand and prices for specific commodities, according to analysts.More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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Hong Kong Exchange’s New CEO Is Put on Cleanup Duty

(Bloomberg) -- The veteran JPMorgan Chase & Co. banker who’s taking the helm at Hong Kong’s exchange has been put on cleanup duty.Chairman Laura Cha has handed Nicolas Aguzin, who takes charge Monday, the task of reviewing the exchange’s practices after a bribery scandal and censure from the regulator, according to people familiar with the matter. The 52-year-old former head of JPMorgan’s international private bank is seen by Cha as having the experience to force a cultural shake-up given his background at a heavily regulated bank, said the people, asking to remain anonymous discussing sensitive issues.Aguzin takes over as the bourse is delivering record earnings. His predecessor, Charles Li, oversaw a doubling of revenue during his decade in charge through acquisitions, loosened listing rules and, most importantly, trading links with mainland China. The easier oversight allowed the listing of Chinese technology giants such as Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and positioned it as the exchange-of-choice for mainland firms amid tensions with the U.S.But there has also been criticism that investor protections were sacrificed to win business. Over the past years, there has been a steady stream of flareups between the bourse and the regulator over IPO quality, the proliferation of shell companies and whether to allow dual class shares.“The HKEX has done a great job in market development, and has introduced measures to improve investor protection,” Sally Wong, CEO of Hong Kong Investment Funds Association, said in an email. “But it seems that issuers’ voices tend to prevail over that of the investors. We very much look forward to working with the new CEO to see how to strike a more appropriate balance to better safeguard investor interests.”Spokespeople for the exchange and the Securities and Futures Commission as well as Aguzin declined to comment.In a review released last year after the former IPO vetting co-head was arrested for bribery, the SFC discovered “numerous ambiguities” in the Chinese Wall between its listing and business divisions. Other issues highlighted last year include keeping track of share options and following up on complaints on withdrawn IPO applications.Cha had begun to tighten internal checks and balances for senior managers toward the end of Li’s tenure as well as assert more board control over hiring, people familiar have said. The exchange has halted the interactions between its listing and business units, according to the SFC review. Last week, in a joint statement with the SFC, the bourse vowed to better police its frothy IPO market, citing concerns about companies inflating their values, market manipulation and unusually high underwriting fees.Aguzin is expected by the board to prioritize the exchange’s role as a regulator alongside its growth ambitions, people familiar said.David Webb, a former HKEX director, investor and corporate governance activist, is skeptical the bourse will institute any meaningful reforms. “HKEX has, with government approval, lowered its standards to attract business, for example, by listing second-class shares with weak voting rights,” he said in an email. “It shows no sign of raising them again.”Investors have also urged the exchange to set rules requiring company boards to have a lead outside board member or an independent chair, according to Wong. “But it seems that the HKEX is not ready to even bring them up for market consultation.”The government is on board with Aguzin’s appointment, which comes at a fraught time after Beijing has tightened its grip on the city, raising questions about its continued status as an international financial hub.Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Christopher Hui said the three-tiered regulatory system comprising his department, the SFC and HKEX has worked well. Aguzin’s appointment embodies the city’s openness and its role as a gateway between China and the world, he said. “This is exactly what we will pursue.”Further deepening connections to China is seen as key to growth for the bourse, which also faces stiffer competition from mainland exchanges as China opens its financial markets.While Aguzin has worked in Asia for the past decade -- also serving as JPMorgan’s CEO of Asia Pacific from 2013 to 2020 -- he will be the first non-Chinese CEO of a bourse that often needs to deal with Beijing.Cha is well connected in China, having served as vice chairman of China Securities Regulatory Commission. She has signaled that she sees the bourse’s role as serving Beijing’s interests and avoiding competition with the mainland, a person said familiar with the matter said last year.The push toward the mainland is not all welcome in China. Expanding the link to include several benchmark stocks has proved difficult, with one sticking point being whether to include shares like Alibaba Group, which are dual listed and with weighted voting rights.Even so, Cha said at the time of the appointment that Aguzin’s remit will include further strengthening the link to the mainland.Another board member, Fred Hu, said in an interview that “Aguzin is well positioned to take HKEX into the future, to further deepen the connectivity with China but also connectivity with the rest of the world.”More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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Exxon Activist Battle Turns Climate Angst Into Referendum on CEO

(Bloomberg) -- An unprecedented fight over who should sit on the board of Exxon Mobil Corp. is turning into a referendum on Chief Executive Officer Darren Woods as a decades-long struggle by climate campaigners comes to a head.Activist investor Engine No. 1 LLC wants to replace one-third of Exxon’s board in an effort to force the Western world’s largest oil explorer to embrace a transition away from fossil fuels and end a decade of what it calls “value destruction.” Shareholders are set to gather — virtually — for their annual meeting on May 26.The stakes are high. Under Exxon’s bylaws, a victory for any dissident director would mean an incumbent must step down, equating to a zero-sum proxy contest: of 16 candidates, only 12 will prevail. Any dilution of Woods’s influence over the board could derail his long-term plans and force strategic and tactical changes he has previously rejected.Although Engine No. 1 hasn’t targeted Woods for removal, even a partial victory for the activist would be a serious, and perhaps fatal, blow to his leadership, according to Ceres, a coalition of environmentally active investors managing $37 trillion.“I don’t see how Darren Woods remains as CEO if one of the dissidents, let alone all four, are elected,” said Andrew Logan, director of oil and gas at Ceres. “It would be such a sign of fundamental dissatisfaction with the status quo that something would have to change. And that starts with the CEO.”Exxon's engagement with environmental activists was once characterized by a sense of bemusement — under former CEO Lee Raymond, Greenpeace protesters outside its annual meetings were offered donuts. But as worries about climate change have gone mainstream in the investment world, the clash has evolved into a confrontation over boardroom seats.In other corners of the commodities sector, shareholders this year have already shown frustration with executives’ reluctance to embrace tough environmental goals. DuPont de Nemours Inc. suffered an 81% vote against management on plastic-pollution disclosures, while ConocoPhillips lost a contest on adopting more stringent emission targets.Exxon’s meeting this year threatens to be one of the stormiest on the U.S. corporate calendar, made all the more remarkable for being instigated by a newly formed fund that only has a $54 million, or 0.02%, stake in the oil behemoth. Investor dissatisfaction with the company largely centers on two issues that are becoming more interlinked: climate change and profits. The oil giant envisages a profitable, long-term future for fossil fuels, but sees no point in investing in traditional renewable energy businesses. It also refuses to commit to a net-zero emissions target, unlike European rivals.Climate concerns are are resonating more deeply with investors at the same time that Exxon’s status as a financial powerhouse crumbles after multiple corporate missteps, some of which preceded Woods’s elevation to CEO in 2017. Returns on invested capital are a fraction of what they were in Exxon’s heyday a decade ago and debt ballooned 40% last year as Covid-19 paralyzed economies and energy demand around the world. Under mounting pressure and concerns over Exxon’s ability to pay the S&P 500’s third-largest dividend, the CEO slashed an ambitious $200 billion expansion program by a third late last year. It was a relief to some investors who had questioned both the cost and the need for such projects at a time when policymakers — and even rivals like BP Plc and Royal Dutch Shell Plc — are planning for the twilight of the petroleum era.Still, Engine No. 1 says Exxon needs higher-quality directors who are willing to challenge management. Exxon missed key industry trends such as the shale revolution, “the shift to focusing on project returns over chasing production growth, and the need to gradually prepare for rather than ignore the energy transition,” according to the San Francisco-based activist.After receiving early backing from major state pension funds, Engine No. 1’s campaign gathered momentum this month as two prominent shareholder-advisory firms, Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. and Glass Lewis & Co., threw their partial support behind the activist’s efforts. ISS wrote a scathing rebuke of Exxon’s climate strategy, saying the company had only taken “incremental steps to prepare for the inevitable.”Top 20 shareholder Legal & General Investment Management, a previous critic of Exxon, is also backing Engine No. 1 and has pledged to vote against Woods. However, the voting intentions of some other major investors, such as Vanguard Group, BlackRock Inc. and State Street Corp. aren’t clear — all three declined to comment when contacted by Bloomberg News. Norway’s giant sovereign wealth fund said late last week that it would support the reelection of most Exxon directors, but not Woods, part of its long-standing push to separate the roles of CEO and chairman at Exxon.With such animosity brewing, the usual course of action would be for Exxon’s board to meet with the activists and hash out a compromise. But that has yet to happen, and both sides appear to be entrenched.Exxon said in a May 14 letter to shareholders its board “listens and responds to shareholder feedback,” but that Engine No. 1, founded only a few months ago, wasn’t interested in engaging and “is trying to replace four of our world-class directors with unqualified nominees.'' The company added that the activist fund's plans would “derail our progress and jeopardize your dividend.”For its part, Engine No. 1 said Exxon refused to meet its nominees: Gregory Goff, former CEO of refiner Andeavor environmental scientist Kaisa Hietala private equity investor Alexander Karsner and Anders Runevad, ex-CEO of power producer Vestas Wind Systems A/S.Exxon did talk with another investor, hedge fund D.E. Shaw & Co., which built a stake in an effort to push for change. Those discussions led to the appointment of the new directors, including activist investor Jeff Ubben. The oil company has also announced new emissions targets, started a low-carbon business, and supported policies that will help technological innovations like carbon capture.In some respects Exxon is in a better position that it was at the start of 2021. Its stock has rallied more than 40% as oil prices rebounded and lockdowns are eased. Engine No. 1 points to its involvement as the turning point, while Exxon claims the market is rewarding prudent cost cutting and high-return investments made over the last couple of years. The forthcoming vote will help to determine which side of the debate other investors lean toward.“There’s a governance challenge at Exxon,” said John Hoeppner, head of U.S. sustainable investments at Legal & General. “How seriously is the current board questioning management’s business model? It’s important to add urgency to the debate.”More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Bubble Risks Test China’s Commitment to No Sharp Turn in Policy

(Bloomberg) -- Despite Beijing’s best efforts, asset bubbles are forming in China.Home prices are soaring, prompting officials to revive the idea of a national property tax. A surge in raw material prices spurred pledges to increase domestic supply, toughen market oversight, and crack down on speculation and hoarding.The rapid gains are challenging the central bank’s ability to restrain inflation without hiking borrowing costs or making a sharp turn in monetary policy -- something the People’s Bank of China has said it will avoid. The risk is the government’s attempts to curb price increases won’t be enough, forcing the central bank’s hand at a vulnerable time for domestic consumption.That would be a shock to the nation’s financial markets, which are pricing in a relatively benign scenario. The 10-year government bond yield has fallen to the lowest level in eight months, while the stock benchmark CSI 300 Index is the least volatile since January. The calm contrasts with the rest of the world, where investors are becoming increasingly obsessed with how central banks may react to the threat of an overheating global economy.“How to mitigate the boom in property and commodities without tightening macro policy -- it’s a real challenge for the Chinese government,” said Zhou Hao, an economist at Commerzbank AG in Singapore.More than 15 months after the pandemic first forced China to cut rates and inject trillions of yuan into the financial system, policy makers in Beijing are -- like many others across the world -- dealing with the aftermath. As the global economic recovery accelerates, some are being forced to act because of inflation: Brazil in March became the first Group of 20 nation to lift borrowing costs, with Turkey and Russia following suit. Even Iceland hiked a short-term rate in May.Others, like the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank, have insisted spikes in prices are only temporary. The PBOC also downplayed inflation worries in its first-quarter monetary report, published shortly after data showed factory prices surged 6.8% in April -- the fastest pace since 2017.What Bloomberg Economists Say. “It will be a challenge for China to contain rising producer prices because few commodities are priced within the country. There’s not much China can do, and even tightening monetary policy will not be able to change the situation,” said David Qu, China economist at Bloomberg Economics.-- Bloomberg Terminal subscribers can access more insight HEREWhile the rapid increase in commodity prices moderated in recent days, a continuation of gains could pressure companies to pass on rising costs to consumers, who are already spending less than expected. Analysts at Huachuang Securities Co. said in a May 9 report that prices of consumer goods, like home appliances and furniture, as well as electric vehicles and food, are rising. Still, there’s little evidence of demand-driven pressures, with core inflation, which strips out volatile food and energy costs, fairly subdued.The threat of inflation -- coupled with a fragile economy -- tends to be bad news for stocks because of how it erodes corporate profits, and for bonds it reduces the value of future cash flows. Accelerating prices walloped China’s bond market in 2019, and contributed to a steep selloff in stocks in early 2016.In a sign of how seriously that threat is being taken, China’s cabinet said Wednesday more effort needs to be taken to tackle rising commodity prices. A PBOC official said China should allow the yuan to appreciate to offset the impact of rising import prices, according to an article published Friday. The currency is trading near an almost three-year high against the dollar.Imported inflation is a headache for China’s leaders already dealing with risks caused by a surge in capital inflows. In recent years Beijing opened investment channels to allow more funds into its financial system. The goal was to use foreign institutions’ heft to anchor its markets and stabilize its currency, but the record liquidity unleashed by global central banks in the wake of the pandemic is now pressuring prices in China.That’s prompted some strong language from senior officials. Top securities regulator Yi Huiman said in March large flows of “hot money” into China must be strictly controlled. The same month, banking regulator Guo Shuqing said he was “very worried” that asset bubbles in overseas markets would burst soon, posing a risk to the global economy.Deciding whether recent spikes in prices are temporary or a permanent shift toward sustained inflation is something Chinese policy makers have to grapple with. For now, Beijing’s current approach of jawboning, boosting supply and penalizing speculation appears to be targeted at the former.“It’s still too early to tell if China can contain the surge in producer prices, and if it can’t, whether that will have large-scale impact on consumer prices,” said Raymond Yeung, chief economist for Greater China at Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. “This inflation is largely imported -- it’s not something that can be solved by the PBOC.”More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Crypto miners halt China business after Beijing cracks down, bitcoin dives

SHANGHAI (Reuters) -Cryptocurrency mining operators, including a Huobi Mall and BTC.TOP, are suspending their China operations after Beijing stepped up its efforts to crack down on bitcoin mining and trading, sending the digital currency tumbling. A State Council committee led by Vice Premier Liu He announced the crackdown late on Friday - the first time the council has targeted virtual currency mining, a big business in China that accounts for as much as 70% of the world's crypto supply. Crypto miners use increasingly powerful, specially-designed computer equipment, or rigs, to verify virtual coin transactions in a process which produces newly minted crypto currencies such as bitcoin.

Inside the Race to Avert Disaster at China’s Biggest ‘Bad Bank’

(Bloomberg) -- It was past 9 p.m. on Financial Street in Beijing by the time the figure inside Huarong Tower there picked up an inkbrush and, with practiced strokes, began to set characters to paper.Another trying workday was ending for Wang Zhanfeng, corporate chairman, Chinese Communist Party functionary—and, less happily, replacement for a man who very recently had been executed.On this April night, Wang was spotted unwinding as he often does in his office: practicing the art of Chinese calligraphy, a form that expresses the beauty of classical characters and, it is said, the nature of the person who writes them.Its mastery requires patience, resolve, skill, calm—and Wang, 54, needs all that and more. Because here on Financial Street, a brisk walk from the hulking headquarters of the People’s Bank of China, a dark drama is playing out behind the mirrored façade of Huarong Tower. How it unfolds will test China’s vast, debt-ridden financial system, the technocrats working to fix it, and the foreign banks and investors caught in the middle.Welcome to the headquarters of China Huarong Asset Management Co., the troubled state-owned ‘bad bank’ that has set teeth on edge around the financial world.For months now Wang and others have been trying to clean up the mess here at Huarong, an institution that sits—quite literally—at the center of China’s financial power structure. To the south is the central bank, steward of the world’s second-largest economy to the southwest, the Ministry of Finance, Huarong’s principal shareholder less than 300 meters to the west, the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, entrusted with safeguarding the financial system and, of late, ensuring Huarong has a funding backstop from state-owned banks until at least August.The patch though doesn’t settle the question of how Huarong makes good on some $41 billion borrowed on the bond markets, most incurred under Wang’s predecessor before he was ensnared in a sweeping crackdown on corruption. That long-time executive, Lai Xiaomin, was put to death in January—his formal presence expunged from Huarong right down to the signature on its stock certificates.The bigger issue is what all this might portend for the nation’s financial system and efforts by China’s leader, Xi Jinping, to centralize control, rein in years of risky borrowing and set the nation’s financial house in order.“They’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t,” said Michael Pettis, a Beijing-based professor of finance at Peking University and author of Avoiding the Fall: China’s Economic Restructuring. Bailing out Huarong would reinforce the behavior of investors who ignore risk, he said, while a default endangers financial stability if a “chaotic” repricing of the bond market ensues.Just what is going on inside Huarong Tower? Given the stakes, few are willing to discuss that question publicly. But interviews with people who work there, as well as at various Chinese regulators, provide a glimpse into the eye of this storm.Huarong, simply put, has been in full crisis mode ever since it delayed its 2020 earnings results, eroding investor confidence. Executives have come to expect to be summoned by government authorities at a moment’s notice whenever market sentiment sours and the price of Huarong debt sinks anew. Wang and his team must provide weekly written updates on Huarong’s operations and liquidity. They have turned to state-owned banks, pleading for support, and reached out to bond traders to try to calm nerves, with little lasting success.In public statements, Huarong has insisted repeatedly that its position is ultimately sound and that it will honor its obligations. Banking regulators have had to sign off on the wording of those statements—another sign of how serious the situation is considered and, ultimately, who’s in charge.Then there are regular audiences with the finance ministry and the other powerful financial bureaucracies nearby. Among items usually on the agenda: possible plans to hive off various Huarong businesses.Huarong executives are often kept waiting and, people familiar with the meetings say, tend to gain only limited access to top officials at the CBIRC, the banking overseer.The country’s apex financial watchdog—chaired by Liu He, Xi’s right-hand man in overseeing the economy and financial system—has asked for briefings on the Huarong situation and coordinated meetings between regulators, according to regulatory officials. But it has yet to communicate to them a long-term solution, including whether to impose losses on bondholders, the officials said.Representatives at the People’s Bank of China, the CBIRC, Huarong and the Ministry of Finance didn’t respond to requests for comment.Focus on BasicsA mid-level party functionary with a PhD in finance from China’s reputed Southwestern University of Finance and Economics, Wang arrived at Huarong Tower in early 2018, just as the corruption scandal was consuming the giant asset management company. He is regarded inside Huarong as low-key and down-to-earth, particularly in comparison to the company’s previous leader, Lai, a man once known as the God of Wealth.Hundreds of Huarong staff, from Beijing division chiefs to branch employees in faraway outposts, listened in on April 16 as Wang reviewed the quarterly numbers. He stressed that the company’s fundamentals had improved since he took over, a view shared by some analysts though insufficient to pacify investors. But he had little to say about what is on so many minds: plans to restructure and shore up the giant company, which he’d pledged to clean up within three years of taking over.His main message to the troops: focus on the basics, like collecting on iffy assets and improving risk management. The employees were silent. No one asked a question.One employee characterized the mood in his area as business as usual. Another said co-workers at a Huarong subsidiary were worried the company might not be able to pay their salaries. There’s a widening gulf between the old guard and new, said a third staffer. Those who outlasted Lai and have seen their compensation cut year after year have little confidence in the turnaround, while new joiners are more hopeful about the opportunities the change of direction offers.Others joke that Huarong Tower must suffer from bad feng shui: after Lai was arrested, a bank that had a branch in the building had to be bailed out to the tune of $14 billion.Dark humor aside, a rough consensus has begun to emerge among senior management and mid-level regulators: like other key state-owned enterprises, Huarong still appears to be considered too big to fail. Many have come away with the impression—and it is that, an impression—that for now, at least, the Chinese government will stand behind Huarong.At the very least, these people say, no serious financial tumult, such as a default by Huarong, is likely to be permitted while the Chinese Communist Party is planning a nationwide spectacle to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its founding on July 1. Those festivities will give Xi—who has been positioning to stay in power indefinitely—an opportunity to cement his place among China’s most powerful leaders including Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.What will come after that patriotic outpouring on July 1 is uncertain, even to many inside Huarong Tower. Liu He, China’s vice premier and chair of the powerful Financial Stability and Development Committee, appears in no hurry to force a difficult solution. Silence from Beijing has started to rattle local debt investors, who until about a week ago had seemed unmoved by the sell-off in Huarong’s offshore bonds.Competing InterestsHuarong’s role in absorbing and disposing of lenders’ soured debt is worth preserving to support the banking sector cleanup, but requires government intervention, according to Dinny McMahon, an economic analyst for Beijing-based consultancy Trivium China and author of China’s Great Wall of Debt.“We anticipate that foreign bondholders will be required to take a haircut, but it will be relatively small,” he said. “It will be designed to signal that investors should not assume government backing translates into carte blanche support.”For now, in the absence of direct orders from the top, Huarong has been caught in the middle of the competing interests among various state-owned enterprises and government bureaucracies.China Investment Corp., the $1 trillion sovereign fund, for instance, has turned down the idea of taking a controlling stake from the finance ministry. CIC officials have argued they don’t have the bandwidth or capability to fix Huarong’s problems, according to people familiar with the matter.The People’s Bank of China, meantime, is still trying to decide whether to proceed with a proposal that would see it assume more than 100 billion yuan ($15.5 billion) of bad assets from Huarong, those people said.And the Ministry of Finance, which owns 57% of Huarong on behalf of the Chinese government, hasn’t committed to recapitalizing the company, though it hasn’t ruled it out, either, one person said.CIC didn’t respond to requests for comment.The banking regulator has bought Huarong some time, brokering an agreement with state-owned lenders including Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. that would cover any funding needed to repay the equivalent of $2.5 billion coming due by the end of August. By then, the company aims to have completed its 2020 financial statements after spooking investors by missing deadlines in March and April.“How China deals with Huarong will have wide ramifications on global investors’ perception of and confidence in Chinese SOEs,” said Wu Qiong, a Hong Kong-based executive director at BOC International Holdings. “Should any defaults trigger a reassessment of the level of government support assumed in rating SOE credits, it would have deep repercussions for the offshore market.”The announcement of a new addition to Wang’s team underscores the stakes and, to some insiders, provides a measure of hope. Liang Qiang is a standing member of the All-China Financial Youth Federation, widely seen as a pipeline to groom future leaders for financial SOEs. Liang, who arrived at Huarong last week and will soon take on the role of president, has worked for the three other big state asset managers that were established, like Huarong, to help clean up bad debts at the nation’s banks. Some speculate this points to a wider plan: that Huarong might be used as a blueprint for how authorities approach these other sprawling, debt-ridden institutions.Meantime, inside Huarong Tower, a key item remains fixed in the busy schedules of top executives and rank-and-file employees alike. It is a monthly meeting, the topic of which is considered vital to Huarong’s rebirth: studying the doctrines of the Chinese Communist Party and speeches of President Xi Jinping. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Dollar near 3-month low, weighed by Fed's dovish tilt

The dollar stood near its lowest level in three months against a resurgent euro, and traders pared earlier bets the Federal Reserve may move soon to taper its stimulus though markets were not fully convinced that higher U.S. inflation is transient. Minutes from the Fed's April policy meeting released last week showed a sizable minority of policymakers wanted to discuss tapering bond purchase on worries that pouring more money to an economy on the mend could stoke inflation. Still, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell's repeated comments that it is not yet time to discuss a reduction in quantitative monetary easing has led many investors to believe it will be months before the central bank actually tweaks policy.

Is Buying Bitcoin Right Now a Smart Idea?

It’s no longer news that Bitcoin’s dramatic fall on Thursday weighed on market sentiments relatively but Willy Woo a top crypto analyst, still believes the curtain call for Bitcoin’s overall upward rally has not occurred yet.


Even with new CDC guidance, many retailers will still require masks

Many of the country’s largest retailers will keep requiring masks in their stores despite eased national restrictions, though industry groups and workers’ advocates fear enforcement will become increasingly difficult and contentious.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday that fully vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear masks in most situations. Workers unions blasted the policy change, saying it creates confusion and puts store employees at increased risk of getting sick.

Target, Home Depot, CVS and Harris Teeter are among the chains that will continue to require masks in stores, though they are reviewing new CDC guidance and reevaluating store policies.


Shake Shack to make South China debut next month

Diners queue up at the entrance of a Shake Shack restaurant in Beijing in September. [Photo/Agencies]

Iconic New York-style casual eatery has outperformed in Shanghai, Beijing

Shake Shack Inc, New York's iconic casual dining establishment, is bullish on the Chinese market and plans to further increase its investment and open more stores in the country, said its top official.

After making its debut in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing and Macao, the global fine fast food giant will open its first store in the southern part of the Chinese mainland in the MixC World Shopping Mall, Shenzhen, Guangdong province, in May.

By 2030, Shake Shack and licensee Maxim's Caterers Ltd plan to open at least 15 chain stores in South China, including locations in Shenzhen and Guangzhou, Guangdong, as well as Fuzhou and Xiamen in Fujian province, and 55 chain stores in total in the Chinese mainland, said the companies.

"We are very excited about the opening of the Shenzhen outlet. When I was touring in Shenzhen last year, I was amazed by the growth and vitality of the city, where a great amount of people are moving and building up dynamism. We just felt now is the time to bring Shake Shack to the city," said Randy Garutti, CEO of Shake Shack.

Garutti said that similar to the Shake Shack store in Shanghai, the one in Shenzhen will also have its own localized features. In terms of menu, the store has "Shenzhen Exclusives".As the subtropical city is rich in guava, it will launch "Fan'tastic Shenzhen"-a vanilla custard treat blended with guava, topped with passion fruit, mango, whipped cream and salted plum powder.

"Be-an Idol"-a red bean-flavored ice cream topped with grass jelly-is also on the exclusive list, as grass jelly is a popular choice among Cantonese because it helps relieve humidity-related overheating.

In terms of restaurant decor, Shake Shack invited Shenzhen-based artist Lee Yoyo to combine New York styles with Shenzhen characteristics.

On Jan 24, 2019, when Shake Shack established its first store in the Chinese mainland in Shanghai, customers initially lined up for as long as seven hours. On ordinary business days, hundreds of people circle around the old Western style villa where the store is located to get a fresh bite of casual US cuisine.

Huang Tao, an independent public relations expert, attributed Shake Shack's success in China to its smart business strategy.

Randy Garutti, CEO of Shake Shack. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

"In terms of site selection, whether it's the Xintiandi commercial zone in Shanghai, or Sanlitun in Beijing, Shake Shack opened stores at places where high-end consumption groups gather. To cater to local consumers' eating habits, it has made slight adjustments to its foods and beverages. The combination of American cuisine and local features is a major attraction for consumers," Huang said.

He added that Shake Shack pays attention to enhancing user experience. "Made-to-order food requires a certain waiting time. To ease consumers' anxiety when they are standing in line, it offers free desserts to consumers. People can also check their order status on the restaurant's online platform."

Despite the great success Shake Shack has so far enjoyed in China, Garutti said the company does not plan to expand its presence in the country too rapidly.

"We do one burger and one Shake Shack at a time. We build the store, and we work hard to make it a great gathering place. We don't just keep building and building without thinking about it," he said.

Speaking of China's business environment, Garutti said that the company appreciates the warm and hospitable business climate the country has offered.

"Our local partners helped us find locations, hire great people, enabling us to really grow a business locally. The government is cooperative, and we have established an incredible partnership," he said.

China has been stepping up efforts to encourage foreign investment and optimizing its business environment in recent years. Specifically, it has been cutting its negative list, relaxing restrictions on market access, clarifying market regulations and improving services.

China's actual use of foreign direct investment surged 31.5 percent year-on-year to 176.76 billion yuan ($26.07 billion) in the first two months of this year, said the Ministry of Commerce.

"Our restaurants in China are the busiest ones for Shake Shack. We are confident about the market, which is the most resilient during the pandemic," Garutti said.

"We remain humbled by our fans in China and continue to be encouraged by the performance of our Chinese business through this recovery. It's a great time to deepen our roots in this market," said Michael Kark, chief global licensing officer of Shake Shack.


'Technology has enabled anyone with any money to basically avoid advertising': NYU Marketing Professor

Shake Shack returned a $10 million PPP loan after the company received criticism for taking stimulus funding away from small businesses. NYU Professor of Marketing Scott Galloway joins Yahoo Finance’s On The Move to assess the coronavirus stimulus package and the state of the tech industry.

Video Transcript

ADAM SHAPIRO: As we try to figure out where we all go forward with COVID-19, we want to bring back a friend of the program, Scott Galloway, who is a New York University professor of marketing. And Scott, there is so much to talk about between the PPP program the FAANG stocks, but I want to jump into something. Because I started my career in traditional television, and you have a dire prediction for broadcast outlets and television going forward as to what's going to happen to some of the old world media but also some new world media. So where do you want to begin? Advertising has fallen off a cliff, at least for old media. Right?

SCOTT GALLOWAY: Yeah. Well, you know, COVID-19 isn't as much something that's going to change everything as much as it will accelerate it. And there's a basic truth that we've been ignoring for a long time, and I say this as someone who's made a nice living preaching the principles of brand strategy. And that is advertising sucks, and people want to avoid it. And people don't want a 30-minute gorgeous piece of content from "Modern Family" interrupted by nine minutes of commercials telling them how terrible it is to get old or personal injury attorneys.

So now, technology has enabled anyone with any money to basically avoid advertising. So advertising has become this tax that the poor, the technologically illiterate, have to pay. And moving through this crisis, you could almost create a survivability index based on one thing, and that is the percentage of revenues you get from subscriptions.

So Viacom gets hit hard. Surprisingly, the New York Times, with about 2/3 of its revenues now coming from subscription, does OK, but there's just no getting around it. Don Draper has been drawn and quartered. The heyday of "Mad Men" and advertising, those days are over. Advertising is going, and ad-supported companies are going to come out of this much, much weaker unless-- unless they have the scale of a Facebook or Google that will emerge from this even stronger.

JULIE HYMAN: Well, even when you're talking about Facebook or Google, Scott, I mean, the days of "Mad Men," we could argue, have been past us for a little while here with the rise I think with programmatic advertising. Right? So for me, the relevant question is, what does it do to a Facebook or a Google? How much destruction is there for that business which looked like such a fortress going into all of this?

SCOTT GALLOWAY: No doubt, they're hit in the short term. So the keyword bidding and average prices on keywords and advertising to Google [? off ?] anywhere between 20% to 40% in the last 30 days. That will absolutely show up in their numbers.

But what you're going to see, Julie, with the business of Facebook and Google is it's going to create the shape that the president is hoping is going to be reflected in the larger economy, which will not happen, and that is it will be a V. And that is, the drop will be violent, but the rip backup will be equally violent. Because just as everyone else is playing defense and firms ranging from Fox and BuzzFeed to Conde Nast are furloughing workers.

You're going to see-- I'm seeing it personally-- Google and Facebook are actually hiring, and the team with the best players wins. You're going to see Google and Facebook their tearback just be extraordinary here, and they will return-- the ad market will not return probably to pre-corona levels. But you're going to see Facebook and Google probably go from 61% or 62% to maybe even the low 70s.

So while they're hurt in the short term, in the long run, they just consolidate power. Most specifically, what's taking place below the surface of the water here, Julie, is there soaking up all the human capital. Who are the best people at Conde Nast and BuzzFeed? Simple, look who's working at Google next week.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Scott, there is a movement to try and get Congress to allocate funds to help bail out some of the media companies. We've already seen that with the Paycheck Protection Program. We expect to get further funding today.

Then, there's the headline from Shake Shack. They got $10 million. They pointed out that each store or restaurant has roughly 45 employees. But the perception nationwide was so horrific that they had gotten this money that they're going to return, or not accept, at least the $10 million that they're supposed to get from their bank via the PPP. Do you have thoughts on this kind of measure and the PPP program itself?

SCOTT GALLOWAY: Yeah. What's happened with Shake Shack, take that times 1,000, and that's what's going to unfold over the next six months, as we look at the helicoptering and socialism turn cronyism that is these rescue packages which are nothing but thinly-veiled bailouts. I want to be clear. This is a crisis of historic proportions, you would argue, but in general-- and I have this viewpoint on boards, when we're talking about a decline in business-- I don't think you can protect jobs. You can protect people.

And we have some bigger questions to answer, and that is how in America, the wealthiest country, have we put 50% of our citizens in a position of such extreme vulnerability that they are panicked by potentially losing 4, 8, 12, even 6 months of salary? All of these packages, in my view, we should be taking a more European approach, where we put money in consumers' hands. But why do we have small business and banks in the middle here? An 11-year bull market is just as historic as a pandemic. Quite frankly, these firms should be laying off people, and they should be getting to their fighting weight, so they can reemerge from this smarter, stronger, faster.

I was on a call with my college friends from UCLA. We've all been blessed. We've all done exceptionally well. I was the only person on the line that hadn't applied for PPP. These bailouts are nothing but cronyism disguised as capitalism. We need to protect people, not jobs.

JULIA LA ROCHE: Professor Galloway, it's Julia La Roche. You know, I'm seeing some reaction just on Twitter about, you know, even Harvard getting some of the federal funding. I'd love to get your reaction to that, and then you were talking about this acceleration.

What is the acceleration, when it comes to higher education? We're talking about, you know, a trillion plus in student debt that's outstanding. What's even the value proposition of college going forward, especially some of these debt-laden colleges?

SCOTT GALLOWAY: So no industry, other than health care, has raised its prices faster than education, and I'm part of the problem. We have become drunk on exclusivity. When you have the head of Harvard admissions saying that he could double the freshman class at Harvard without sacrificing inequality, the correct question is, well, with a $37 billion budget, why wouldn't you? And what we're about to see in education is the disruption that we've been predicting for decades, as parents see via Zoom classes that paying $68,000 for their tuition, and what is actually going on in universities is no longer worth it.

You're going to see a massive consolidation of the most powerful players, aided by big technology, and you're going to see an incredible destruction among the second and third-tier universities who have benefited from the cartel that is education. Fordham charges the same tuition as a Columbia or an NYU. In every city, we have a duopoly, whether it's San Francisco with Stanford and Berkeley, Los Angeles with USC and UCLA.

And these organizations, we are going to see a massive disruption, and it couldn't happen-- you know, we have stuck our chin out in higher education, as we realize. I mean, you're seeing it just across parents with kids who are saying, am I really going to pay $38,000 for bad Zoom classes, just even in third grade private classes, much less what they're paying for in graduate school. So we're going to see a lot of universities not reopen and fall because of COVID, but a lot of them will never reopen.

We are about to see finally disruption in higher education that we as academics, who have decided we're luxury brands now as opposed to public servants. We have stuck out our chins, and these fists of stone called COVID and big tech and the best universities are going to partner. MIT is going to welcome 30,000 students to campus, not 3,000, within 10 years, and that's going to cause tremendous price pressure and disruption, and it couldn't happen to a nicer group of people.

JULIE HYMAN: Well, but Scott, at the same time, I would push back against that a little bit. Because were people paying this money to the elite universities because of the education their kids were getting or because of the connections it would give them? And it seems like those connections are not necessarily going away.

And I would expand that question to say there is so much sort of navel-gazing and self-examination being done right now about what's going to change after, and then there's pushback against that. Are things really going to change that much after? And I wonder if that's true for universities and a lot of other categories.

SCOTT GALLOWAY: Yeah, you're right, Julie. People aren't paying $68,000 a year for education. What they're paying for, at NYU and at Stanford and at the University of Texas, what they're paying for certification. And that is really the key value add happens before the kid shows up to campus. And that is once your child is admitted to the University of Texas or to Berkeley, our system has decided they now have been accelerated into the upper echelons of what is a caste system that is largely dictated by your college degree.

And rather than expand the number of seats, as Germany and Canada have done, we've decided we want to create a set of luxury brands, such that we can continue to offer more to the children of rich people. People think this is a meritocracy. No. The US is a caste system, but instead of the arbiter being your family name, it's where you graduate from college. So that needs to change, and I do think it's going to change.

Unfortunately, the big beneficiaries here will likely be the strongest brands in education. The strongest brand in the world is not Apple. No one gives $100 million to put their name on the side of a building on Apple's campus.

The strongest brands in the world are Harvard, Oxford, and MIT. These were built over centuries. They've preyed on the hopes and dreams of middle class parents.

My class, I deliver a class $7,000 per student. That's got to be 95 or 97 points of gross margin there. Show me any product in the world above $1,000 that gets a 97% gross margin.

We need to begin taxing endowments that don't grow their freshman class faster than population. They're not public servants. They shouldn't get tax deductions. They're luxury brands.

We need to abolish tenure. We need a class trader. I work with one of the best faculties in the world. A third of them should be put on an ice [? floe. ?] And incompetence and competence and graduate education translates to dead on young people who are forced to get married later, form households later, not take business risk.

One of the moral bankrupt parts of our society is how much we are charging young people. It is time we massively, massively, a Marshall Act kind of expansion of freshmen [? admitees ?] and similar to Germany and Canada. Great kids get a chance to go to good schools, but we don't have a casting with luxury brand schools, and everybody else fights over mediocre education at a ridiculous price.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Scott, as I listen to you talk about a caste system in the United States, I can't help but wonder what good is having a six-figure salary and a escape home in the Hamptons, when you're dependent to on grocery clerks and truckers and the people at Amazon to deliver the goods you need to survive. And I'm curious, as we go forward, will the salaries for those people come up? But also Amazon, you predict Amazon is going to be the first $2 trillion company as soon as 2021. Tell us more about that.

SCOTT GALLOWAY: Yeah. There's a lot there, Adam. So one of the wonderful things about this crisis is I've been watching all these old movies from the '80s that I watched as a kid with my boys. They've said, we've gotten bored. They're like, well, dad, what did you watch?

And we watched as movie based on this great book called "The Little Prince," and a greatest opening line in a movie. It says, what is essential is invisible to the eye, and what we're finding is that a lot of our essential workers have been invisible to us. And that is, tell me an essential worker, whether it's someone delivering my groceries or someone putting my take-out meal in the back of my seat, and I'll show you someone who we haven't paid a living wage in the last 20 years. And they're finally getting some of the recognition they deserve.

We lean out our window every night at 7:00 PM, and we applaud for our health care workers which is absolutely the right thing to do, and it's a nice moment. So do we lean out the window at 6:00 or 8:00 PM and applaud the people who are putting themselves in harm's way to make sure that we get our Purell and our Nespresso pods within 48 hours? No, because it's more of a war on the poor. We see these people as untouchable. They screwed up.

We live in a meritocracy, we'd like to think, which means that people deserve to be billionaires. But the ugly side of that is if you're making minimum wage, bagging groceries, it means you screwed up. It means it's your fault, and it's not usually their fault. It's a function of a caste system we have. So I'm hoping that what is essential becomes more visible to the eye, if you will.

In terms of Amazon, imagine that Jeff Bezos and the president and Doug McMillon got in a room and said, how do we double the stock price of Amazon and Walmart? You said, I know, I'm going to put between $1,200 and $5,000 indirectly in the form of stimulus in the hands of every American. And better yet, I'm going to close down 98% your competition, so they have nowhere to spend it but Walmart or Amazon. That is effectively what has happened here.

You are seeing stimulus money helicoptered into the hands of consumers, and where do they spend it? Amazon or Walmart because Restoration Hardware, Urban Outfitters, and Sephora have all been closed. This might as well be called the Amazon and Walmart shareholder act. It is extraordinary. Amazon first $2 trillion company on the backs of incredible momentum through the crisis, and more importantly, they will become the fastest growing health care company in the world by 2025.

ADAM SHAPIRO: And as you point out, Amazon is hiring over the last two months roughly 175,000 people. Scott Galloway, we really appreciate your being here. You are a professor at New York University, a professor of marketing. It's always good to get your opinions. And when your kids are age appropriate, it's dated, it's even somewhat sexist, but the movie from the '80s I would suggest, "Weird Science." It'll bring a smile to anybody's face.

SCOTT GALLOWAY: Kelly LeBrock. Is that right, Kelly LeBrock?

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China Braces for $1.3 Trillion Maturity Wall as Defaults Surge

(Bloomberg) -- Even by the standards of a record-breaking global credit binge, China’s corporate bond tab stands out: $1.3 trillion of domestic debt payable in the next 12 months.That’s 30% more than what U.S. companies owe, 63% more than in all of Europe and enough money to buy Tesla Inc. twice over. What’s more, it’s all coming due at a time when Chinese borrowers are defaulting on onshore debt at an unprecedented pace.The combination has investors bracing for another turbulent stretch for the world’s second-largest credit market. It’s also underscoring the challenge for Chinese authorities as they work toward two conflicting goals: reducing moral hazard by allowing more defaults, and turning the domestic bond market into a more reliable source of long-term funding.While average corporate bond maturities have increased in the U.S., Europe and Japan in recent years, they’re getting shorter in China as defaults prompt investors to reduce risk. Domestic Chinese bonds issued in the first quarter had an average tenor of 3.02 years, down from 3.22 years for all of last year and on course for the shortest annual average since Fitch Ratings began compiling the data in 2016.“As credit risk increases, everyone wants to limit their exposure by investing in shorter maturities only,” said Iris Pang, chief economist for Greater China at ING Bank NV. “Issuers also want to sell shorter-dated bonds because as defaults rise, longer-dated bonds have even higher borrowing costs.”The move toward shorter maturities has coincided with a Chinese government campaign to instill more discipline in local credit markets, which have long been underpinned by implicit state guarantees. Investors are increasingly rethinking the widely held assumption that authorities will backstop big borrowers amid a string of missed payments by state-owned companies and a selloff in bonds issued by China Huarong Asset Management Co.The country’s onshore defaults have swelled from negligible levels in 2016 to exceed 100 billion yuan ($15.5 billion) for four straight years. That milestone was reached again last month, putting defaults on track for another record annual high.The resulting preference for shorter-dated bonds has exacerbated one of China’s structural challenges: a dearth of long-term institutional money. Even before authorities began allowing more defaults, short-term investments including banks’ wealth management products played an outsized role.Social security funds and insurance firms are the main providers of long-term funding in China, but their presence in the bond market is limited, said Wu Zhaoyin, chief strategist at AVIC Trust Co., a financial firm. “It’s difficult to sell long-dated bonds in China because there is a lack of long-term capital,” Wu said.Chinese authorities have been taking steps to attract long-term investors, including foreign pension funds and university endowments. The government has in recent years scrapped some investment quotas and dismantled foreign ownership limits for life insurers, brokerages and fund managers.But even if those efforts gain traction, it’s not clear Chinese companies will embrace longer maturities. Many prefer selling short-dated bonds because they lack long-term capital management plans, according to Shen Meng, director at Chanson & Co., a Beijing-based boutique investment bank. That applies even for state-owned enterprises, whose senior managers typically get reshuffled by the government every three to five years, Shen said.The upshot is that China’s domestic credit market faces a near constant cycle of refinancing and repayment risk, which threatens to exacerbate volatility as defaults rise. A similar dynamic is also playing out in the offshore market, where maturities total $167 billion over the next 12 months.For ING’s Pang, the cycle is unlikely to change anytime soon. “It may last for another decade in China,” she said.More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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Summers Says Crypto Has Chance of Becoming ‘Digital Gold’

(Bloomberg) -- Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers said cryptocurrencies could stay a feature of global markets as something akin to “digital gold,” even if their importance in economies will remain limited.Speaking at the end of a week in which Bitcoin whipsawed, Summers told Bloomberg Television’s “Wall Street Week” with David Westin that cryptocurrencies offered an alternative to gold for those seeking an asset “separate and apart from the day-to-day workings of governments.”“Gold has been a primary asset of that kind for a long time,” said Summers, a paid contributor to Bloomberg. “Crypto has a chance of becoming an agreed form that people who are looking for safety hold wealth in. My guess is that crypto is here to stay, and probably here to stay as a kind of digital gold.”If cryptocurrencies became even a third of the total value of gold, Summers said that would be a “substantial appreciation from current levels” and that means there’s a “good prospect that crypto will be part of the system for quite a while to come.”Comparing Bitcoin to the yellow metal is common in the crypto community, with various estimates as to whether and how quickly their total market values might equalize.Yassine Elmandjra, crypto analyst at Cathie Wood’s Ark Investment Management LLC, said earlier this month that if gold is assumed to have a market cap of around $10 trillion, “it’s not out of the question that Bitcoin will reach gold parity in the next five years.” With Bitcoin’s market cap around $700 billion, that could mean price appreciation of around 14-fold or more.But Summers said cryptocurrencies do not matter to the overall economy and were unlikely to ever serve as a majority of payments.Summers is on the board of directors of Square Inc. The company said this month that sales in the first quarter more than tripled, driven by skyrocketing Bitcoin purchases through the company’s Cash App.Summers’ comments were echoed by Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, who doubted crypto’s value as a medium of exchange or stable purchasing power, but said some forms of it may continue to exist as an alternative to gold.“Are cryptocurrencies headed for a crash sometime soon? Not necessarily,” Krugman wrote in the New York Times. “One fact that gives even crypto skeptics like me pause is the durability of gold as a highly valued asset.”Summers also said that President Joe Biden’s administration is heading in the “right direction” by asking companies to pay more tax. He argued policy makers in the past had not been guilty of pursuing “too much antitrust” regulation although he warned it would be “badly wrong” to go after companies just because of increasing market share and profits.Returning to his worry that the U.S. economy risks overheating, Summers said the Federal Reserve should be more aware of the inflationary threat.“I don’t think the Fed is projecting in a way that reflects the potential seriousness of the problem,” he said. “I am concerned that with everything that’s going on, the economy may be a bit charging toward a wall.”(Adds Summers is on Square’s board in 8th paragraph)More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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First Warning Sign in the Global Commodity Boom Flashes in China

(Bloomberg) -- One pillar of this year’s blistering commodities rally -- Chinese demand -- may be teetering.Beijing aced its economic recovery from the pandemic largely via an expansion in credit and a state-aided construction boom that sucked in raw materials from across the planet. Already the world’s biggest consumer, China spent $150 billion on crude oil, iron ore and copper ore alone in the first four months of 2021. Resurgent demand and rising prices mean that’s $36 billion more than the same period last year.With global commodities rising to record highs, Chinese government officials are trying to temper prices and reduce some of the speculative froth that’s driven markets. Wary of inflating asset bubbles, the People’s Bank of China has also been restricting the flow of money to the economy since last year, albeit gradually to avoid derailing growth. At the same time, funding for infrastructure projects has shown signs of slowing.Economic data for April suggest that both China’s economic expansion and its credit impulse -- new credit as a percentage of GDP -- may already have crested, putting the rally on a precarious footing. The most obvious impact of China’s deleveraging would fall on those metals keyed to real estate and infrastructure spending, from copper and aluminum, to steel and its main ingredient, iron ore.“Credit is a major driver for commodity prices, and we reckon prices peak when credit peaks,” said Alison Li, co-head of base metals research at Mysteel in Shanghai. “That refers to global credit, but Chinese credit accounts for a big part of it, especially when it comes to infrastructure and property investment.”But the impact of China’s credit pullback could ripple far and wide, threatening the rally in global oil prices and even China’s crop markets. And while tighter money supply hasn’t stopped many metals hitting eye-popping levels in recent weeks, some, like copper, are already seeing consumers shying away from higher prices.“The slowdown in credit will have a negative impact on China’s demand for commodities,” said Hao Zhou, senior emerging markets economist at Commerzbank AG. “So far, property and infrastructure investments haven’t shown an obvious deceleration. But they are likely to trend lower in the second half of this year.”A lag between the withdrawal of credit and stimulus from the economy and its impact on China’s raw material purchases may mean that markets haven’t yet peaked. However, its companies may eventually soften imports due to tighter credit conditions, which means the direction of the global commodity market will hinge on how much the recovery in economies including the U.S. and Europe can continue to drive prices higher.Some sectors have seen policy push an expansion in capacity, such as Beijing’s move to grow the country’s crude oil refining and copper smelting industries. Purchases of the materials needed for production in those sectors may continue to see gains although at a slower pace.One example of slowing purchases is likely to be in refined copper, said Mysteel’s Li. The premium paid for the metal at the port of Yangshan has already hit a four-year low in a sign of waning demand, and imports are likely to fall this year, she said.At the same time, the rally in copper prices probably still has a few months to run, according to a recent note from Citigroup Inc., citing the lag between peak credit and peak demand. From around $10,000 a ton now, the bank expects copper to reach $12,200 by September.It’s a dynamic that’s also playing out in ferrous metals markets.“We’re still at an early phase of tightening in terms of money reaching projects,” said Tomas Gutierrez, an analyst at Kallanish Commodities Ltd. “Iron ore demand reacts with a lag of several months to tightening. Steel demand is still around record highs on the back of the economic recovery and ongoing investments, but is likely to pull back slightly by the end of the year.”For agriculture, credit tightening may only affect China’s soaring crop imports around the margins, said Ma Wenfeng, an analyst at Beijing Orient Agribusiness Consultant Co. Less cash in the system could soften domestic prices by curbing speculation, which may in turn reduce the small proportion of imports handled by private firms, he said.The wider trend is for China’s state-owned giants to keep importing grains to cover the nation’s domestic shortfall, to replenish state reserves and to meet trade deal obligations with the U.S.No DisasterMore broadly, Beijing’s policy tightening doesn’t spell disaster for commodities bulls. For one, the authorities are unlikely to accelerate deleveraging from this point, according the latest comments from the State Council, China’s cabinet.“Internal guidance from our macro department is that the country won’t tighten credit too much -- they just won’t loosen further,” said Harry Jiang, head of trading and research at Yonggang Resouces, a commodity trader in Shanghai. “We don’t have many concerns over credit tightening.”And in any case, raw materials markets are no longer almost entirely in thrall to Chinese demand.“In the past, the inflection point of industrial metal prices often coincides with that of China’s credit cycle,” said Larry Hu, chief China economist at Macquarie Group Ltd. “But that doesn’t mean it will be like that this time too, because the U.S. has unleashed much larger stimulus than China, and its demand is very strong.”Hu also pointed to caution among China’s leaders, who probably don’t want to risk choking off their much-admired recovery by sharp swings in policy.“I expect China’s property investment will slow down, but not by too much,” he said. “Infrastructure investment hasn’t changed too much in the past few years, and won’t this year either.”Additionally, China has been pumping up consumer spending as a lever for growth, and isn’t as reliant on infrastructure and property investment as it used to be, said Bruce Pang, head of macro and strategy research at China Renaissance Securities Hong Kong. The disruption to global commodities supply because of the pandemic is also a new factor that can support prices, he said.Other policy priorities, such as cutting steel production to make inroads on China’s climate pledges, or boosting the supply of energy products, whether domestically or via purchases from overseas, are other complicating factors when it comes to assessing import demand and prices for specific commodities, according to analysts.More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Zara owner Inditex to close all stores in Venezuela, local partner says

Inditex, owner of brands including Zara, Bershka and Pull & Bear, will close all its stores in Venezuela in coming weeks as a deal between the retailer and its local partner Phoenix World Trade has come under review, a spokesperson for Phoenix World Trade said. Phoenix World Trade, a company based in Panama and controlled by Venezuelan businessman Camilo Ibrahim, took over operation of Inditex stores in the South American country in 2007. "Phoenix World Trade is re-evaluating the commercial presence of its franchised brands Zara, Bershka and Pull&Bear in Venezuela, to make it consistent with the new model of integration and digital transformation announced by Inditex," the company said in response to a Reuters request.

Hong Kong Exchange’s New CEO Is Put on Cleanup Duty

(Bloomberg) -- The veteran JPMorgan Chase & Co. banker who’s taking the helm at Hong Kong’s exchange has been put on cleanup duty.Chairman Laura Cha has handed Nicolas Aguzin, who takes charge Monday, the task of reviewing the exchange’s practices after a bribery scandal and censure from the regulator, according to people familiar with the matter. The 52-year-old former head of JPMorgan’s international private bank is seen by Cha as having the experience to force a cultural shake-up given his background at a heavily regulated bank, said the people, asking to remain anonymous discussing sensitive issues.Aguzin takes over as the bourse is delivering record earnings. His predecessor, Charles Li, oversaw a doubling of revenue during his decade in charge through acquisitions, loosened listing rules and, most importantly, trading links with mainland China. The easier oversight allowed the listing of Chinese technology giants such as Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and positioned it as the exchange-of-choice for mainland firms amid tensions with the U.S.But there has also been criticism that investor protections were sacrificed to win business. Over the past years, there has been a steady stream of flareups between the bourse and the regulator over IPO quality, the proliferation of shell companies and whether to allow dual class shares.“The HKEX has done a great job in market development, and has introduced measures to improve investor protection,” Sally Wong, CEO of Hong Kong Investment Funds Association, said in an email. “But it seems that issuers’ voices tend to prevail over that of the investors. We very much look forward to working with the new CEO to see how to strike a more appropriate balance to better safeguard investor interests.”Spokespeople for the exchange and the Securities and Futures Commission as well as Aguzin declined to comment.In a review released last year after the former IPO vetting co-head was arrested for bribery, the SFC discovered “numerous ambiguities” in the Chinese Wall between its listing and business divisions. Other issues highlighted last year include keeping track of share options and following up on complaints on withdrawn IPO applications.Cha had begun to tighten internal checks and balances for senior managers toward the end of Li’s tenure as well as assert more board control over hiring, people familiar have said. The exchange has halted the interactions between its listing and business units, according to the SFC review. Last week, in a joint statement with the SFC, the bourse vowed to better police its frothy IPO market, citing concerns about companies inflating their values, market manipulation and unusually high underwriting fees.Aguzin is expected by the board to prioritize the exchange’s role as a regulator alongside its growth ambitions, people familiar said.David Webb, a former HKEX director, investor and corporate governance activist, is skeptical the bourse will institute any meaningful reforms. “HKEX has, with government approval, lowered its standards to attract business, for example, by listing second-class shares with weak voting rights,” he said in an email. “It shows no sign of raising them again.”Investors have also urged the exchange to set rules requiring company boards to have a lead outside board member or an independent chair, according to Wong. “But it seems that the HKEX is not ready to even bring them up for market consultation.”The government is on board with Aguzin’s appointment, which comes at a fraught time after Beijing has tightened its grip on the city, raising questions about its continued status as an international financial hub.Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Christopher Hui said the three-tiered regulatory system comprising his department, the SFC and HKEX has worked well. Aguzin’s appointment embodies the city’s openness and its role as a gateway between China and the world, he said. “This is exactly what we will pursue.”Further deepening connections to China is seen as key to growth for the bourse, which also faces stiffer competition from mainland exchanges as China opens its financial markets.While Aguzin has worked in Asia for the past decade -- also serving as JPMorgan’s CEO of Asia Pacific from 2013 to 2020 -- he will be the first non-Chinese CEO of a bourse that often needs to deal with Beijing.Cha is well connected in China, having served as vice chairman of China Securities Regulatory Commission. She has signaled that she sees the bourse’s role as serving Beijing’s interests and avoiding competition with the mainland, a person said familiar with the matter said last year.The push toward the mainland is not all welcome in China. Expanding the link to include several benchmark stocks has proved difficult, with one sticking point being whether to include shares like Alibaba Group, which are dual listed and with weighted voting rights.Even so, Cha said at the time of the appointment that Aguzin’s remit will include further strengthening the link to the mainland.Another board member, Fred Hu, said in an interview that “Aguzin is well positioned to take HKEX into the future, to further deepen the connectivity with China but also connectivity with the rest of the world.”More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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Exxon Activist Battle Turns Climate Angst Into Referendum on CEO

(Bloomberg) -- An unprecedented fight over who should sit on the board of Exxon Mobil Corp. is turning into a referendum on Chief Executive Officer Darren Woods as a decades-long struggle by climate campaigners comes to a head.Activist investor Engine No. 1 LLC wants to replace one-third of Exxon’s board in an effort to force the Western world’s largest oil explorer to embrace a transition away from fossil fuels and end a decade of what it calls “value destruction.” Shareholders are set to gather — virtually — for their annual meeting on May 26.The stakes are high. Under Exxon’s bylaws, a victory for any dissident director would mean an incumbent must step down, equating to a zero-sum proxy contest: of 16 candidates, only 12 will prevail. Any dilution of Woods’s influence over the board could derail his long-term plans and force strategic and tactical changes he has previously rejected.Although Engine No. 1 hasn’t targeted Woods for removal, even a partial victory for the activist would be a serious, and perhaps fatal, blow to his leadership, according to Ceres, a coalition of environmentally active investors managing $37 trillion.“I don’t see how Darren Woods remains as CEO if one of the dissidents, let alone all four, are elected,” said Andrew Logan, director of oil and gas at Ceres. “It would be such a sign of fundamental dissatisfaction with the status quo that something would have to change. And that starts with the CEO.”Exxon's engagement with environmental activists was once characterized by a sense of bemusement — under former CEO Lee Raymond, Greenpeace protesters outside its annual meetings were offered donuts. But as worries about climate change have gone mainstream in the investment world, the clash has evolved into a confrontation over boardroom seats.In other corners of the commodities sector, shareholders this year have already shown frustration with executives’ reluctance to embrace tough environmental goals. DuPont de Nemours Inc. suffered an 81% vote against management on plastic-pollution disclosures, while ConocoPhillips lost a contest on adopting more stringent emission targets.Exxon’s meeting this year threatens to be one of the stormiest on the U.S. corporate calendar, made all the more remarkable for being instigated by a newly formed fund that only has a $54 million, or 0.02%, stake in the oil behemoth. Investor dissatisfaction with the company largely centers on two issues that are becoming more interlinked: climate change and profits. The oil giant envisages a profitable, long-term future for fossil fuels, but sees no point in investing in traditional renewable energy businesses. It also refuses to commit to a net-zero emissions target, unlike European rivals.Climate concerns are are resonating more deeply with investors at the same time that Exxon’s status as a financial powerhouse crumbles after multiple corporate missteps, some of which preceded Woods’s elevation to CEO in 2017. Returns on invested capital are a fraction of what they were in Exxon’s heyday a decade ago and debt ballooned 40% last year as Covid-19 paralyzed economies and energy demand around the world. Under mounting pressure and concerns over Exxon’s ability to pay the S&P 500’s third-largest dividend, the CEO slashed an ambitious $200 billion expansion program by a third late last year. It was a relief to some investors who had questioned both the cost and the need for such projects at a time when policymakers — and even rivals like BP Plc and Royal Dutch Shell Plc — are planning for the twilight of the petroleum era.Still, Engine No. 1 says Exxon needs higher-quality directors who are willing to challenge management. Exxon missed key industry trends such as the shale revolution, “the shift to focusing on project returns over chasing production growth, and the need to gradually prepare for rather than ignore the energy transition,” according to the San Francisco-based activist.After receiving early backing from major state pension funds, Engine No. 1’s campaign gathered momentum this month as two prominent shareholder-advisory firms, Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. and Glass Lewis & Co., threw their partial support behind the activist’s efforts. ISS wrote a scathing rebuke of Exxon’s climate strategy, saying the company had only taken “incremental steps to prepare for the inevitable.”Top 20 shareholder Legal & General Investment Management, a previous critic of Exxon, is also backing Engine No. 1 and has pledged to vote against Woods. However, the voting intentions of some other major investors, such as Vanguard Group, BlackRock Inc. and State Street Corp. aren’t clear — all three declined to comment when contacted by Bloomberg News. Norway’s giant sovereign wealth fund said late last week that it would support the reelection of most Exxon directors, but not Woods, part of its long-standing push to separate the roles of CEO and chairman at Exxon.With such animosity brewing, the usual course of action would be for Exxon’s board to meet with the activists and hash out a compromise. But that has yet to happen, and both sides appear to be entrenched.Exxon said in a May 14 letter to shareholders its board “listens and responds to shareholder feedback,” but that Engine No. 1, founded only a few months ago, wasn’t interested in engaging and “is trying to replace four of our world-class directors with unqualified nominees.'' The company added that the activist fund's plans would “derail our progress and jeopardize your dividend.”For its part, Engine No. 1 said Exxon refused to meet its nominees: Gregory Goff, former CEO of refiner Andeavor environmental scientist Kaisa Hietala private equity investor Alexander Karsner and Anders Runevad, ex-CEO of power producer Vestas Wind Systems A/S.Exxon did talk with another investor, hedge fund D.E. Shaw & Co., which built a stake in an effort to push for change. Those discussions led to the appointment of the new directors, including activist investor Jeff Ubben. The oil company has also announced new emissions targets, started a low-carbon business, and supported policies that will help technological innovations like carbon capture.In some respects Exxon is in a better position that it was at the start of 2021. Its stock has rallied more than 40% as oil prices rebounded and lockdowns are eased. Engine No. 1 points to its involvement as the turning point, while Exxon claims the market is rewarding prudent cost cutting and high-return investments made over the last couple of years. The forthcoming vote will help to determine which side of the debate other investors lean toward.“There’s a governance challenge at Exxon,” said John Hoeppner, head of U.S. sustainable investments at Legal & General. “How seriously is the current board questioning management’s business model? It’s important to add urgency to the debate.”More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Bubble Risks Test China’s Commitment to No Sharp Turn in Policy

(Bloomberg) -- Despite Beijing’s best efforts, asset bubbles are forming in China.Home prices are soaring, prompting officials to revive the idea of a national property tax. A surge in raw material prices spurred pledges to increase domestic supply, toughen market oversight, and crack down on speculation and hoarding.The rapid gains are challenging the central bank’s ability to restrain inflation without hiking borrowing costs or making a sharp turn in monetary policy -- something the People’s Bank of China has said it will avoid. The risk is the government’s attempts to curb price increases won’t be enough, forcing the central bank’s hand at a vulnerable time for domestic consumption.That would be a shock to the nation’s financial markets, which are pricing in a relatively benign scenario. The 10-year government bond yield has fallen to the lowest level in eight months, while the stock benchmark CSI 300 Index is the least volatile since January. The calm contrasts with the rest of the world, where investors are becoming increasingly obsessed with how central banks may react to the threat of an overheating global economy.“How to mitigate the boom in property and commodities without tightening macro policy -- it’s a real challenge for the Chinese government,” said Zhou Hao, an economist at Commerzbank AG in Singapore.More than 15 months after the pandemic first forced China to cut rates and inject trillions of yuan into the financial system, policy makers in Beijing are -- like many others across the world -- dealing with the aftermath. As the global economic recovery accelerates, some are being forced to act because of inflation: Brazil in March became the first Group of 20 nation to lift borrowing costs, with Turkey and Russia following suit. Even Iceland hiked a short-term rate in May.Others, like the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank, have insisted spikes in prices are only temporary. The PBOC also downplayed inflation worries in its first-quarter monetary report, published shortly after data showed factory prices surged 6.8% in April -- the fastest pace since 2017.What Bloomberg Economists Say. “It will be a challenge for China to contain rising producer prices because few commodities are priced within the country. There’s not much China can do, and even tightening monetary policy will not be able to change the situation,” said David Qu, China economist at Bloomberg Economics.-- Bloomberg Terminal subscribers can access more insight HEREWhile the rapid increase in commodity prices moderated in recent days, a continuation of gains could pressure companies to pass on rising costs to consumers, who are already spending less than expected. Analysts at Huachuang Securities Co. said in a May 9 report that prices of consumer goods, like home appliances and furniture, as well as electric vehicles and food, are rising. Still, there’s little evidence of demand-driven pressures, with core inflation, which strips out volatile food and energy costs, fairly subdued.The threat of inflation -- coupled with a fragile economy -- tends to be bad news for stocks because of how it erodes corporate profits, and for bonds it reduces the value of future cash flows. Accelerating prices walloped China’s bond market in 2019, and contributed to a steep selloff in stocks in early 2016.In a sign of how seriously that threat is being taken, China’s cabinet said Wednesday more effort needs to be taken to tackle rising commodity prices. A PBOC official said China should allow the yuan to appreciate to offset the impact of rising import prices, according to an article published Friday. The currency is trading near an almost three-year high against the dollar.Imported inflation is a headache for China’s leaders already dealing with risks caused by a surge in capital inflows. In recent years Beijing opened investment channels to allow more funds into its financial system. The goal was to use foreign institutions’ heft to anchor its markets and stabilize its currency, but the record liquidity unleashed by global central banks in the wake of the pandemic is now pressuring prices in China.That’s prompted some strong language from senior officials. Top securities regulator Yi Huiman said in March large flows of “hot money” into China must be strictly controlled. The same month, banking regulator Guo Shuqing said he was “very worried” that asset bubbles in overseas markets would burst soon, posing a risk to the global economy.Deciding whether recent spikes in prices are temporary or a permanent shift toward sustained inflation is something Chinese policy makers have to grapple with. For now, Beijing’s current approach of jawboning, boosting supply and penalizing speculation appears to be targeted at the former.“It’s still too early to tell if China can contain the surge in producer prices, and if it can’t, whether that will have large-scale impact on consumer prices,” said Raymond Yeung, chief economist for Greater China at Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. “This inflation is largely imported -- it’s not something that can be solved by the PBOC.”More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Crypto miners halt China business after Beijing cracks down, bitcoin dives

SHANGHAI (Reuters) -Cryptocurrency mining operators, including a Huobi Mall and BTC.TOP, are suspending their China operations after Beijing stepped up its efforts to crack down on bitcoin mining and trading, sending the digital currency tumbling. A State Council committee led by Vice Premier Liu He announced the crackdown late on Friday - the first time the council has targeted virtual currency mining, a big business in China that accounts for as much as 70% of the world's crypto supply. Crypto miners use increasingly powerful, specially-designed computer equipment, or rigs, to verify virtual coin transactions in a process which produces newly minted crypto currencies such as bitcoin.

Inside the Race to Avert Disaster at China’s Biggest ‘Bad Bank’

(Bloomberg) -- It was past 9 p.m. on Financial Street in Beijing by the time the figure inside Huarong Tower there picked up an inkbrush and, with practiced strokes, began to set characters to paper.Another trying workday was ending for Wang Zhanfeng, corporate chairman, Chinese Communist Party functionary—and, less happily, replacement for a man who very recently had been executed.On this April night, Wang was spotted unwinding as he often does in his office: practicing the art of Chinese calligraphy, a form that expresses the beauty of classical characters and, it is said, the nature of the person who writes them.Its mastery requires patience, resolve, skill, calm—and Wang, 54, needs all that and more. Because here on Financial Street, a brisk walk from the hulking headquarters of the People’s Bank of China, a dark drama is playing out behind the mirrored façade of Huarong Tower. How it unfolds will test China’s vast, debt-ridden financial system, the technocrats working to fix it, and the foreign banks and investors caught in the middle.Welcome to the headquarters of China Huarong Asset Management Co., the troubled state-owned ‘bad bank’ that has set teeth on edge around the financial world.For months now Wang and others have been trying to clean up the mess here at Huarong, an institution that sits—quite literally—at the center of China’s financial power structure. To the south is the central bank, steward of the world’s second-largest economy to the southwest, the Ministry of Finance, Huarong’s principal shareholder less than 300 meters to the west, the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, entrusted with safeguarding the financial system and, of late, ensuring Huarong has a funding backstop from state-owned banks until at least August.The patch though doesn’t settle the question of how Huarong makes good on some $41 billion borrowed on the bond markets, most incurred under Wang’s predecessor before he was ensnared in a sweeping crackdown on corruption. That long-time executive, Lai Xiaomin, was put to death in January—his formal presence expunged from Huarong right down to the signature on its stock certificates.The bigger issue is what all this might portend for the nation’s financial system and efforts by China’s leader, Xi Jinping, to centralize control, rein in years of risky borrowing and set the nation’s financial house in order.“They’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t,” said Michael Pettis, a Beijing-based professor of finance at Peking University and author of Avoiding the Fall: China’s Economic Restructuring. Bailing out Huarong would reinforce the behavior of investors who ignore risk, he said, while a default endangers financial stability if a “chaotic” repricing of the bond market ensues.Just what is going on inside Huarong Tower? Given the stakes, few are willing to discuss that question publicly. But interviews with people who work there, as well as at various Chinese regulators, provide a glimpse into the eye of this storm.Huarong, simply put, has been in full crisis mode ever since it delayed its 2020 earnings results, eroding investor confidence. Executives have come to expect to be summoned by government authorities at a moment’s notice whenever market sentiment sours and the price of Huarong debt sinks anew. Wang and his team must provide weekly written updates on Huarong’s operations and liquidity. They have turned to state-owned banks, pleading for support, and reached out to bond traders to try to calm nerves, with little lasting success.In public statements, Huarong has insisted repeatedly that its position is ultimately sound and that it will honor its obligations. Banking regulators have had to sign off on the wording of those statements—another sign of how serious the situation is considered and, ultimately, who’s in charge.Then there are regular audiences with the finance ministry and the other powerful financial bureaucracies nearby. Among items usually on the agenda: possible plans to hive off various Huarong businesses.Huarong executives are often kept waiting and, people familiar with the meetings say, tend to gain only limited access to top officials at the CBIRC, the banking overseer.The country’s apex financial watchdog—chaired by Liu He, Xi’s right-hand man in overseeing the economy and financial system—has asked for briefings on the Huarong situation and coordinated meetings between regulators, according to regulatory officials. But it has yet to communicate to them a long-term solution, including whether to impose losses on bondholders, the officials said.Representatives at the People’s Bank of China, the CBIRC, Huarong and the Ministry of Finance didn’t respond to requests for comment.Focus on BasicsA mid-level party functionary with a PhD in finance from China’s reputed Southwestern University of Finance and Economics, Wang arrived at Huarong Tower in early 2018, just as the corruption scandal was consuming the giant asset management company. He is regarded inside Huarong as low-key and down-to-earth, particularly in comparison to the company’s previous leader, Lai, a man once known as the God of Wealth.Hundreds of Huarong staff, from Beijing division chiefs to branch employees in faraway outposts, listened in on April 16 as Wang reviewed the quarterly numbers. He stressed that the company’s fundamentals had improved since he took over, a view shared by some analysts though insufficient to pacify investors. But he had little to say about what is on so many minds: plans to restructure and shore up the giant company, which he’d pledged to clean up within three years of taking over.His main message to the troops: focus on the basics, like collecting on iffy assets and improving risk management. The employees were silent. No one asked a question.One employee characterized the mood in his area as business as usual. Another said co-workers at a Huarong subsidiary were worried the company might not be able to pay their salaries. There’s a widening gulf between the old guard and new, said a third staffer. Those who outlasted Lai and have seen their compensation cut year after year have little confidence in the turnaround, while new joiners are more hopeful about the opportunities the change of direction offers.Others joke that Huarong Tower must suffer from bad feng shui: after Lai was arrested, a bank that had a branch in the building had to be bailed out to the tune of $14 billion.Dark humor aside, a rough consensus has begun to emerge among senior management and mid-level regulators: like other key state-owned enterprises, Huarong still appears to be considered too big to fail. Many have come away with the impression—and it is that, an impression—that for now, at least, the Chinese government will stand behind Huarong.At the very least, these people say, no serious financial tumult, such as a default by Huarong, is likely to be permitted while the Chinese Communist Party is planning a nationwide spectacle to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its founding on July 1. Those festivities will give Xi—who has been positioning to stay in power indefinitely—an opportunity to cement his place among China’s most powerful leaders including Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.What will come after that patriotic outpouring on July 1 is uncertain, even to many inside Huarong Tower. Liu He, China’s vice premier and chair of the powerful Financial Stability and Development Committee, appears in no hurry to force a difficult solution. Silence from Beijing has started to rattle local debt investors, who until about a week ago had seemed unmoved by the sell-off in Huarong’s offshore bonds.Competing InterestsHuarong’s role in absorbing and disposing of lenders’ soured debt is worth preserving to support the banking sector cleanup, but requires government intervention, according to Dinny McMahon, an economic analyst for Beijing-based consultancy Trivium China and author of China’s Great Wall of Debt.“We anticipate that foreign bondholders will be required to take a haircut, but it will be relatively small,” he said. “It will be designed to signal that investors should not assume government backing translates into carte blanche support.”For now, in the absence of direct orders from the top, Huarong has been caught in the middle of the competing interests among various state-owned enterprises and government bureaucracies.China Investment Corp., the $1 trillion sovereign fund, for instance, has turned down the idea of taking a controlling stake from the finance ministry. CIC officials have argued they don’t have the bandwidth or capability to fix Huarong’s problems, according to people familiar with the matter.The People’s Bank of China, meantime, is still trying to decide whether to proceed with a proposal that would see it assume more than 100 billion yuan ($15.5 billion) of bad assets from Huarong, those people said.And the Ministry of Finance, which owns 57% of Huarong on behalf of the Chinese government, hasn’t committed to recapitalizing the company, though it hasn’t ruled it out, either, one person said.CIC didn’t respond to requests for comment.The banking regulator has bought Huarong some time, brokering an agreement with state-owned lenders including Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. that would cover any funding needed to repay the equivalent of $2.5 billion coming due by the end of August. By then, the company aims to have completed its 2020 financial statements after spooking investors by missing deadlines in March and April.“How China deals with Huarong will have wide ramifications on global investors’ perception of and confidence in Chinese SOEs,” said Wu Qiong, a Hong Kong-based executive director at BOC International Holdings. “Should any defaults trigger a reassessment of the level of government support assumed in rating SOE credits, it would have deep repercussions for the offshore market.”The announcement of a new addition to Wang’s team underscores the stakes and, to some insiders, provides a measure of hope. Liang Qiang is a standing member of the All-China Financial Youth Federation, widely seen as a pipeline to groom future leaders for financial SOEs. Liang, who arrived at Huarong last week and will soon take on the role of president, has worked for the three other big state asset managers that were established, like Huarong, to help clean up bad debts at the nation’s banks. Some speculate this points to a wider plan: that Huarong might be used as a blueprint for how authorities approach these other sprawling, debt-ridden institutions.Meantime, inside Huarong Tower, a key item remains fixed in the busy schedules of top executives and rank-and-file employees alike. It is a monthly meeting, the topic of which is considered vital to Huarong’s rebirth: studying the doctrines of the Chinese Communist Party and speeches of President Xi Jinping. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Dollar near 3-month low, weighed by Fed's dovish tilt

The dollar stood near its lowest level in three months against a resurgent euro, and traders pared earlier bets the Federal Reserve may move soon to taper its stimulus though markets were not fully convinced that higher U.S. inflation is transient. Minutes from the Fed's April policy meeting released last week showed a sizable minority of policymakers wanted to discuss tapering bond purchase on worries that pouring more money to an economy on the mend could stoke inflation. Still, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell's repeated comments that it is not yet time to discuss a reduction in quantitative monetary easing has led many investors to believe it will be months before the central bank actually tweaks policy.

Is Buying Bitcoin Right Now a Smart Idea?

It’s no longer news that Bitcoin’s dramatic fall on Thursday weighed on market sentiments relatively but Willy Woo a top crypto analyst, still believes the curtain call for Bitcoin’s overall upward rally has not occurred yet.


Политики магазина в отношении MountainMausRemedies

Возврат и обмен

Магазин осуществляет возврат товаров

Магазин не осуществляет обмен товаров или отмену заказа

Следующие товары обмену и возврату не подлежат

  • Индивидуальные и персональные заказы
  • Скоропортящиеся продукты (например, продукты питания или цветы)
  • Товары со скидкой

Сведения о возврате и обмене

Due to Covid19 - 1-2 weeks for shipping.

Once you place your order it is final and CANNOT be CANCELLED.

If we are out of a particular item (this happens sometimes) on your order we will refund that item and fill and the balance of your order.

Please do not send emails throughout the day requesting a cancellation. Please do not email me continually during the day to cancel your order, I check emails in the morning and once again in the late afternoon when I return from dropping off orders at the Post Office. If you are emailing me throughout the day, I am filling orders and will not answer your email until I am finished filling orders for the day. This is the reason why sales are final and cannot be cancelled. I apologize for being blunt, but if I answer emails throughout the day I cannot fill orders and get your herbs to you in a timely fashion.

Custom or personalized orders are non refundable or returnable.

You may return new, non custom or personalized unopened items within 7 days from the invoice date for a refund (this means that the safety seals are intact and the silver pouch your herbs came in is still sealed and not cut open). We'll also pay the return shipping costs if the return is a result of our error (you received an incorrect or defective item, etc.).

If the postal service returns your package as "un-deliverable as addressed" or "refused" and it was shipped to the correct address, we will re-ship your order, but you must pay for re-shipping cost. If you decide that you cannot wait for your order to be re-shipped and you want to cancel your order, we will issue a refund less the shipping cost, and a re-stocking fee of 20%.

If your order is returned (return to sender) because the customer provided an incorrect address. Once we receive your package we will notify you of the additional shipping cost to re-ship your order. If you decide that you cannot wait for your order to be re-shipped and you want to cancel your order, we will issue a refund less the shipping cost, and a re-stocking fee of 20%.

If your order is returned by you because you do not want your order. Once we receive your returned package we will notify you. We will issue a refund less the shipping cost, and a re-stocking fee of 20%.

Why we charge a restocking fee. It take quite a bit of time or prepare an order because we do not pre-fill or packages. Each and every herb is packaged per order.

If you ordered a product then later discovered it isn't what you wanted, you made an error on your part or didn't read the description properly, and you opened package, you cannot return it for a refund. (please see policy restrictions below).

If you ordered a product then later discovered it isn't what you wanted, you made an error on your part or didn't read the description properly, and you to cancel your order, you cannot do this. All sales are final.

You should expect to receive your refund within a day or so of us receiving your package if you followed our policies.

Please follow Policy Restrictions below for Return Purchases.

INTERNATIONAL ORDERS - We cannot offer exchanges on orders shipped internationally. Orders shipped internationally cannot be returned to our stores for exchange or refund. ALL INTERNATIONAL ORDERS ARE FINAL AND NON REFUNDABLE.

INTERNATIONAL CUSTOMERS: If you elect to have your order shipped via first class mail and usually arrive within 10-17 business days. However, international times do vary and I have had some packages take as long as 2 months to reach their destination. If you are ordering internationally, please keep this is mind. If you do not have the patience to potentially wait 2 months and not know where the package is PLEASE pay an additional $10 to register the package so you can track it. I am not responsible for how long the package is in transit to you. I will ship the package out within 48 hours of your purchase and provide you with proof of shipment. There will be no tracking number, package will not be registered unless you request it, and pay the registration fee. I am not responsible for items lost or stolen in the mail. I am not responsible for customs fees that occur when your package reaches your country. Please research these rates prior to ordering to avoid unexpected charges. I am not responsible for the speed of the mail, once I ship your package I have no control over how fast it will get to you. By purchasing one of my items you are agreeing to these terms.

Please select USPS Priority Mail for your order if you want to track your package and have your package insured. If you chose USPS International First Class Mail, once your package leaves the US, we have no way of tracking your package. Once your package leaves the US - Your order is FINAL and NON-REFUNDABLE.

Политики в отношении доставки

Due to Covid19 - 1-2 weeks for shipping.
If we are out of a particular item (this happens sometimes) on your order we will refund that item and fill and the balance of your order.
Combining Orders: Etsy’s platform for sellers with items with multiple weights does not calculate based on the item selected. Etsy’s platform will pick the highest weight and calculate the order based on their calculation. What I do for my customers is give them two choices, they can either place their order and I will refund the difference in shipping cost once I have their order ready to ship, or I can create a custom order with the correct shipping cost. Please let me know what you decide and I will be happy to help in any way I can.

We can ship to virtually any address in the world. Note that there are restrictions on some products, and some products cannot be shipped to international destinations. We here at Mountain Maus Remedies being true Americans and loving freedom of choice, we want you, our customer to have the freedom of choice on how your order will be shipped, either by USPS, First Class mail tracking number is included, while insurance is not included or by USPS, Priority Mail tracking number and insurance is included, the choice is yours!

All herbs listed on my Etsy account are in stock and ready to ship. If you prefer to visit my website at Mountainmausremedies.com our site will not tell you if your herbs are in stock or out of stock, we will do our best to get your herbs to you in a timely fashion. If your herbs are in stock, they will be shipped the following day (excluding weekends and holidays). If your herbs are not in stock, we will fill your order within 7-10 days. Due to Covid19 - 1-2 weeks for shipping.

All orders go through a complete quality control system prior to your shipping label being created. This is to insure that the herbs your ordered are packaged properly and your order is filled completely. If for any reason you receive and unsealed herb bag, please take a picture of the bag and label and send the image via Etsy "Convo".

When you place an order, we will estimate shipping and delivery dates for you based on the availability of your items and the shipping options you choose. Depending on the shipping provider you choose, shipping date estimates may appear on the shipping quotes page.

Please also note that the shipping rates for many items we sell are weight-based/size. To reflect the policies of the shipping companies we use, all weights will be rounded up to the next full ounce or pound. If for some reason our site charges you more shipping than it actually cost to ship your product, we will refund you the difference in shipping cost.

Our herbs are available in 1, 2, and 4 ounce pouches. If you would like larger quantities, please see the bulk section of my listings or message me for pricing. When placing your order and you elect to purchase 2 or more 4 ounce pouches of the same herb, I will be shipping your order in one pouch unless you specify in the comments section that you would like individual sealed pouches. If you would like to purchase in bulk, please see our bulk section.

All bulk herbs will be packaged at our discretion in bulk sizes. This means that if you order 2 x 1-lb of an herb, for example, it will be packaged in one 2-lb bag – not two separate 1-lb bags. of the same herb, I will be shipping your order in one pouch unless you specify in the comments section that you would like individual 1 lb sealed pouches.

Please select USPS Priority Mail for your order if you want to track your package and have your package insured. If you chose USPS International First Class Mail, once your package leaves the US, we have no way of tracking your package. Once your package leaves the US - Your order is FINAL and NON-REFUNDABLE.

INTERNATIONAL CUSTOMERS: Packages that are sent with first class international mail will usually arrive within 7-10 business days. However, international times do vary and I have had some packages take as long as 2 months to reach their destination. If you are ordering internationally, please keep this is mind. If you do not have the patience to potentially wait 2 months and not know where the package is PLEASE pay an additional $10 to register the package so you can track it. I am not responsible for how long the package is in transit to you. I will ship the package out within 48 hours of your purchase and provide you with proof of shipment. There will be no tracking number, package will not be registered unless you request it, and pay the registration fee. I am not responsible for items lost or stolen in the mail. I am not responsible for customs fees that occur when your package reaches your country. Please research these rates prior to ordering to avoid unexpected charges. I am not responsible for the speed of the mail, once I ship your package I have no control over how fast it will get to you. By purchasing one of my items you are agreeing to these terms.

We cannot offer exchanges on orders shipped internationally. Orders shipped internationally cannot be returned to our stores for exchange or refund. All sales are final and non-refundable.

It is recommended that when you place your order that you inquire about additional insurance for your purchase or select USPS Priority Mail for your order. If you select USPS First Class Mail and your international package is lost in transition from our shop to your address and you did not request insurance, you are responsible and your order will not be re-filled or refunded. Unforeseen circumstances can happen and we apologize if this does happen, but once your package leaves the United States, we have no way of tracking your package for you or obtaining information on your shipment.

If you purchased additional insurance for your package, please contact your local post office and file a loss claim.

Import duties, taxes, and charges are not included in the item price or shipping cost. These charges are the buyer's responsibility.

Please check with your country's customs office to determine what these additional costs will be prior to making a purchase.

When your package reaches your country, it may be subject to customs fees and inspection. It is your responsibility to pay the fees imposed by your country. If your package is confiscated for any reason, your order will not be refunded or will it be replaced by Mountain Maus' Remedies. Your package may also be opened and inspected by a customs agent. We are not responsible for damage done while in this transition, this is a risk that you as a customer takes when ordering internationally and customs is involved.

If you or your country's customs rejects your shipment, or your package is deemed as undeliverable by the shipping company for any reason, we will refund you for the refused items once they are returned to us in re-sellable condition however, you are responsible for your shipping charges plus any other fees that may apply. If additional fees do apply, they will be taken out of your refund. If you feel the error is due to a mistake on the part of the shipping company, you will have to speak with them directly about getting your fees refunded.


Shake Shack's Founder On Industry's COVID-19 Recovery, Why Full Service Dining Is Hardest Hit

Full-service restaurants are bearing the brunt of the pandemic because the business model is not one that makes guests feel comfortable, Union Square Hospitality Group CEO and Shake Shack Inc (NYSE: SHAK) founder Danny Meyer said on "Bloomberg Markets."

Why Full-Service Restaurants Are Most Impacted: A full-service restaurant, if permitted to open in the first place, will typically have a greeter at the door, multiple servers or waiters, a sommelier and other potential "touchpoints," Meyer said.

Restaurants in New York City, as an example, were dealt a much-needed lifeline when the city made outdoor dining a permanent staple, the restaurant entrepreneur said.

Such an initiative would have never been dreamed of prior to the pandemic, he said.

The best part is that outdoor dining adds additional seating capacity above and beyond what was previously allowed, Meyer said.

On the other side of the spectrum, the fast-casual or quick service group was able to show a much stronger or quicker recovery because it never fully depended on in-dining activity, he said.

Meyer On The Restaurant Recovery: Restaurants will hopefully soon be able to take full advantage of the large pent-up demand for dining, Meyer said.

People are craving the social experience of dining out in a public space and being able to "hearing the sounds and smelling the smells" of a restaurant, he said.

At the same time, restaurants will still be able to cater to people who prefer to dine at home, in his view.

Restaurants under Union Square's umbrella will likely implement measures that reduce interactions between staff and guests, he said.

Some examples include the ability for guests to pay their bill without interacting with the server — and smaller menu choices that highlight "six great items" instead of an overly complicated menu with 15 choices, Meyer said.

SPAC Update: Meyer's special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) USHG Acquisition Corp is looking to acquire "culture-driven businesses" across food, beverage and categories like health or e-commerce.

While Meyer is a restaurateur by profession, his many years of experience have led him to realize that "hospitality as a business principle applies across all industries," he said.

A company's ultimate success is derived 49% from execution, while the larger 51% relates to keeping all stakeholders happy and satisfied, he said.

"We are at a time when what you do, as well as you do it, is no longer enough to distinguish your company as being the best in its field."

See more from Benzinga

© 2021 Benzinga.com. Benzinga does not provide investment advice. All rights reserved.

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China Braces for $1.3 Trillion Maturity Wall as Defaults Surge

(Bloomberg) -- Even by the standards of a record-breaking global credit binge, China’s corporate bond tab stands out: $1.3 trillion of domestic debt payable in the next 12 months.That’s 30% more than what U.S. companies owe, 63% more than in all of Europe and enough money to buy Tesla Inc. twice over. What’s more, it’s all coming due at a time when Chinese borrowers are defaulting on onshore debt at an unprecedented pace.The combination has investors bracing for another turbulent stretch for the world’s second-largest credit market. It’s also underscoring the challenge for Chinese authorities as they work toward two conflicting goals: reducing moral hazard by allowing more defaults, and turning the domestic bond market into a more reliable source of long-term funding.While average corporate bond maturities have increased in the U.S., Europe and Japan in recent years, they’re getting shorter in China as defaults prompt investors to reduce risk. Domestic Chinese bonds issued in the first quarter had an average tenor of 3.02 years, down from 3.22 years for all of last year and on course for the shortest annual average since Fitch Ratings began compiling the data in 2016.“As credit risk increases, everyone wants to limit their exposure by investing in shorter maturities only,” said Iris Pang, chief economist for Greater China at ING Bank NV. “Issuers also want to sell shorter-dated bonds because as defaults rise, longer-dated bonds have even higher borrowing costs.”The move toward shorter maturities has coincided with a Chinese government campaign to instill more discipline in local credit markets, which have long been underpinned by implicit state guarantees. Investors are increasingly rethinking the widely held assumption that authorities will backstop big borrowers amid a string of missed payments by state-owned companies and a selloff in bonds issued by China Huarong Asset Management Co.The country’s onshore defaults have swelled from negligible levels in 2016 to exceed 100 billion yuan ($15.5 billion) for four straight years. That milestone was reached again last month, putting defaults on track for another record annual high.The resulting preference for shorter-dated bonds has exacerbated one of China’s structural challenges: a dearth of long-term institutional money. Even before authorities began allowing more defaults, short-term investments including banks’ wealth management products played an outsized role.Social security funds and insurance firms are the main providers of long-term funding in China, but their presence in the bond market is limited, said Wu Zhaoyin, chief strategist at AVIC Trust Co., a financial firm. “It’s difficult to sell long-dated bonds in China because there is a lack of long-term capital,” Wu said.Chinese authorities have been taking steps to attract long-term investors, including foreign pension funds and university endowments. The government has in recent years scrapped some investment quotas and dismantled foreign ownership limits for life insurers, brokerages and fund managers.But even if those efforts gain traction, it’s not clear Chinese companies will embrace longer maturities. Many prefer selling short-dated bonds because they lack long-term capital management plans, according to Shen Meng, director at Chanson & Co., a Beijing-based boutique investment bank. That applies even for state-owned enterprises, whose senior managers typically get reshuffled by the government every three to five years, Shen said.The upshot is that China’s domestic credit market faces a near constant cycle of refinancing and repayment risk, which threatens to exacerbate volatility as defaults rise. A similar dynamic is also playing out in the offshore market, where maturities total $167 billion over the next 12 months.For ING’s Pang, the cycle is unlikely to change anytime soon. “It may last for another decade in China,” she said.More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Bitcoin, Ether Now Down 50% From Last Month’s ATHs as Rout Resumes

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Summers Says Crypto Has Chance of Becoming ‘Digital Gold’

(Bloomberg) -- Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers said cryptocurrencies could stay a feature of global markets as something akin to “digital gold,” even if their importance in economies will remain limited.Speaking at the end of a week in which Bitcoin whipsawed, Summers told Bloomberg Television’s “Wall Street Week” with David Westin that cryptocurrencies offered an alternative to gold for those seeking an asset “separate and apart from the day-to-day workings of governments.”“Gold has been a primary asset of that kind for a long time,” said Summers, a paid contributor to Bloomberg. “Crypto has a chance of becoming an agreed form that people who are looking for safety hold wealth in. My guess is that crypto is here to stay, and probably here to stay as a kind of digital gold.”If cryptocurrencies became even a third of the total value of gold, Summers said that would be a “substantial appreciation from current levels” and that means there’s a “good prospect that crypto will be part of the system for quite a while to come.”Comparing Bitcoin to the yellow metal is common in the crypto community, with various estimates as to whether and how quickly their total market values might equalize.Yassine Elmandjra, crypto analyst at Cathie Wood’s Ark Investment Management LLC, said earlier this month that if gold is assumed to have a market cap of around $10 trillion, “it’s not out of the question that Bitcoin will reach gold parity in the next five years.” With Bitcoin’s market cap around $700 billion, that could mean price appreciation of around 14-fold or more.But Summers said cryptocurrencies do not matter to the overall economy and were unlikely to ever serve as a majority of payments.Summers is on the board of directors of Square Inc. The company said this month that sales in the first quarter more than tripled, driven by skyrocketing Bitcoin purchases through the company’s Cash App.Summers’ comments were echoed by Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, who doubted crypto’s value as a medium of exchange or stable purchasing power, but said some forms of it may continue to exist as an alternative to gold.“Are cryptocurrencies headed for a crash sometime soon? Not necessarily,” Krugman wrote in the New York Times. “One fact that gives even crypto skeptics like me pause is the durability of gold as a highly valued asset.”Summers also said that President Joe Biden’s administration is heading in the “right direction” by asking companies to pay more tax. He argued policy makers in the past had not been guilty of pursuing “too much antitrust” regulation although he warned it would be “badly wrong” to go after companies just because of increasing market share and profits.Returning to his worry that the U.S. economy risks overheating, Summers said the Federal Reserve should be more aware of the inflationary threat.“I don’t think the Fed is projecting in a way that reflects the potential seriousness of the problem,” he said. “I am concerned that with everything that’s going on, the economy may be a bit charging toward a wall.”(Adds Summers is on Square’s board in 8th paragraph)More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Credit card debt has plunged — but what if you're still up to your neck?

If your finances are being hit hard by the pandemic, you may need to get creative.

First Warning Sign in the Global Commodity Boom Flashes in China

(Bloomberg) -- One pillar of this year’s blistering commodities rally -- Chinese demand -- may be teetering.Beijing aced its economic recovery from the pandemic largely via an expansion in credit and a state-aided construction boom that sucked in raw materials from across the planet. Already the world’s biggest consumer, China spent $150 billion on crude oil, iron ore and copper ore alone in the first four months of 2021. Resurgent demand and rising prices mean that’s $36 billion more than the same period last year.With global commodities rising to record highs, Chinese government officials are trying to temper prices and reduce some of the speculative froth that’s driven markets. Wary of inflating asset bubbles, the People’s Bank of China has also been restricting the flow of money to the economy since last year, albeit gradually to avoid derailing growth. At the same time, funding for infrastructure projects has shown signs of slowing.Economic data for April suggest that both China’s economic expansion and its credit impulse -- new credit as a percentage of GDP -- may already have crested, putting the rally on a precarious footing. The most obvious impact of China’s deleveraging would fall on those metals keyed to real estate and infrastructure spending, from copper and aluminum, to steel and its main ingredient, iron ore.“Credit is a major driver for commodity prices, and we reckon prices peak when credit peaks,” said Alison Li, co-head of base metals research at Mysteel in Shanghai. “That refers to global credit, but Chinese credit accounts for a big part of it, especially when it comes to infrastructure and property investment.”But the impact of China’s credit pullback could ripple far and wide, threatening the rally in global oil prices and even China’s crop markets. And while tighter money supply hasn’t stopped many metals hitting eye-popping levels in recent weeks, some, like copper, are already seeing consumers shying away from higher prices.“The slowdown in credit will have a negative impact on China’s demand for commodities,” said Hao Zhou, senior emerging markets economist at Commerzbank AG. “So far, property and infrastructure investments haven’t shown an obvious deceleration. But they are likely to trend lower in the second half of this year.”A lag between the withdrawal of credit and stimulus from the economy and its impact on China’s raw material purchases may mean that markets haven’t yet peaked. However, its companies may eventually soften imports due to tighter credit conditions, which means the direction of the global commodity market will hinge on how much the recovery in economies including the U.S. and Europe can continue to drive prices higher.Some sectors have seen policy push an expansion in capacity, such as Beijing’s move to grow the country’s crude oil refining and copper smelting industries. Purchases of the materials needed for production in those sectors may continue to see gains although at a slower pace.One example of slowing purchases is likely to be in refined copper, said Mysteel’s Li. The premium paid for the metal at the port of Yangshan has already hit a four-year low in a sign of waning demand, and imports are likely to fall this year, she said.At the same time, the rally in copper prices probably still has a few months to run, according to a recent note from Citigroup Inc., citing the lag between peak credit and peak demand. From around $10,000 a ton now, the bank expects copper to reach $12,200 by September.It’s a dynamic that’s also playing out in ferrous metals markets.“We’re still at an early phase of tightening in terms of money reaching projects,” said Tomas Gutierrez, an analyst at Kallanish Commodities Ltd. “Iron ore demand reacts with a lag of several months to tightening. Steel demand is still around record highs on the back of the economic recovery and ongoing investments, but is likely to pull back slightly by the end of the year.”For agriculture, credit tightening may only affect China’s soaring crop imports around the margins, said Ma Wenfeng, an analyst at Beijing Orient Agribusiness Consultant Co. Less cash in the system could soften domestic prices by curbing speculation, which may in turn reduce the small proportion of imports handled by private firms, he said.The wider trend is for China’s state-owned giants to keep importing grains to cover the nation’s domestic shortfall, to replenish state reserves and to meet trade deal obligations with the U.S.No DisasterMore broadly, Beijing’s policy tightening doesn’t spell disaster for commodities bulls. For one, the authorities are unlikely to accelerate deleveraging from this point, according the latest comments from the State Council, China’s cabinet.“Internal guidance from our macro department is that the country won’t tighten credit too much -- they just won’t loosen further,” said Harry Jiang, head of trading and research at Yonggang Resouces, a commodity trader in Shanghai. “We don’t have many concerns over credit tightening.”And in any case, raw materials markets are no longer almost entirely in thrall to Chinese demand.“In the past, the inflection point of industrial metal prices often coincides with that of China’s credit cycle,” said Larry Hu, chief China economist at Macquarie Group Ltd. “But that doesn’t mean it will be like that this time too, because the U.S. has unleashed much larger stimulus than China, and its demand is very strong.”Hu also pointed to caution among China’s leaders, who probably don’t want to risk choking off their much-admired recovery by sharp swings in policy.“I expect China’s property investment will slow down, but not by too much,” he said. “Infrastructure investment hasn’t changed too much in the past few years, and won’t this year either.”Additionally, China has been pumping up consumer spending as a lever for growth, and isn’t as reliant on infrastructure and property investment as it used to be, said Bruce Pang, head of macro and strategy research at China Renaissance Securities Hong Kong. The disruption to global commodities supply because of the pandemic is also a new factor that can support prices, he said.Other policy priorities, such as cutting steel production to make inroads on China’s climate pledges, or boosting the supply of energy products, whether domestically or via purchases from overseas, are other complicating factors when it comes to assessing import demand and prices for specific commodities, according to analysts.More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Zara owner Inditex to close all stores in Venezuela, local partner says

Inditex, owner of brands including Zara, Bershka and Pull & Bear, will close all its stores in Venezuela in coming weeks as a deal between the retailer and its local partner Phoenix World Trade has come under review, a spokesperson for Phoenix World Trade said. Phoenix World Trade, a company based in Panama and controlled by Venezuelan businessman Camilo Ibrahim, took over operation of Inditex stores in the South American country in 2007. "Phoenix World Trade is re-evaluating the commercial presence of its franchised brands Zara, Bershka and Pull&Bear in Venezuela, to make it consistent with the new model of integration and digital transformation announced by Inditex," the company said in response to a Reuters request.

Hong Kong Exchange’s New CEO Is Put on Cleanup Duty

(Bloomberg) -- The veteran JPMorgan Chase & Co. banker who’s taking the helm at Hong Kong’s exchange has been put on cleanup duty.Chairman Laura Cha has handed Nicolas Aguzin, who takes charge Monday, the task of reviewing the exchange’s practices after a bribery scandal and censure from the regulator, according to people familiar with the matter. The 52-year-old former head of JPMorgan’s international private bank is seen by Cha as having the experience to force a cultural shake-up given his background at a heavily regulated bank, said the people, asking to remain anonymous discussing sensitive issues.Aguzin takes over as the bourse is delivering record earnings. His predecessor, Charles Li, oversaw a doubling of revenue during his decade in charge through acquisitions, loosened listing rules and, most importantly, trading links with mainland China. The easier oversight allowed the listing of Chinese technology giants such as Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and positioned it as the exchange-of-choice for mainland firms amid tensions with the U.S.But there has also been criticism that investor protections were sacrificed to win business. Over the past years, there has been a steady stream of flareups between the bourse and the regulator over IPO quality, the proliferation of shell companies and whether to allow dual class shares.“The HKEX has done a great job in market development, and has introduced measures to improve investor protection,” Sally Wong, CEO of Hong Kong Investment Funds Association, said in an email. “But it seems that issuers’ voices tend to prevail over that of the investors. We very much look forward to working with the new CEO to see how to strike a more appropriate balance to better safeguard investor interests.”Spokespeople for the exchange and the Securities and Futures Commission as well as Aguzin declined to comment.In a review released last year after the former IPO vetting co-head was arrested for bribery, the SFC discovered “numerous ambiguities” in the Chinese Wall between its listing and business divisions. Other issues highlighted last year include keeping track of share options and following up on complaints on withdrawn IPO applications.Cha had begun to tighten internal checks and balances for senior managers toward the end of Li’s tenure as well as assert more board control over hiring, people familiar have said. The exchange has halted the interactions between its listing and business units, according to the SFC review. Last week, in a joint statement with the SFC, the bourse vowed to better police its frothy IPO market, citing concerns about companies inflating their values, market manipulation and unusually high underwriting fees.Aguzin is expected by the board to prioritize the exchange’s role as a regulator alongside its growth ambitions, people familiar said.David Webb, a former HKEX director, investor and corporate governance activist, is skeptical the bourse will institute any meaningful reforms. “HKEX has, with government approval, lowered its standards to attract business, for example, by listing second-class shares with weak voting rights,” he said in an email. “It shows no sign of raising them again.”Investors have also urged the exchange to set rules requiring company boards to have a lead outside board member or an independent chair, according to Wong. “But it seems that the HKEX is not ready to even bring them up for market consultation.”The government is on board with Aguzin’s appointment, which comes at a fraught time after Beijing has tightened its grip on the city, raising questions about its continued status as an international financial hub.Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Christopher Hui said the three-tiered regulatory system comprising his department, the SFC and HKEX has worked well. Aguzin’s appointment embodies the city’s openness and its role as a gateway between China and the world, he said. “This is exactly what we will pursue.”Further deepening connections to China is seen as key to growth for the bourse, which also faces stiffer competition from mainland exchanges as China opens its financial markets.While Aguzin has worked in Asia for the past decade -- also serving as JPMorgan’s CEO of Asia Pacific from 2013 to 2020 -- he will be the first non-Chinese CEO of a bourse that often needs to deal with Beijing.Cha is well connected in China, having served as vice chairman of China Securities Regulatory Commission. She has signaled that she sees the bourse’s role as serving Beijing’s interests and avoiding competition with the mainland, a person said familiar with the matter said last year.The push toward the mainland is not all welcome in China. Expanding the link to include several benchmark stocks has proved difficult, with one sticking point being whether to include shares like Alibaba Group, which are dual listed and with weighted voting rights.Even so, Cha said at the time of the appointment that Aguzin’s remit will include further strengthening the link to the mainland.Another board member, Fred Hu, said in an interview that “Aguzin is well positioned to take HKEX into the future, to further deepen the connectivity with China but also connectivity with the rest of the world.”More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

As mortgage rates hit 3% again, expert predicts we'll see 4% rates this year

Though rates have inched up, it’s not too late to get a low rate to buy or refinance.

Exxon Activist Battle Turns Climate Angst Into Referendum on CEO

(Bloomberg) -- An unprecedented fight over who should sit on the board of Exxon Mobil Corp. is turning into a referendum on Chief Executive Officer Darren Woods as a decades-long struggle by climate campaigners comes to a head.Activist investor Engine No. 1 LLC wants to replace one-third of Exxon’s board in an effort to force the Western world’s largest oil explorer to embrace a transition away from fossil fuels and end a decade of what it calls “value destruction.” Shareholders are set to gather — virtually — for their annual meeting on May 26.The stakes are high. Under Exxon’s bylaws, a victory for any dissident director would mean an incumbent must step down, equating to a zero-sum proxy contest: of 16 candidates, only 12 will prevail. Any dilution of Woods’s influence over the board could derail his long-term plans and force strategic and tactical changes he has previously rejected.Although Engine No. 1 hasn’t targeted Woods for removal, even a partial victory for the activist would be a serious, and perhaps fatal, blow to his leadership, according to Ceres, a coalition of environmentally active investors managing $37 trillion.“I don’t see how Darren Woods remains as CEO if one of the dissidents, let alone all four, are elected,” said Andrew Logan, director of oil and gas at Ceres. “It would be such a sign of fundamental dissatisfaction with the status quo that something would have to change. And that starts with the CEO.”Exxon's engagement with environmental activists was once characterized by a sense of bemusement — under former CEO Lee Raymond, Greenpeace protesters outside its annual meetings were offered donuts. But as worries about climate change have gone mainstream in the investment world, the clash has evolved into a confrontation over boardroom seats.In other corners of the commodities sector, shareholders this year have already shown frustration with executives’ reluctance to embrace tough environmental goals. DuPont de Nemours Inc. suffered an 81% vote against management on plastic-pollution disclosures, while ConocoPhillips lost a contest on adopting more stringent emission targets.Exxon’s meeting this year threatens to be one of the stormiest on the U.S. corporate calendar, made all the more remarkable for being instigated by a newly formed fund that only has a $54 million, or 0.02%, stake in the oil behemoth. Investor dissatisfaction with the company largely centers on two issues that are becoming more interlinked: climate change and profits. The oil giant envisages a profitable, long-term future for fossil fuels, but sees no point in investing in traditional renewable energy businesses. It also refuses to commit to a net-zero emissions target, unlike European rivals.Climate concerns are are resonating more deeply with investors at the same time that Exxon’s status as a financial powerhouse crumbles after multiple corporate missteps, some of which preceded Woods’s elevation to CEO in 2017. Returns on invested capital are a fraction of what they were in Exxon’s heyday a decade ago and debt ballooned 40% last year as Covid-19 paralyzed economies and energy demand around the world. Under mounting pressure and concerns over Exxon’s ability to pay the S&P 500’s third-largest dividend, the CEO slashed an ambitious $200 billion expansion program by a third late last year. It was a relief to some investors who had questioned both the cost and the need for such projects at a time when policymakers — and even rivals like BP Plc and Royal Dutch Shell Plc — are planning for the twilight of the petroleum era.Still, Engine No. 1 says Exxon needs higher-quality directors who are willing to challenge management. Exxon missed key industry trends such as the shale revolution, “the shift to focusing on project returns over chasing production growth, and the need to gradually prepare for rather than ignore the energy transition,” according to the San Francisco-based activist.After receiving early backing from major state pension funds, Engine No. 1’s campaign gathered momentum this month as two prominent shareholder-advisory firms, Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. and Glass Lewis & Co., threw their partial support behind the activist’s efforts. ISS wrote a scathing rebuke of Exxon’s climate strategy, saying the company had only taken “incremental steps to prepare for the inevitable.”Top 20 shareholder Legal & General Investment Management, a previous critic of Exxon, is also backing Engine No. 1 and has pledged to vote against Woods. However, the voting intentions of some other major investors, such as Vanguard Group, BlackRock Inc. and State Street Corp. aren’t clear — all three declined to comment when contacted by Bloomberg News. Norway’s giant sovereign wealth fund said late last week that it would support the reelection of most Exxon directors, but not Woods, part of its long-standing push to separate the roles of CEO and chairman at Exxon.With such animosity brewing, the usual course of action would be for Exxon’s board to meet with the activists and hash out a compromise. But that has yet to happen, and both sides appear to be entrenched.Exxon said in a May 14 letter to shareholders its board “listens and responds to shareholder feedback,” but that Engine No. 1, founded only a few months ago, wasn’t interested in engaging and “is trying to replace four of our world-class directors with unqualified nominees.'' The company added that the activist fund's plans would “derail our progress and jeopardize your dividend.”For its part, Engine No. 1 said Exxon refused to meet its nominees: Gregory Goff, former CEO of refiner Andeavor environmental scientist Kaisa Hietala private equity investor Alexander Karsner and Anders Runevad, ex-CEO of power producer Vestas Wind Systems A/S.Exxon did talk with another investor, hedge fund D.E. Shaw & Co., which built a stake in an effort to push for change. Those discussions led to the appointment of the new directors, including activist investor Jeff Ubben. The oil company has also announced new emissions targets, started a low-carbon business, and supported policies that will help technological innovations like carbon capture.In some respects Exxon is in a better position that it was at the start of 2021. Its stock has rallied more than 40% as oil prices rebounded and lockdowns are eased. Engine No. 1 points to its involvement as the turning point, while Exxon claims the market is rewarding prudent cost cutting and high-return investments made over the last couple of years. The forthcoming vote will help to determine which side of the debate other investors lean toward.“There’s a governance challenge at Exxon,” said John Hoeppner, head of U.S. sustainable investments at Legal & General. “How seriously is the current board questioning management’s business model? It’s important to add urgency to the debate.”More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Bubble Risks Test China’s Commitment to No Sharp Turn in Policy

(Bloomberg) -- Despite Beijing’s best efforts, asset bubbles are forming in China.Home prices are soaring, prompting officials to revive the idea of a national property tax. A surge in raw material prices spurred pledges to increase domestic supply, toughen market oversight, and crack down on speculation and hoarding.The rapid gains are challenging the central bank’s ability to restrain inflation without hiking borrowing costs or making a sharp turn in monetary policy -- something the People’s Bank of China has said it will avoid. The risk is the government’s attempts to curb price increases won’t be enough, forcing the central bank’s hand at a vulnerable time for domestic consumption.That would be a shock to the nation’s financial markets, which are pricing in a relatively benign scenario. The 10-year government bond yield has fallen to the lowest level in eight months, while the stock benchmark CSI 300 Index is the least volatile since January. The calm contrasts with the rest of the world, where investors are becoming increasingly obsessed with how central banks may react to the threat of an overheating global economy.“How to mitigate the boom in property and commodities without tightening macro policy -- it’s a real challenge for the Chinese government,” said Zhou Hao, an economist at Commerzbank AG in Singapore.More than 15 months after the pandemic first forced China to cut rates and inject trillions of yuan into the financial system, policy makers in Beijing are -- like many others across the world -- dealing with the aftermath. As the global economic recovery accelerates, some are being forced to act because of inflation: Brazil in March became the first Group of 20 nation to lift borrowing costs, with Turkey and Russia following suit. Even Iceland hiked a short-term rate in May.Others, like the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank, have insisted spikes in prices are only temporary. The PBOC also downplayed inflation worries in its first-quarter monetary report, published shortly after data showed factory prices surged 6.8% in April -- the fastest pace since 2017.What Bloomberg Economists Say. “It will be a challenge for China to contain rising producer prices because few commodities are priced within the country. There’s not much China can do, and even tightening monetary policy will not be able to change the situation,” said David Qu, China economist at Bloomberg Economics.-- Bloomberg Terminal subscribers can access more insight HEREWhile the rapid increase in commodity prices moderated in recent days, a continuation of gains could pressure companies to pass on rising costs to consumers, who are already spending less than expected. Analysts at Huachuang Securities Co. said in a May 9 report that prices of consumer goods, like home appliances and furniture, as well as electric vehicles and food, are rising. Still, there’s little evidence of demand-driven pressures, with core inflation, which strips out volatile food and energy costs, fairly subdued.The threat of inflation -- coupled with a fragile economy -- tends to be bad news for stocks because of how it erodes corporate profits, and for bonds it reduces the value of future cash flows. Accelerating prices walloped China’s bond market in 2019, and contributed to a steep selloff in stocks in early 2016.In a sign of how seriously that threat is being taken, China’s cabinet said Wednesday more effort needs to be taken to tackle rising commodity prices. A PBOC official said China should allow the yuan to appreciate to offset the impact of rising import prices, according to an article published Friday. The currency is trading near an almost three-year high against the dollar.Imported inflation is a headache for China’s leaders already dealing with risks caused by a surge in capital inflows. In recent years Beijing opened investment channels to allow more funds into its financial system. The goal was to use foreign institutions’ heft to anchor its markets and stabilize its currency, but the record liquidity unleashed by global central banks in the wake of the pandemic is now pressuring prices in China.That’s prompted some strong language from senior officials. Top securities regulator Yi Huiman said in March large flows of “hot money” into China must be strictly controlled. The same month, banking regulator Guo Shuqing said he was “very worried” that asset bubbles in overseas markets would burst soon, posing a risk to the global economy.Deciding whether recent spikes in prices are temporary or a permanent shift toward sustained inflation is something Chinese policy makers have to grapple with. For now, Beijing’s current approach of jawboning, boosting supply and penalizing speculation appears to be targeted at the former.“It’s still too early to tell if China can contain the surge in producer prices, and if it can’t, whether that will have large-scale impact on consumer prices,” said Raymond Yeung, chief economist for Greater China at Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. “This inflation is largely imported -- it’s not something that can be solved by the PBOC.”More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Crypto miners halt China business after Beijing cracks down, bitcoin dives

SHANGHAI (Reuters) -Cryptocurrency mining operators, including a Huobi Mall and BTC.TOP, are suspending their China operations after Beijing stepped up its efforts to crack down on bitcoin mining and trading, sending the digital currency tumbling. A State Council committee led by Vice Premier Liu He announced the crackdown late on Friday - the first time the council has targeted virtual currency mining, a big business in China that accounts for as much as 70% of the world's crypto supply. Crypto miners use increasingly powerful, specially-designed computer equipment, or rigs, to verify virtual coin transactions in a process which produces newly minted crypto currencies such as bitcoin.

Inside the Race to Avert Disaster at China’s Biggest ‘Bad Bank’

(Bloomberg) -- It was past 9 p.m. on Financial Street in Beijing by the time the figure inside Huarong Tower there picked up an inkbrush and, with practiced strokes, began to set characters to paper.Another trying workday was ending for Wang Zhanfeng, corporate chairman, Chinese Communist Party functionary—and, less happily, replacement for a man who very recently had been executed.On this April night, Wang was spotted unwinding as he often does in his office: practicing the art of Chinese calligraphy, a form that expresses the beauty of classical characters and, it is said, the nature of the person who writes them.Its mastery requires patience, resolve, skill, calm—and Wang, 54, needs all that and more. Because here on Financial Street, a brisk walk from the hulking headquarters of the People’s Bank of China, a dark drama is playing out behind the mirrored façade of Huarong Tower. How it unfolds will test China’s vast, debt-ridden financial system, the technocrats working to fix it, and the foreign banks and investors caught in the middle.Welcome to the headquarters of China Huarong Asset Management Co., the troubled state-owned ‘bad bank’ that has set teeth on edge around the financial world.For months now Wang and others have been trying to clean up the mess here at Huarong, an institution that sits—quite literally—at the center of China’s financial power structure. To the south is the central bank, steward of the world’s second-largest economy to the southwest, the Ministry of Finance, Huarong’s principal shareholder less than 300 meters to the west, the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, entrusted with safeguarding the financial system and, of late, ensuring Huarong has a funding backstop from state-owned banks until at least August.The patch though doesn’t settle the question of how Huarong makes good on some $41 billion borrowed on the bond markets, most incurred under Wang’s predecessor before he was ensnared in a sweeping crackdown on corruption. That long-time executive, Lai Xiaomin, was put to death in January—his formal presence expunged from Huarong right down to the signature on its stock certificates.The bigger issue is what all this might portend for the nation’s financial system and efforts by China’s leader, Xi Jinping, to centralize control, rein in years of risky borrowing and set the nation’s financial house in order.“They’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t,” said Michael Pettis, a Beijing-based professor of finance at Peking University and author of Avoiding the Fall: China’s Economic Restructuring. Bailing out Huarong would reinforce the behavior of investors who ignore risk, he said, while a default endangers financial stability if a “chaotic” repricing of the bond market ensues.Just what is going on inside Huarong Tower? Given the stakes, few are willing to discuss that question publicly. But interviews with people who work there, as well as at various Chinese regulators, provide a glimpse into the eye of this storm.Huarong, simply put, has been in full crisis mode ever since it delayed its 2020 earnings results, eroding investor confidence. Executives have come to expect to be summoned by government authorities at a moment’s notice whenever market sentiment sours and the price of Huarong debt sinks anew. Wang and his team must provide weekly written updates on Huarong’s operations and liquidity. They have turned to state-owned banks, pleading for support, and reached out to bond traders to try to calm nerves, with little lasting success.In public statements, Huarong has insisted repeatedly that its position is ultimately sound and that it will honor its obligations. Banking regulators have had to sign off on the wording of those statements—another sign of how serious the situation is considered and, ultimately, who’s in charge.Then there are regular audiences with the finance ministry and the other powerful financial bureaucracies nearby. Among items usually on the agenda: possible plans to hive off various Huarong businesses.Huarong executives are often kept waiting and, people familiar with the meetings say, tend to gain only limited access to top officials at the CBIRC, the banking overseer.The country’s apex financial watchdog—chaired by Liu He, Xi’s right-hand man in overseeing the economy and financial system—has asked for briefings on the Huarong situation and coordinated meetings between regulators, according to regulatory officials. But it has yet to communicate to them a long-term solution, including whether to impose losses on bondholders, the officials said.Representatives at the People’s Bank of China, the CBIRC, Huarong and the Ministry of Finance didn’t respond to requests for comment.Focus on BasicsA mid-level party functionary with a PhD in finance from China’s reputed Southwestern University of Finance and Economics, Wang arrived at Huarong Tower in early 2018, just as the corruption scandal was consuming the giant asset management company. He is regarded inside Huarong as low-key and down-to-earth, particularly in comparison to the company’s previous leader, Lai, a man once known as the God of Wealth.Hundreds of Huarong staff, from Beijing division chiefs to branch employees in faraway outposts, listened in on April 16 as Wang reviewed the quarterly numbers. He stressed that the company’s fundamentals had improved since he took over, a view shared by some analysts though insufficient to pacify investors. But he had little to say about what is on so many minds: plans to restructure and shore up the giant company, which he’d pledged to clean up within three years of taking over.His main message to the troops: focus on the basics, like collecting on iffy assets and improving risk management. The employees were silent. No one asked a question.One employee characterized the mood in his area as business as usual. Another said co-workers at a Huarong subsidiary were worried the company might not be able to pay their salaries. There’s a widening gulf between the old guard and new, said a third staffer. Those who outlasted Lai and have seen their compensation cut year after year have little confidence in the turnaround, while new joiners are more hopeful about the opportunities the change of direction offers.Others joke that Huarong Tower must suffer from bad feng shui: after Lai was arrested, a bank that had a branch in the building had to be bailed out to the tune of $14 billion.Dark humor aside, a rough consensus has begun to emerge among senior management and mid-level regulators: like other key state-owned enterprises, Huarong still appears to be considered too big to fail. Many have come away with the impression—and it is that, an impression—that for now, at least, the Chinese government will stand behind Huarong.At the very least, these people say, no serious financial tumult, such as a default by Huarong, is likely to be permitted while the Chinese Communist Party is planning a nationwide spectacle to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its founding on July 1. Those festivities will give Xi—who has been positioning to stay in power indefinitely—an opportunity to cement his place among China’s most powerful leaders including Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.What will come after that patriotic outpouring on July 1 is uncertain, even to many inside Huarong Tower. Liu He, China’s vice premier and chair of the powerful Financial Stability and Development Committee, appears in no hurry to force a difficult solution. Silence from Beijing has started to rattle local debt investors, who until about a week ago had seemed unmoved by the sell-off in Huarong’s offshore bonds.Competing InterestsHuarong’s role in absorbing and disposing of lenders’ soured debt is worth preserving to support the banking sector cleanup, but requires government intervention, according to Dinny McMahon, an economic analyst for Beijing-based consultancy Trivium China and author of China’s Great Wall of Debt.“We anticipate that foreign bondholders will be required to take a haircut, but it will be relatively small,” he said. “It will be designed to signal that investors should not assume government backing translates into carte blanche support.”For now, in the absence of direct orders from the top, Huarong has been caught in the middle of the competing interests among various state-owned enterprises and government bureaucracies.China Investment Corp., the $1 trillion sovereign fund, for instance, has turned down the idea of taking a controlling stake from the finance ministry. CIC officials have argued they don’t have the bandwidth or capability to fix Huarong’s problems, according to people familiar with the matter.The People’s Bank of China, meantime, is still trying to decide whether to proceed with a proposal that would see it assume more than 100 billion yuan ($15.5 billion) of bad assets from Huarong, those people said.And the Ministry of Finance, which owns 57% of Huarong on behalf of the Chinese government, hasn’t committed to recapitalizing the company, though it hasn’t ruled it out, either, one person said.CIC didn’t respond to requests for comment.The banking regulator has bought Huarong some time, brokering an agreement with state-owned lenders including Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. that would cover any funding needed to repay the equivalent of $2.5 billion coming due by the end of August. By then, the company aims to have completed its 2020 financial statements after spooking investors by missing deadlines in March and April.“How China deals with Huarong will have wide ramifications on global investors’ perception of and confidence in Chinese SOEs,” said Wu Qiong, a Hong Kong-based executive director at BOC International Holdings. “Should any defaults trigger a reassessment of the level of government support assumed in rating SOE credits, it would have deep repercussions for the offshore market.”The announcement of a new addition to Wang’s team underscores the stakes and, to some insiders, provides a measure of hope. Liang Qiang is a standing member of the All-China Financial Youth Federation, widely seen as a pipeline to groom future leaders for financial SOEs. Liang, who arrived at Huarong last week and will soon take on the role of president, has worked for the three other big state asset managers that were established, like Huarong, to help clean up bad debts at the nation’s banks. Some speculate this points to a wider plan: that Huarong might be used as a blueprint for how authorities approach these other sprawling, debt-ridden institutions.Meantime, inside Huarong Tower, a key item remains fixed in the busy schedules of top executives and rank-and-file employees alike. It is a monthly meeting, the topic of which is considered vital to Huarong’s rebirth: studying the doctrines of the Chinese Communist Party and speeches of President Xi Jinping. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Dollar near 3-month low, weighed by Fed's dovish tilt

The dollar stood near its lowest level in three months against a resurgent euro, and traders pared earlier bets the Federal Reserve may move soon to taper its stimulus though markets were not fully convinced that higher U.S. inflation is transient. Minutes from the Fed's April policy meeting released last week showed a sizable minority of policymakers wanted to discuss tapering bond purchase on worries that pouring more money to an economy on the mend could stoke inflation. Still, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell's repeated comments that it is not yet time to discuss a reduction in quantitative monetary easing has led many investors to believe it will be months before the central bank actually tweaks policy.

Is Buying Bitcoin Right Now a Smart Idea?

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Punching above its weight

Shake Shack is a small company, with just 254 restaurants as of its latest report, but its brand has always had outsize influence.

Part of that has to do with the company's slow growth from just one location in New York's Madison Square Park, while it also benefits from its reputation for high-quality food and occasional tie-ups with well-known chefs.

At the time of its IPO five years ago, management said it believed it could expand to at least 450 domestic company-operated locations. Back then, Shake Shack had just 31 company-operated restaurants, meaning that figure represented 15 times what it had then. Today, however, Shake Shack already has 151 domestic company-owned locations, and is adding roughly 40 a year.

Shake Shack hasn't addressed the ceiling for its growth in the U.S. recently, but based on Garutti's statements, management seems to think it's significantly higher than 450 locations.

Garutti spent much of the presentation talking about "white space" opportunities, or room in the market for the company to penetrate. For instance, he pointed out that there are only nine states in the country with more than five Shacks. On the other hand, there are 22 states where the company has fewer than five locations, meaning it has a lot of room for growth around the country.

As it's expanded, Shake Shack has also experimented with new formats, including airport locations, event spaces like baseball stadiums, roadside restaurants in rest areas, digital orders with the help of its Grubhub partnership, as well as food trucks and mall food court locations.

Garutti implied that the company wasn't afraid to cannibalize existing restaurants, saying that you might see a Shake Shack inside a mall food court and then find a free-standing location nearby outside. He summed up the company's growth ambition by saying, "We are going after market share. We want to sell every great burger we can in every great city."

Shake Shack's restaurants have higher average unit volumes than any major chain except Chick-Fil-A, and considering its popularity and that it's still much smaller than most of the best-known fast-food chains, the company should have a long tail of growth ahead of it, well beyond 450 locations.


Shake Shack Coming to Darien, But They Want to Bring Their Big Signs with Them

Shake Shack, a popular, upscale fast-food-like restaurant, has signed a lease for the former Chuck’s Steak House site on the Post Road and wants to open for business by late summer or early fall 2016.

It also wants a “Shake Shack” sign two feet high in the front of the building, although current zoning regulations allow for businesses to have 10-inch-high signs. Some other retail businesses in town have larger signs than the regulations allow, usually granted through variances to the rules, including nearby H&L Chevrolet and Nielsen’s Florists.

Rendering or possible rendering of the proposed Darien Shake Shack (contributed from the presentation)

A representative from Shake Shack, along with David Genovese, principal at Baywater Properties, which owns the 1340 Post Road site (as well as much of the land and buildings downtown), gave an informal description of their proposed project to build the restaurant to the Planning & Zoning Commission on Tuesday.

The store would have about 3,100 square feet of interior floor space in a building on the front corner of the three-quarter-acre lot, closest to nearby Interstate 95. A rendering showing the design of the building (or a possible design) indicated a modernistic structure.

Another angle showing the Shake Shack proposed for Darien (contributed from the presentation)

The restaurant would have 45 parking spaces, 10 more than regulations require. The back of the lot goes to Old Kings Highway South (no entrance or exit to that street was shown).

On one side of the property is Paw Print pet shop, on the other side is the Exxon gas station (where the wooden bear stands on its hind legs). Across the street is the car dealership property, currently being prepared for Land Rover/Jaguar dealership to move in.

Shake Shack started as a restaurant in Madison Square Park in Manhattan in 2004 (replacing a “Shake Shack” hot-dog cart started in 2001), and became so popular that lines soon formed around the block.

Since then, the restaurant expanded to various sites in the United States and abroad, including a “Shack” (which is what the company calls its individual restaurants) in Westport. The company now expands at a rate of about 10 new locations a year and earlier this year it became listed as a public company on the New York Stock Exchange (symbol: SHAK).

“I have four kids in the school system, and I foolishly told them that we were talking to Shake Shack,” Genovese told the board. “And the next thing I know, rumors were flying around that Shake Shack was coming to Darien.”

On Monday, the rumors proved true, when Baywater signed a lease with Shake Shack, he said. A formal application is expected to be filed by late November, civil engineering drawings are nearly done, traffic and parking studies are done, but “a big issue that’s come up is signage,” he said.

What it serves and how it serves it

The chain serves hamburgers, milk shakes, french fries and other food typically found in a traditional fast-food restaurant, but does so in an upscale way as a higher-end restaurant might.

According to material presented to the P&Z Commission, the restaurant serves hamburgers with no hormones or antibiotics in the Angus beef. Its hamburger and hot dog buns are non-GMO, and the company prides itself “on using premium ingredients” from (“wherever possible”) local sources.

The company says it recycles bottles, cardboard and plastics, as well as cooking oil.

Buildings it constructs

Shake Shack’s “Shacks” are “constructed from recycled and sustainable materials. We use energy-efficient kitchen equipment and employ LED lighting.”

“We challenge ourselves to make each new Shack more unique and sustainable than the last,” according to the company’s presentation to the P&Z. “Decades of history line the New Haven Shack, with wooden walls made from old bleacher seats recovered from the illustrious Yale bowl.”

About that signage

The chain tries “to maintain that sign, the size and scale” in each store, although the architectual design of the stores isn’t uniform, Shake Shack Real Estate Manager Eric Brown told the board.

The sign originated with the first restaurant, and “the way to make it seem different and kind of cool were these [large] letters.”

The original store also has the words “FRIES SUNDAES SODAS FROZEN CUSTARD” and other offerings along the lower edge of the roof.

Attorney Robert Maslan of Darien, representing both Baywater Properties and Shake Shack, also spoke before the board. He said the sign as now proposed would stand not exactly on the front wall, but about 10 inches from it, and town officials would have to decide whether or not that violated the regulations and whether a variance should be granted for it.

He said the Trader Joe’s and Orvis signs were also large ones in town, as is at least one of the Darien Sport Shop signs. Town Planning Director Jeremy Ginsberg pointed out that the Orvis and Trader Joe’s signs are large because they stand 200 feet from the Post Road, while the Shake Shack sign would be very close to the road.

To get a variance from the town, the business would need to show it has a “hardship,” which could be a difficult argument before a town board Maslan said.

Genovese pointed out that the H&L Chevrolet sign was given a variance in 1984, although customers going to a dealership to buy a car normally do so after planning and deciding on possible cars to buy, whereas a restaurant like Shake Shack relies more on people buying on an immediate decision — such as driving down the road, perhaps just after getting off the highway, and seeing the sign.

Someone who doesn’t see the sign until the last second may also make a sudden turn or stop, which can affects safety on the road, he said.

Ginsberg warned the board that it needs to be careful about granting variances on signs. A sign “has to be proportional to the building, and there has to be rhyme or reason to it [the variance], because if there’s no rhyme or reason, we will be here many long nights” listening to other business owners who want the same kind of variance.

Shake Shack community service

“We want to find the right place where we can be part of the community and do something special,” Brown said. Each year, every Shack takes part in the “Great American Shake Sale” where, for a $2 donation, customers can come back another day and get a free milk shake. That raised $500,000 this year, according to the company’s presentation.

Each Shack also “partners with their own local charity” to raise funds and awareness, Brown said. “We would pick a charity in Darien and partner with them in some sort of way,” he said.

Added benefit: frozen custard

Maslan said that Shake Shack is one of the few stores around that offers diners frozen custard. With a Shake Shack in town, it will be much easier for Darienites to get that comestible, he said.