Sometimes I think having real data can help put an issue into perspective. And a study released this week indicates that restaurants, gyms, and cafes are the places where you’re most likely to be exposed to COVID-19. Of the three, restaurants were the worst — which makes sense given all the mask removing in order to eat and drink. As cases continue to rise in the US, going for takeout over dine-in as much as possible might be a good idea.
The Business Buzz
Where’s the (plant-based) beef? Beyond Meat had a tumultuous Monday this week. Initially, its shares dropped when McDonald’s announced that it is adding a “McPlant” burger to its menu in select markets next year — thus joining the ranks of Burger King and Dunkin’ Donuts by offering a plant-based meat alternative. Beyond Meat’s shares dropped because McDonald’s initially stated that the plant-based burger was developed in-house. However, a statement given to CNBC clarified that the McPlant was developed in partnership with Beyond Meat. Which then sent the alternative protein company’s shares back up. Until it released its earnings report for Q3 later in the day. Beyond Meat reported losses of nearly $20 million in the third quarter. And shares dropped by 29% as a result. However, the company isn’t backing off its plans to expand into Europe and China — or to buy a new factory in Pennsylvania.
A supreme fashion acquisition. The parent company of Vans and North Face — VF Corp. — is set to acquire streetwear brand Supreme for close to $2.1 billion by the end of the year. Supreme is known for its iconic logo and cult-like following — and the way it manipulates scarcity to drive up demand. The fashion brand releases small quantities of products at a time, which then often sell out in a matter of hours. It also only has 12 stores across the US. That kind of business model is very different from VF’s other brands. And there’s a lot of speculation about whether Supreme will be able to maintain its independence and mystique after the acquisition is finalized. However, Supreme’s founder — James Jebbia — is staying on in a leadership role, and VF has stated that it intends to use a “light touch” integration in this case. Given that Supreme’s success has been built on its eccentricities, it would seem prudent for VF to embrace rather than prune them.
The Private Market
Surging like it’s 2017. The bitcoin rally shows no signs of slowing as the cryptocurrency surpassed a price of $16k this week. That amount has people looking back to December 2017 — when bitcoin briefly crested $20k in price. Thus far that’s been its all-time high. But people are wondering if we’re about to see that record broken, given how strongly bitcoin has been performing recently. The data indicates that much of that strong performance has been driven by institutional investors — who are buying the cryptocurrency at previously unseen levels. The presence of institutional investors could also bring more stability to the current bitcoin market because they tend to buy and hold. That bodes well for the approach of a new all-time high. Coincidentally, PayPal also announced this week that it has dropped the waitlist for users to buy and sell cryptocurrency through its platform. With bitcoin’s price on the rise, institutional interest holding strong, and increased ease of access, I think cryptocurrency is becoming a major force in finance.
An exciting and under-the-radar development. Way back in the beginning of October, I wrote about StartEngine’s announcement for their upcoming secondary trading platform. Well, in the crush of news about the election and Ant Group’s cancelled IPO, StartEngine’s secondary platform went quietly live. This makes StartEngine one of the few equity crowdfunding platforms to allow its users to trade their startup investments. Despite the lack of fanfare, it’s an exciting development. As more and more platforms expand to offer this ability to users, the clear market demand becomes apparent. Startup investing is a long term game — it usually takes 5-to-10 years to see a return on investment. But that can be a frustratingly long time for everyday investors to wait. Secondary trading gives them the opportunity to see returns much more quickly. And — maybe even more exciting — if an investor misses out on a company’s Reg CF deal, that doesn’t have to be the end of the story. Having the chance to buy shares on a secondary market means they don’t have to wait until the company raises capital again (and probably at a higher valuation).
The Fun Stuff
Checkmate. The pandemic has been very good for chess. Online play boomed after professional sporting events were cancelled in March. And now that popularity is being further bolstered by Netflix’s new series The Queen’s Gambit. If you haven’t heard of this show yet, you’re almost certainly living under a rock. It’s received rave reviews from newspapers and audiences alike. Even your trusty news roundup author has seen it, and I’m often the last person on the binging bandwagon (I still haven’t seen a single episode of Schitt’s Creek).
The show centers on orphan and chess prodigy Elizabeth Harmon as she competes in tournaments across the country and eventually abroad — all while fighting addiction and navigating complicated relationships. It’s based on a novel by Walter Tevis, so not a true story. But the show is driving renewed interest in chess — and some data seems to show that it’s helping to bring more women to the game. Oh, and in case you’re curious about the title: it’s the name of an opening where the white player tries to take control of the board by sacrificing the pawn in front of their queen. It’s widely viewed as an aggressive opening, which is fitting for the show’s protagonist.