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Jun 02, 2023

The week in IR: Philip Morris starts ESG journey, JPMorgan predicts Bitcoin climb and SEC warns crypto influencers

Our pick of the IR stories from around the web you might have missed this week

– Philip Morris International’s (PMI) CEO said the maker of Marlboro cigarettes is charting a path to becoming an ESG stock as part of a push to win back investors that have shunned it because of tobacco-exclusion policies, the Financial Times (paywall) reported. PMI’s pivot away from cigarettes toward less harmful vapor-based nicotine alternatives, which accounted for about a third of its revenues last year, placed the tobacco group’s new product line ‘on the podium’ when it came to ESG impact, argued Jacek Olczak. ESG mandates have prompted European asset managers including Robeco and Candriam and UK pension funds run by Aviva and Scottish Widows to sell off billions of dollars’ worth of tobacco stocks in their actively managed funds in recent years.

– In crypto news, Bitcoin and Ethereum – the two largest cryptocurrencies – saw their price rallies stall this month after roaring into 2023, though Goldman Sachs and Microsoft are among companies quietly preparing for the next bull run, Forbes (paywall) reported. The Bitcoin price doubled from around $15,000 per unit late last year to more than $30,000 in April, pulling the Ethereum price with it. But serious regulatory fears, especially in the US, have weighed on prices, with some even warning that President Joe Biden could ‘kill’ Bitcoin and crypto. As Bitcoin, Ethereum and crypto traders brace for a $1.1 tn market upheaval, strategists at Wall Street giant JPMorgan issued a bullish, gold-based Bitcoin price prediction that could see the currency’s capitalization climb to near $900 bn.

– Meanwhile, according to Cointelegraph, the SEC is pursuing crypto influencers who have promoted scam projects and have been found to be manipulating the prices of certain tokens via social media. Former SEC chief John Stark took to Twitter to warn crypto influencers to be ready to face prosecution, saying that they shilled numerous sketchy crypto projects and often helped them manipulate market prices during the bull run. He warned that for any form of price manipulation – whether in exchange-listed securities, penny stock securities or crypto securities – the same anti-fraud rules apply, adding that the days of social media crypto influencers are numbered.

– According to Reuters (paywall), WE Soda, the world’s largest producer of natural soda ash, is looking to raise at least $800 mn for its parent Ciner Group in an IPO, in a show of confidence in London’s capital markets. The ultimate size of the offering is subject to investor feedback but will represent at least 10 percent of WE Soda’s share capital, said chief strategy officer Nicholas Hall, after the company announced plans to list earlier on Wednesday. Press reports have previously pointed to a potential valuation for the chemicals firm of up to $8.5 bn.

– The South China Morning Post reported that Japanese companies are adding investments in Taiwan, according to company executives and government data, to strengthen ties in the tech supply chain and hedge against mainland China. Foreign direct investment from Japan to Taiwan has climbed since 2018, when the total exceeded $1 bn for the first time in more than a decade, on its way to a record $1.7 bn last year, Japan’s Investment Commission data showed. Japanese enterprises are now looking for safe havens to grow business amid rapid realignments of tech supply chains that have seen the US sideline China over the past five years, encouraging China to become more self-sufficient while befriending non-US-aligned nations.

– Jeanine Wai was appointed vice president of investor relations for North America at TotalEnergies, Yahoo!finance reported, replacing Robert Hammond, who has retired. Wai began her career in 2001 with Chevron as a process engineer in downstream, specializing in hydrocracking and base oils. From 2009, she held corporate, buy-side and sell-side positions, including oil & gas financial analysis and M&A at Bechtel, exploration and production analyst at Nexus Asset Management and 13 years of upstream oil & gas equity research at JPMorgan and Citi. Most recently, she was senior US integrated oil and exploration & production analyst at Barclays since 2018.

Staff Writers

The staff writers on IR magazine are from our team of highly experienced journalists.