Numlock News: August 25, 2022 • Neon Lights, Dark Side of the Moon, Nuclear Power
By Walt Hickey
Harvard, an incredibly valuable Boston-area hedge fund, may very well see its financial might challenged by a Texas-area hedge fund called the University of Texas that stands to benefit from significant wagers on energy investments. Both investment vehicles operate incidental side hustles in the education space, but the real action has long been the institutional investment portfolio. Harvard has $53.2 billion in assets under management — “endowment” in their firm’s preferred jargon — while Texas is working with $42.9 billion. That gap is poised to close, as the Texas endowment has 2.1 million acres of land in the Permian Basin, much of it leased out to drillers. With oil reaching $120 a barrel, the energy-weighted fund is outperforming peer firms substantially and now exceeds the Connecticut-area private equity group that has been doing business as Yale, which apparently also maintains an education-related ancillary operation.
Pink Floyd is attempting to cash out and sell its back catalog, with the group selling the copyrights to its songs and master copies seeking at least £400 million. One potential buyer in the running is Hipgnosis Songs Capital, a billion-dollar investment fund backed by private equity giant Blackstone, meaning one day spinning “Money” off Dark Side of the Moon will directly benefit private equity investors. Should they nab it, the Pink Floyd catalog alone could be worth more than all their current holdings combined, holdings that include $341 million worth of catalogs from the likes of Leonard Cohen, Justin Timberlake and Nelly Furtado. Now that Wizard of Oz producer MGM is owned by Amazon, I for one am looking forward to the day when someone who gets stoned and does the Dark Side of the Rainbow sync must first mail a check to Jeff Bezos and Stephen Schwarzman, the second and 20th richest Americans.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida ordered the construction of new nuclear power plants, fundamentally turning the page on the Fukushima era where overwhelmingly safe nuclear power was removed from the Japanese grid in favor of polluting, fossil fuel-burning facilities. The government plans to furthermore restart 17 nuclear power plants that had gone idle post-Fukushima before the summer of 2023. Overall, Japan has 33 reactors, but only six remain in operation. Electrical power companies want to reactivate 25 of them, and 17 have already cleared a safety review.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, on average women spend 47 more minutes on housework than men do every day, which accumulates to about five and a half hours a week. The gender gap in housework exists in nearly every configuration of heterosexual households: Women do more housework when both partners work, when they make more money than their spouse, in households where both are not employed, and when both are retired. The housework equivalent of Equal Pay Day would be August 29, after which women would have to stop doing housework in order to equalize the labor by the end of the year.
Black Friday Is This Friday
Retailers ordered a lot of stuff when there were shortages during busy periods of this winter and this spring, and because of logistical problems lately they only just recently got those deliveries and as a result inventories are way up. Mattel, for instance, has inventories up 44 percent year over year. This means that right now is oddly enough one of the best times to buy things in quite some time, and it may actually make sense to do holiday shopping right now given the ample overstock. Toy prices are down 8.2 percent year over year as of July, electronics are down 9.3 percent, computer prices are down 10.2 percent, and clothing prices are down 1 percent. While the autumn has historically been a bad time to go shopping because of slight deals to be found between back to school and Black Friday, this year is different.
Hong Kong was synonymous with neon lights, thanks in part to the films of director Wong Kar Wai which permanently linked the element of neon to the city. Master craftsmen worked to create the custom lighting for all manner of businesses, and the Chinese characters emblazoned in neon lights became a key image of the city’s identity. With the advent of LEDs in the 1990s, the neon began to gradually go out of style, and over 90 percent of the neon lights have disappeared over the past 20 years, with pandemic-era business closures only exacerbating things. Some groups are working to preserve the neon lights as they’re removed, or at least guarantee their safe storage or disposal.
An estimated 1.6 billion tons of food are wasted annually, and nearly a third of that can be saved through refrigeration alone. Rwanda, where the per-capita income is $2.28 a day, is looking to implement a nationwide system for refrigerated products — a “cold chain” — that could seriously offer benefits for the sustainability of their food supply. In developed countries, when a piece of produce is picked, it very quickly is cooled down, often being run through cold water or in a forced-air chiller which essentially cuts the internal temperature down from whatever it is in the field to cold-storage temperatures, where it can stay for weeks if needed. If it’s not cooled quickly, though, the produce will essentially begin to eat itself, which will make it perish sooner and be overall less nutritious. Rwanda has a single forced-air chiller in an export facility that isn’t used often, but it’s investing in this kind of food infrastructure and if it’s successful it could be used as a blueprint to get “cold chains” throughout other countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
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