Numlock News: June 23, 2022 • X-Wing, Sachets, Teens
By Walt Hickey
A model of an X-Wing used during the filming of Star Wars sold for $2.3 million at auction, vastly more than the $500,000 to $1 million that the miniature was expected to go for. The ship was that of Red Leader Garven Dreis and is uniquely rare because — and listen, this is a big spoiler if you’ve never seen Star Wars — most of the X-Wings that attacked the Death Star explode, and their models were destroyed through pyrotechnics during filming.
Florida’s homeowners are facing an insurance crisis. FedNat Insurance has said it will cancel 68,200 homeowner insurance policies in Florida at the end of June, just the latest insurer to retreat from the Sunshine State where the industry has been beset by powerful storms and pervasive fraud. This industry-wide pullout has forced hundreds of thousands of people onto the state insurer of last resort, Citizens Property Insurance Corp, which has seen the number of policies jump from 420,000 three years ago to 883,000 as of May. This has sent their exposure up from $107 billion in May 2019 all the way to $294 billion, with about half of that in three hurricane-prone counties. It’s a terrible business from the insurer’s point of view, even after they jack up the rates: From 2017 to 2021, property insurers in Florida lost an estimated $3.2 billion.
It’s finally happening: In New York City, two developers will convert a 30-story building in the city’s financial district from commercial real estate to apartments, bowing to a tight housing market and depressed commercial market amid a shift to work-from-home. The building at 55 Broad will be converted into 571 market-rate apartments over the next several years. That’s a huge number in context: In 2020 and 2021, developers converted office space into 13,000 apartments across the entire country, particularly in the D.C. metro area and Chicago.
Last summer, 6 million teenagers — about 36.6 percent of them — had a paying job, which was the highest percentage of teens in the workforce since 2008. This year the job market couldn’t be better for teenagers, with lifeguards, food service employees and seasonal recreation employees in high demand. In July of 2021, teens made up 36.2 percent of accommodation and food service jobs, 21.3 percent of retail jobs, and 8.1 percent of arts and recreation jobs.
One of the largest electronics brands on the planet is Hikvision, a Chinese company that supplies surveillance cameras to the whole world. In 2008 Hikvision transferred 48 percent of its shares to China Electronics Technology Group Corporation, a state-owned company, but that hasn’t stopped it from building a colossal overseas business: As of 2021, overseas sales were 27 percent of its $12.42 billion business. Despite being essentially state-owned, there are something like 4.8 million Hikvision networks in 191 countries, 600,000 of which are in the United States, the second-most in the non-China world after Vietnam.
A sachet is a pouch full of something — think ketchup packet — that in the cosmetics business is incredibly common in the developing world for things like detergent or snacks. Unilever, the consumer packaged goods conglomerate, is a colossal source of these sachets. The issue is that sachets are made out of layered plastic and aluminum, and are both non-biodegradable and also non-recyclable, and that major consumer good brands like Unilever spend lots of money lobbying small countries to try to get them to not ban sachets. This year, an estimated 855 billion plastic sachets will be sold, which is about enough to cover the surface of the Earth.
The FDA is preparing to force Juul electronic cigarettes off the market in the United States. Last year, Juul had net sales of $1.3 billion, down 11 percent and causing a $259 million net loss, a shocking figure in the tobacco business. While Juul was the top brand in the e-cig market in 2018 — when Marlboro owner Altria bought a 35 percent stake in the company for $12.8 billion — these days it’s second banana to Vuse, owned by R.J. Reynolds. As recently as March, Altria valued its stake in Juul at a mere $1.6 billion.
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