Goldman Sachs backs U.S. construction finance tech startup Rabbet

Goldman Sachs Group Inc has backed Rabbet, a U.S. startup that develops software to help make construction finance more efficient, the companies said on Wednesday.

How Kraft Heinz owners’ belt-tightening model eroded its iconic brands

Kraft Heinz Co. shares fell 20 per cent on a slew of bad news, mainly centering on a multi-billion dollar write-down, which had investors wondering if years of rigorous cost cuts came at the expense of losing the value of its marquee Kraft and Oscar Mayer brands.

The move put the spotlight on Kraft’s slowing growth and the changing tastes of consumers, who have been shunning older, established brands for newer hipper products, cheaper private label brands and non-processed food.

Shares of rivals also fell, with General Mills, Conagra Brands Inc, Unilever and Nestle SA all down between one per cent and four per cent.

Kraft Heinz, controlled by Brazil’s 3G Capital and Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., has been combating higher transportation and commodity costs by tightening overall expenses. But that has come at a price.

“Investors for years have asked if 3G’s extreme belt-tightening model ultimately would result in brand equity erosion,” JPMorgan analyst Ken Goldman said.

“We think the answer arguably came yesterday in the form of a US$15 billion intangible asset write-down for the Kraft and Oscar Mayer brands,” said Goldman, who cut his rating to “neutral” from “overweight.”

The company, which competes with General Mills Inc and Kellogg Co, cut its quarterly dividend to 40 cents per share from around 63 cents per share on Thursday.

In addition to lower-than-expected earnings, the company disclosed it had been subpoenaed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in October, related to an investigation into its accounting policies, procedures and internal controls related to procurement.

The company said it was working on ways to improve its internal controls and determined the problems required it to record a $25 million increase to the cost of products sold.

The shares tanked 20 per cent in late trade and are set to open at a record low at the open.

The US$15.8 billion write-down indicates declining fortunes of the iconic brands.

H.J. Heinz merged with Kraft in 2015 in a deal engineered by 3G, and under its stewardship carried out extreme cost cuts that risked hurting the company’s top line by stifling investment in innovation and marketing.

A year later, 3G was praised for making Kraft Heinz’s operating margin the best amongst its peers, but that came at the cost of closing six factories and cutting 7,000 jobs in 18 months.

Analysts now doubt if 3G’s model was effective, given that the company’s margins before interest and taxes fell to 23.2 per cent in 2018 from 27.2 per cent in 2015.

“Kraft Heinz results confirmed all our worst fears — plus more,” Guggenheim Partners’ analyst Laurent Grandet said in a note.

Stifel downgraded the stock to “hold” from “buy” and more than halved its price target to US$35, well below the current median target of US$52.

Credit Suisse cut its price target by US$9 to US$33, making it the lowest on Wall Street.

“This is not your typical ‘reset the base and everything will be fine’ story,” Credit Suisse analyst Robert Moskow wrote.

“The dividend cut, the US$15.8 billion write-down of the Kraft and Oscar Mayer trademarks, and the guidance for further divestitures demonstrate the hallmarks of a company that has a serious balance sheet problem,” Moskow said.

The write-down indicates declining fortunes of the iconic brands and other losses in asset value, meaning the company views those assets as less valuable than before the merger.

“Kraft Heinz is in a worse position than many other consumer packaged goods companies because it has got a very weak portfolio of brands. They are not delivering the level of growth that’s needed in this sort of market,” GlobalData Retail managing director Neil Saunders said.

© Thomson Reuters 2019

Death toll from South African mine blast rises to 18 as 13 bodies recovered

Rescuers have retrieved another 13 bodies from a disused South African coal mine following a gas blast there around two weeks ago, police said on Friday, raising the confirmed death toll to 18.

Pinterest and Lyft move closer to IPO, and LPs question the Vision Fund’s investment strategy

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

What a week. It had looked a bit quiet with just a few big rounds to cover. I was looking forward to a relaxed episode, frankly. But no, as Kate and I were prepping the show notes, the News Gods opened the heavens and dropped a fifty-weight of mana right on our heads.

It was a lot of news.

In quick order, here’s what we tried to run through while keeping it brief:

  • Pinterest has filed to go public, albeit privately. At long last, Pinterest’s IPO is underway. The social company is gunning for liquidity this year, could go public in June and is not targeting a down IPO. It’s looking like $12 billion and up for Big Pint.
  • Lyft’s IPO is racing alongLyft filed to go public back in December, dropping private filings neck-and-neck with Uber. The two ride-hailing companies are both slated to get out this year, but it seems that Lyft is going to lead the way. Even more, it’s tipped to get out at a $20 billion to $25 billion valuation. As grounding, here’s the best math I could come up with concerning those numbers.
  • DoorDash gets $400 million more. The rumored DoorDash round has landed, though it’s shaped a bit differently than we expected. DoorDash did not raise $500 million at a $6 billion valuation, it instead picked up $100 million less, but at a stronger $7.1 billion valuation. And, of course, the Vision Fund was involved.
  • More Vision Fund largesse lands on Clutter and Flexport. What’s a week with just one Vision Fund round? A waste, of course. So, here are two more. Clutter picked up $200 million while Flexport raised a much more impressive $1 billion. Clutter has now raised around $300 million while Flexport’s capital sheet is flush now to the tune of $1.3 billion. As we touched on during the show, the two companies are now going to have more money than they have ever had before to use; let’s hope that that goes well.
  • Speaking of which, what about those valuations? Two quick things to wrap up here. First, discontent among Vision Fund investors. The Vision Fund’s LPs (the sources of its capital) aren’t perfectly happy with some of its choices. That, and what happened to people not taking blood money? We asked that again, probably shouting into the wind while we do so.

As it turns out Silicon Valley capitalism isn’t a New Man; it’s just the same old capitalism in a sweater vest.

All that and it was good to be back. Chat you all in a week’s time!

Equity drops every Friday at 6:00 am PT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercast, Pocket Casts, Downcast and all the casts.

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