Google puts up $1 billion to ease housing headaches it helped cause

In this May 1, 2019, file photo, a woman walks past a Google sign in San Francisco. Google is making a $1 billion commitment to address the soaring price of housing in the San Francisco Bay Area, a problem that the internet company and its Silicon Valley peers helped create as the technology industry hired tens of thousands of high-paid workers. (AP)
Updated 19 June 2019

Google puts up $1 billion to ease housing headaches it helped cause

  • A report by Working Partnerships called upon Google to build more than 17,000 homes in the area to help offset the anticipated price increases caused by the new campus

SAN FRANCISCO: Google is pouring $1 billion into easing the high-priced housing headaches that it and its Silicon Valley peers helped give the San Francisco Bay Area.
The pledge announced Tuesday by Google CEO Sundar Pichai consists of a $250 million investment fund and $750 million of company-owned land. It will be used to build at least 15,000 homes that will include low- and mid-income housing.
Google’s commitment eclipsed a recent $500 million pledge made by Microsoft to combat housing shortages in the Seattle area and a $500 million housing fund created by a consortium including Facebook.
Google is extending a helping hand as it draws up plans to expand into sprawling offices beyond its headquarters in Mountain View, California. That suburban city of roughly 80,000 people has been swamped with affluent tech workers since Google moved there shortly after its 1998 inception.
Since then, Google’s payroll has swelled from a few dozen workers to the more than 103,000 people now working for it and its corporate parent, Alphabet Inc. Nearly half of those workers are based in the Bay Area.
While Google has been expanding, so have a wide variety of other technology companies, including Apple, Facebook, Oracle, Salesforce and Netflix — all of whom also lavish their workers with six-figure salaries and stock options that can yield multimillion-dollar windfalls.
The high incomes have resulted in bidding wars for the limited supply of homes in the Bay Area that can only be afforded by the affluent, a group increasingly dominated by tech workers, while people employed in other lines of work struggle to make ends meet on more modest incomes.
That is making it impossible for people on the lower end of the economic spectrum to buy a home in the Bay Area, where a mid-priced house sold for $990,000 in April, according to the California Association of Realtors, a trade group. In 1999, a mid-priced home sold for $308,000.
It’s even worse in San Francisco, a city from which many tech workers ride company buses to the Silicon Valley suburbs. A mid-priced house in San Francisco sold for nearly $1.7 million in April, according to the realtors’ group, quadruple the price of 20 years ago.
Google’s next big project will be in the Bay Area’s most populous city, San Jose, where it plans to build a corporate campus consisting of offices and housing where 15,000 to 20,000 of its employees will work and live.
The project faced resistance from community activists worried about its effect on housing prices. Last week, a report by Working Partnerships called upon Google to build more than 17,000 homes in the area to help offset the anticipated price increases caused by the new campus. The report by the labor-union backed labor group envisions apartment rent increases of $235 million by 2030 if action isn’t taken.
“For several months, we have encouraged Google to make a bold commitment to address our region’s affordable housing challenge,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said in a statement applauding the company’s $1 billion pledge.


Saudi central bank ready for any Aramco-related liquidity squeeze

Updated 10 December 2019

Saudi central bank ready for any Aramco-related liquidity squeeze

  • Aramco’s long-awaited listing on the Saudi Arabian stock exchange is due on Wednesday
  • The central bank has set up a team to closely monitor all indicators in the banking system during the IPO

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s central bank is ready for any liquidity squeeze from Saudi Aramco’s initial public offering (IPO) and is closely monitoring local banks, its governor said, after heavy demand for loans to buy the stock.
Aramco’s long-awaited listing on the Saudi Arabian stock exchange is due on Wednesday, completing the largest IPO on record and raising $25.6 billion from retail and institutional buyers who took on debt to back their orders.
“We don’t rule out that there might be squeeze of liquidity later on, that’s why I am ready and stand ready to intervene,” Ahmed Al-Kholifey told Reuters.
Saudis had clamoured to own part of the “crown jewel” of the world’s top oil exporter in the lead up to its IPO, with Aramco’s institutional tranche 6.2 times oversubscribed, while more than 5 million individuals subscribed to a retail tranche.
The Aramco IPO is the centerpiece of the Saudi crown prince’s plans to diversify the economy away from a reliance on oil, as the money will be reinvested by the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) to promote growth in other sectors.
During the IPO process, the loan-to-deposit ratio (LDR) at some banks had exceeded a 90% “soft guideline” set by the regulator, but the ratio improved after the allocation process ended, Kholifey said in an interview.
“So far no bank has come to ask for liquidity from the central bank. We are ready to intervene in case there is a squeeze of liquidity but most of the indicators right now are not worrying,” Kholifey added.
MONITORING TEAM
The central bank has set up a team specifically to closely monitor all indicators in the banking system during the IPO process, and it held meetings on a daily basis.
“I don’t think in the near future they will settle, we have to keep monitoring the situation until we see things are normal, especially the LDR,” he said.
Saudi corporates snapped up the biggest percentage of allocations to the Aramco IPO at 37.5% and Saudi government institutions were allocated 13.2% of the institutional tranche, the latest figures issued by the deal’s lead bank showed.
Kholifey said that less than 2% of retail subscriptions were leveraged, and most of the bank financing went to high-net-worth individuals and institutional buyers.
He expects most of the IPO proceeds to be invested locally by the PIF, given that most of subscription were internal.
Riyadh scaled back its original IPO plans, scrapping an international roadshow to focus on marketing Aramco to Saudi investors and Gulf Arab allies. It has remained silent on when or where it might list Aramco stock abroad.