Oil surges, stock futures slip after attack on Saudi facility

A picture taken on September 15, 2019 shows an Aramco oil facility at the edge of the Saudi capital Riyadh. Saudi Arabia raced today to restart operations at oil plants hit by drone attacks which slashed its production by half, as Iran dismissed US claims it was behind the assault. (AFP / FAYEZ NURELDINE)
Updated 16 September 2019

Oil surges, stock futures slip after attack on Saudi facility

  • Oil prices surge on fears of global supply disruption
  • Safe haven gold, Japanese yen rise, stock futures slip

SYDNEY, Australia: Oil prices surged to six-month highs on Monday while Wall Street futures fell and safe-haven bets returned after weekend attacks on Saudi Arabia’s crude facilities knocked out more than 5% of global oil supply.
US crude futures were last up 11% at $61.10 a barrel, coming off highs on expectations other global oil suppliers would step in to lift output. Brent crude soared 13% at $68.06 after earlier rising to $71.95.
Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebel group had claimed responsibility for the attack, which hit the world’s biggest oil-processing facility but a senior US official told reporters on Sunday that evidence indicated Tehran was behind it.
The attacks heightened investor worries about the geopolitical situation in the region and worsening relations between Iran and the United States.
Those fears powered safe-haven assets with prices for gold climbing 1% in early Asian trade to $1,503.09.
Moves in Asian share markets were small, however, with Japan shut for a public holiday.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was a tick lower at 515.4. Australian shares were down 0.1% while South Korea’s KOSPI was a tad higher.
E-Minis for the S&P 500 were off 0.4% while those for the Dow eased 0.3%.
“If risk appetite collapses due to fears of worsening middle east tensions in the wake of any retaliation to the drone attacks, some emerging markets could face a double whammy of pressures,” said Mitul Kotecha, Singapore-based senior emerging markets stratgist at TD Securities.
“In Asia, the most risk sensitive currencies are Indian rupee, Indonesian rupiah and Philippine peso .”

Bonds and currencies
Among major currencies, the Saudi news pushed the yen up 0.4% to 107.64 per dollar while the Canadian dollar rose 0.5% in anticipation of higher oil prices.
The euro was little moved near a three-week top while the pound hovered near Friday’s two-month highs. That left the greenback down 0.15% at 98.105 against a basket of six major currencies.
The risk-sensitive Australian dollar was down 0.5% against the yen, snapping nine straight days of gains. The kiwi dollar slipped to a one-week low on the yen.
“One immediate question this (attack) poses for bond markets is whether a further rise in the inflation expectations component of bond yields — which have proved historically sensitive to oil prices — will give this month’s sharp bond market sell-off fresh impetus,” Attrill added.
“Or will safe haven considerations dominate to drive yields lower? Watch this space.”
In early Asian trading, futures for US 10-year Treasury notes rose 0.3%, indicating yields may slip when cash trading begins.
Global bonds were sold off last week, sending yields higher, led by a broader risk rally on hopes the United States and China would soon end their long trade war. Better-than-expected US retail sales data also boosted sentiment.
Chinese data for industrial production, retail sales and fixed asset investment will be released later on Monday, which could help set the tone for this week’s trade.
Investors also await the outcome of the US Federal Reserve’s policy meeting on Wednesday at which it is widely expected to ease interest rates and signal its future policy path.


Cirque du Soleil walks a tightrope through pandemic

Updated 06 June 2020

Cirque du Soleil walks a tightrope through pandemic

  • Suitors wage backstage battle to rescue debt-stricken Canadian circus icon
  • Among the potential bidders is former fire eater Guy Laliberte, who fouded the acrobatic troupe in 1984

MONTREAL: Its shows canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an already heavily indebted Cirque du Soleil’s fight for survival has invited an intense backstage battle to try to save the Canadian cultural icon.

High on a list of potential suitors is former fire eater Guy Laliberte, who founded the acrobatic troupe in 1984 but later sold it.

“Its revival will have to be done at the right price. And not at all costs,” said the 60-year-old, determined not to see his creation sold to private interests.

The billionaire clown said after “careful consideration,” he decided “with a great team” to pursue a bid, but offered no details.

Under his leadership, the Cirque had set up big tops in more than 300 cities around the world, delighting audiences with contemporary circus acts set to music but without the usual trappings of lions, elephants and bears.

Then the pandemic hit, forcing the company in March to cancel 44 shows worldwide, from Las Vegas to Tel Aviv, Moscow to Melbourne, and lay off 4,679 acrobats and technicians, or 95 percent of its workforce.

Hurtling toward bankruptcy, the global entertainment giant and pride of Canada commissioned a bank in early May to examine its options, including a possible sale.

Meanwhile, shareholders ponied up $50 million in bridge financing for its “short-term liquidity needs.”

Laliberte, the first clown to rocket to the International Space Station in 2009, ceded control of the Cirque for $1 billion in 2015.

It has since fallen into the hands of American investment firm TPG Capital (55 percent stake) and China’s Fosun (25 percent), which also owns Club Med and Thomas Cook travel. The Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec (CDPQ) retains the last 20 percent.

The institutional investor, which manages public pension plans and insurance programs in Quebec, bought Laliberte’s last remaining 10 percent stake in the business in February, just before the pandemic.

Since 2015, the Cirque has embarked on costly acquisitions and renovations of permanent performance halls, while its creative spirit waned, according to critics in the Quebec press.

Meanwhile, it piled on more than $1 billion in debt.

Fearing that the Cirque would be “sold to foreign interests,” the Quebec government recently offered it a conditional loan of $200 million to help relaunch its shows as restrictions on large gatherings start to be eased worldwide.

But the agreement in principle is conditional on the Cirque headquarters remaining in Montreal and the province being allowed to buy US and Chinese stakes in the company at an unspecified time in the future, “at market value” and with “probably a local partner,” said Quebec Minister of the Economy Pierre Fitzgibbon.

“The state does not want to operate the circus, but the circus is too important to Quebec (to leave it to foreigners),” he said.

In addition to Laliberte, other prospective buyers include Quebecor, the telecoms and media giant of tycoon Pierre Karl Peladeau, whose opening lowball bid was outright rejected.

“It is essentially the value and reputation of the brand” that has piqued interest in the company, says Michel Magnan, corporate governance chair at Concordia University in Montreal.

But “as long as there are restrictions on gatherings of people, the future is not very rosy” for the Cirque, he said.

Several challenges await, according to Magnan.

“There were a lot of people working in all of these shows. Where are they now? What are they doing? How are they doing? In what shape are they, what state of mind?” he said.

“The more time passes, the more this expertise risks evaporating.”

Small consolation: The Cirque resumed its performances on Wednesday in Hangzhou, China, five months after a coronavirus outbreak in the city.