Peloton Plunge - The New York Times

MONEY & BUSINESS: Peloton Plunge – The New York Times

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Peloton, the maker of connected fitness bikes that was one of the hottest companies in the early days of the pandemic, announced this morning that it lost $757 million in the first quarter, far more than analysts were expecting. It also burned through roughly the same amount of cash.

It’s the first earnings report under Peloton’s new C.E.O., Barry McCarthy. Since taking the reins, McCarthy has focused on addressing supply chain issues, lowering costs and experimenting with the company’s pricing model. “Turnarounds are hard work,” McCarthy wrote in a letter to shareholders today.

  • The quarter included more than $200 million in writedowns, with about $30 million of that covering inventory that the company no longer thinks it can sell.

  • Membership was up just 5 percent from last quarter, to 7 million.

  • Revenue fell 24 percent from last year, to $964 million. Sixty percent of that came from products, and 40 percent from subscriptions.

The company is raising cash. The company has $879 million, which according to McCarthy leaves Peloton “thinly capitalized for a business of our scale.” Earlier this week, Peloton signed a binding commitment letter with JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs for a $750 million loan.

Peloton’s rising losses is yet another sign that the pandemic bubble has burst. Shares of Peloton were set to fall nearly 25 percent this morning. The company now has a market value of about $4 billion, down more than 90 percent from its high in early 2021 of $47 billion. Shares of Zoom, another pandemic darling, are down 83 percent from October 2020. The virtual conferencing company now has a market value of $27 billion, roughly its value before the pandemic.

Stocks are poised to recover some of their losses. Futures markets indicate that U.S. stocks will rebound slightly today, following a more than monthlong drop that has left the S&P 500 off 16 percent for the year. Bitcoin fell below $30,000 for the first time since July 2021.

Clearview AI settles a privacy suit and agrees to limit its sales. The facial recognition software maker agreed not to sell its database of more than 20 billion facial photos to most private individuals and businesses in the U.S. It can still offer its services to state and federal agencies.

Peter Thiel and Bill Ackman back a new financial firm that will tell companies to stay out of politics. Vivek Ramaswamy, an entrepreneur and best-selling author, has reportedly raised $20 million to start a fund manager called Strive that will push for a focus on the bottom line. Ramaswamy criticized BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street for having a liberal bias.

Biden signs an updated version of the World War II Lend-Lease Act. The original, enacted in 1941, allowed the federal government to send weapons and supplies to Britain as it faced Nazi Germany. The new version will speed up shipments of weapons to Ukraine. The president also lifted a tariff on Ukrainian steel.

A dating app maker sues Google over its app store policies. The antitrust claim by Match Group, which owns Tinder and OkCupid, is the latest salvo in a long-running fight over the fees that Google and Apple charge app developers for purchases made through apps.

The gay dating app Grindr said yesterday that it plans to go public by merging with a SPAC. The deal is being sponsored by Tiga Acquisition, a blank-check firm run by Raymond Zage, who is also the lead investor in the company that bought Grindr from a Chinese company in 2020. The deal values Grindr at more than $2 billion, including debt.

As part of the deal, Grindr released its financial results as a stand-alone company for the first time. (Its former Chinese owner has reported some limited results in the past.)

Here are the highlights:

  • Grindr is profitable. The company made $77 million last year in adjusted earnings.

  • Revenue from subscription fees rose nearly 40 percent last year to $146 million.

  • Grindr has mostly grown by word of mouth. The company said it spent $1.5 million on marketing last year, or just 1 percent of revenue.

  • Grindr has 11 million users, and they spend an average of 61 minutes a day on the app. Tinder and Bumble users spend an average of 18 and 14 minutes a day on those apps, respectively, according to Grindr.

The lowlights:

  • The company’s adjusted earnings remove a very large depreciation expense of more than $40 million, as well as some other costs. Its net profit of $5 million last year was up from a pandemic-year loss, but down from 2019.

  • Just 7 percent of Grindr’s users, or about 700,000, are paying customers. That compares to 9 percent and 18 percent for rivals Bumble and Tinder.

  • The company says it made $8 million in net profit in 2019 — but its former owners said earlier that it made $30 million that year. It’s not clear why the company revised its profits down.

Grindr has repeatedly run into privacy issues. Last year, the Norwegian Data Protection Authority said it had fined Grindr 100 million Norwegian kroner, or about $11.7 million at the time, for disclosing private details about its users to advertising companies, in violation of European law. Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that Grindr sold user location data to ad networks from at least 2017 to 2020, when Grindr said it ended the possibility of such data collection.


— Alex Karp, C.E.O. of Palantir Technologies, in a letter to shareholders yesterday, taking a dig at Silicon Valley companies for focusing on building software for “alternate realities.”


Last night at the Robin Hood benefit at New York City’s Javits Center, Citadel’s Ken Griffin was the winning bidder in an auction for a seat to space on Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos’ rocket company. (Bezos was in attendance.) Griffin bid $8 million and said he plans to give the ticket to a New York City schoolteacher.

Alongside the event, Robin Hood announced that the venture capitalist Alexis Ohanian, the Bezos Family Foundation and other donors were committing a total of $50 million to expand access to quality, affordable child care options in an attempt to bolster the city’s overburdened, underfunded system. The city will add another $50 million.

The pandemic highlighted a child care crisis in New York. Child care centers that were already running on thin budgets were forced to reduce capacity or shut down completely, forcing hundreds of thousands of child care workers out of the industry and leaving parents with few options.

“More than 40 percent of New York City parents with a young child had to leave a job or move from full-time to part-time work during the pandemic because of lack of access to child care,” Richard Buery, chief executive of Robin Hood, a New York City charity with strong ties to Wall Street, told DealBook.

Women ages 25 to 54 were two and a half times more likely than men in the same age group to list child care as their primary reason for being out of work, according to an analysis of census data by the nonprofit organization Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York.

Fixing the current system would boost the local economy by helping many New Yorkers — particularly women — get back to work, Buery said. New York’s private child care options are also among the most expensive in the country, with full-time group infant care costing more than $16,000 on average in 2020, keeping it out of reach for many families.


The world’s largest energy companies are expected to sell off more than $100 billion of oil fields and other polluting assets as they try to hit their corporate climate goals. But these firms often sell to buyers that disclose little about their operations, have made few or no pledges to combat climate change, and are committed to ramping up fossil fuel production, writes The Times’s Hiroko Tabuchi.

About 60 percent of oil well deals likely won’t result in lower emissions. New research out today shows that, of 3,000 oil and gas deals made between 2017 and 2021, twice as many involved assets moving from operators with net-zero commitments to those that didn’t, than the reverse. That is raising concerns that the assets will continue to pollute, perhaps even at a greater rate, but away from the public eye.

  • “You can move your assets to another company, and move the emissions off your own books, but that doesn’t equal any positive impact on the planet if it’s done without any safeguards in place,” said Andrew Baxter, who heads the energy transition team at the Environmental Defense Fund, which performed the analysis.

Transactions like these hinder the cleanup of fossil fuel infrastructure and efforts to slow climate change. In a new study, the World Meteorological Organization and the U.K. Met Office found a very strong likelihood that one of the next five years will be the warmest on record globally, surpassing the current record year of 2016.

Deals

  • Philip Morris International is reportedly in talks to buy its smokeless tobacco rival Swedish Match in a deal valued at $15 billion or more. (WSJ)

  • All but three of the 53 tech companies that went public last year are currently trading below their offer or opening price. (CNBC)

  • Goldman Sachs is reportedly stepping back from SPACs, putting new offerings on hold and stopping work with most that it helped to take public. (FT)

Russia-Ukraine war

  • Putin called for the creation of an internal working group on international payments to work out terms for transactions with “unfriendly” states. (Reuters)

  • The brutality of the war is said to have persuaded Italy’s prime minister to loosen his country’s historically strong ties to Russia. (Bloomberg)

  • VW’s chief executive called for a negotiated end to the war in Ukraine to protect Europe’s economy. (FT)

Policy

  • The I.R.S. paid out more than $3 billion in interest in 2021 to tax filers who had to wait for their refunds. (WSJ)

  • Former heads of state called on Biden to commit $5 billion to the global fight against Covid-19. (NYT)

  • Groups representing international businesses that operate in China are urging Beijing to relax its Covid approach. (CNN)

Best of the rest

  • The Times won Pulitzer Prizes for investigative reporting and cultural criticism. (NYT)

  • Atlas Capital, headed by the crypto critic Nouriel Roubini, will launch a tokenized dollar. (Bloomberg)

  • Instagram is launching an NFT experiment in the U.S. to test the waters for more NFT offerings. (TechCrunch)

  • “For Tens of Millions of Americans, the Good Times are Right Now” (NYT)

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