Pfizer stock and partner BioNTech are rallying Monday morning on news the two companies could vaccinate Americans before the end of 2020. As the pandemic's impact collides with powerful systemic pressures putting more responsibility on individuals to save for retirement, Americans' plans for retirement have been hit by the perfect storm. Roughly-three fourths of investors (72%) say the COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact Winnow Fund has raised $6 million from the Badger Fund of Funds, The Capital Times, Johnsonville Ventures and other investment firms and individuals. FedEx stock is trading at highs not seen since 2018 as a surge in home delivery volume and fewer air cargo alternatives are wooing analysts. Wisconsin has reported its highest levels of new daily cases with spikes in college towns. The damage to the world’s major economies from the virus has been six times more severe than the 2009 financial crisis.
Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) and BioNTech (NASDAQ:BNTX) are making major waves Monday morning. Over the weekend, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said the two companies should know if their novel coronavirus vaccine candidate works by the end of October. Pfizer stock is rallying on the news.
Why does this matter? Pfizer and BioNTech have long been leading the coronavirus vaccine race. They have progressed through clinical trials and posted favorable data. And when AstraZeneca (NYSE:AZN) had to halt its trial, PFE and BNTX soared.
Investors want a vaccine, and they want it soon. As the pair continues to clear hurdles and progress through late-stage trials, they are giving the entire stock market hope. President Donald Trump has said he could grant early approval to a coronavirus vaccine candidate as early as October. This approval would accelerate vaccine deployment, and hopefully, the return to normal.
The message from Bourla this weekend fit perfectly with that timeline. Here is another reason Pfizer stock is soaring. October results could translate to December vaccinations. Bourla shared that the companies were prepared to distribute “hundreds of thousands of doses.” Pfizer and BioNTech have racked up supply deals, including with the United States. Through Operation Warp Speed, the U.S. has secured at least 100 million doses of the vaccine candidate.
As investors process what American vaccine deployment would mean for various hard-hit industries, it should be no surprise Pfizer stock and BioNTech are rallying Monday morning.
The other reason for investor excitement Monday is news Pfizer and BioNTech are expanding their late-stage trials. Over the weekend, Pfizer filed for such expansion with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Its initial trial target was to enroll 30,000 participants.
Now, Pfizer and BioNTech are targeting an even larger trial, with 44,000 participants. Why does this matter? First, consumers are looking for evidence that pharmaceutical companies have motivations that go beyond money. Some 35% of polling respondents shared they would not get a vaccine. Americans have expressed concerns over political and financial motivations, doubting the accelerated research and development timeline. Pfizer, BioNTech and a handful of other companies are looking to change that. Recently, they signed an open letter promising to uphold the scientific method.
The expanded trial is another sign of good faith. Pfizer and BioNTech want to enroll more participants to improve and diversify the trial. Pfizer shared, for example, it would seek to recruit individuals under 16 years old. Another new participant group could include individuals with chronic but stable HIV.
On the date of publication, Sarah Smith did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article.
Sarah Smith is a Web Content Producer for InvestorPlace.com
Sarah Smith, InvestorPlace Web Content Producer
As Pandemic and Systemic Pressures Impact Retirement Savings, Advisors and Financial Professionals Favor Key Provision of SECURE Act: Nearly Two-Thirds Likely to Adopt In-Plan Guarantees
Millennials and Gen X Investors Strongly Agree on the Need for SECURE Act’s In-Plan Guarantees According to Nationwide’s Sixth Annual Advisor Authority Study
COLUMBUS, Ohio, Sept. 14, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — As the pandemic’s impact collides with powerful systemic pressures putting more responsibility on individuals to save for retirement, Americans’ plans for retirement have been hit by the perfect storm. Roughly-three fourths of investors (72%) say the COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on how long they are able to live off their current retirement savings. Nearly two-thirds of investors (63%) expect to require 20 to 30 years of income in retirement—but less than half (47%) think they can live off their savings for that long.
These are among the latest findings revealed in Nationwide’s sixth annual Advisor Authority study, powered by the Nationwide Retirement Institute, reflecting the responses of more than 1,800 advisors, financial professionals and individual investors with investable assets of $100,000 or more.
“Recent market turbulence and changing regulations have put a new lens on retirement needs. The pandemic is driving greater volatility, confidence in Social Security is eroding, access to defined benefits are on the decline and systemic shifts continue placing greater responsibility—and greater pressure—on individuals to fund their own retirement,” said Eric Stevenson, President of Nationwide Retirement Plans. “As defined contribution plans have become a predominant vehicle for retirement savings in the workplace, the SECURE Act will now help more plans to adopt in-plan guarantees, a crucial new solution with the potential to provide what Americans are looking for in the post-COVID world: A guarantee.”
The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act removes existing barriers for plans adopting in-plan guarantees, to protect retirement savings and provide guaranteed income for life within defined contribution plans, including 401(k)s and 403(b)s, as well as Governmental 457(b) plans. Passed with bi-partisan support in late 2019, the SECURE Act is considered the most comprehensive retirement legislation since the Pension Protection Act of 2006, providing more opportunities for participants to access retirement planning solutions that can help them not only reach retirement, but also live in it.
Financial Professionals Predict Strong Adoption for In-Plan Guarantees
Following the passage of the SECURE Act, nearly two-thirds of advisors and financial professionals (64%) say they are likely to adopt in-plan guarantees to provide guaranteed income within clients’ defined contribution plans. More than one-third (39%) of advisors and financial professionals currently use in-plan guarantees to protect clients against outliving savings.
When asked for which net worth segment of clients they are most likely to recommend in-plan guarantees, advisors and financial professionals say Emerging High Net Worth clients ($500,000 to less than $1 million in investable assets). Likewise, Emerging High Net Worth investors are the net worth segment most likely to incorporate in-plan guarantees within their defined contribution plans. It is also important to note that Millennial and Gen X investors are the generations most likely to adopt in-plan guarantees, as detailed below.
In-plan guarantees are also proving popular with employers. Following the passage of the SECURE Act, 60% of employers also say they would consider offering employees lifetime income solutions according to a 2019 survey by Willis Tower Watson.
Millennials and Gen X also Favor In-Plan Guarantees
The need for guaranteed income among investors who are ages 55 and younger is clear, as they face greater responsibility to save for their retirement than preceding generations, and they are likely to spend more years in retirement. The SECURE Act will not only give Millennials and Gen X investors the opportunity to potentially save more, by taking advantage of tax-deferred and tax-free accumulation over time, it also gives them the opportunity to generate a protected stream of lifetime income in retirement by leveraging in-plan guarantees.
While potential adoption is lower among the overall population of investors, with only 43% likely to incorporate in-plan guarantees within their defined contribution plans and nearly one quarter (22%) saying they do not know, investors who are ages 55 and younger are far more likely to adopt in-plan guarantees as a result of the SECURE Act. In fact, two-thirds of both Millennial investors (65%) and Gen X investors (66%) are likely to incorporate in-plan guarantees within their defined contribution plans, compared to only 28% of Boomer investors. While 24% of investors overall currently use in-plan guarantees within their defined contribution plans, more Millennial investors (30%) and Gen X investors (37%) use in-plan guarantees than Boomer investors (17%).
SECURE Act Drives Use of Annuities
By raising awareness about the importance of guaranteed income, the SECURE Act is also driving greater usage of annuities. As a result of the SECURE Act, 70% of advisors and financial professionals also say they will increase their usage of annuities. Likewise, investors ages 55 and younger are more likely than the overall population of investors to say they will increase their usage of annuities as a result of the SECURE Act.
While only 42% of the overall population of investors plan to increase their use of annuities due to the SECURE Act, adoption among younger investors is far greater. Nearly three-fourths of Millennial investors (70%) and nearly two-thirds of Gen X investors (63%) are likely to increase their use of annuities due to the SECURE Act, compared to only one-quarter of Boomer investors (25%).
“The fallout from COVID-19 continues to challenge investors and threaten the security of their retirement, driving greater demand for guarantees both inside and outside of their qualified plans,” said Craig Hawley, head of Nationwide’s Annuity Distribution. “In fact, months after the coronavirus was declared a pandemic, 85% of investors continue to say they can do all the right things to manage their finances, yet still be blindsided by outside events.”
More than three-fourths of advisors and financial professionals (79%) are likely to choose an annuity as part of a holistic financial plan to protect clients against outliving their savings, according to Advisor Authority. In addition, 84% of advisors and financial professionals say annuities with income guarantees are important for supporting a sustainable withdrawal rate that will generate income in retirement and protect against outliving savings.
Likewise, more than half of investors (54%) are likely to choose an annuity as part of their holistic plan to protect against outliving their savings, including 71% of Millennial investors and 69% of Gen X investors vs 44% of Boomer investors. Notably, more than half of investors (53%) say they would feel more secure if a portion of their portfolio was invested in an annuity to protect against outliving their savings, including 73% of Millennial investors and 65% of Gen X investors vs just 42% of Boomer investors.
Protecting Retirement is a Top Priority
More than 9 in 10 advisors and financial professionals (94%) have a strategy in place to protect their clients against outliving their savings, according to Advisor Authority. Social Security (59%), dividend yielding stocks (55%) and variable annuities with living benefit riders (55%) are their top three solutions. In addition, the vast majority of advisors and financial professionals (83%) have a strategy in place to generate guaranteed income in retirement for their clients.
In comparison, roughly 8 in 10 investors (81%) have a strategy in place to protect themselves against outliving their savings. Investors are somewhat more likely than financial professionals to say they rely on Social Security (68%), and among investor’s top three most common solutions, they also cite defined benefit plan/pension (44%) and dividend yielding stocks (39%). Likewise, 80% of investors also have a strategy to generate guaranteed income.
“To confront today’s complex dynamics, planning and professional advice are more important than ever,” said Craig Hawley. “More than 9 in 10 investors say that having a plan for their investments helps them feel in control, even if they can’t plan for everything, and their number-one reason for working with an advisor is to feel more confident in their financial future.”
For more insights on the importance of the SECURE Act and in-plan guarantees, advisors and financial professionals can also download the latest Advisor Authority infographic at:
Nationwide’s sixth annual Advisor Authority study powered by the Nationwide Retirement Institute explores critical issues confronting advisors, financial professionals and individual investors—and the innovative techniques that they need to succeed in today’s complex market. This is the first in a series of ongoing releases from the sixth annual study.
About Advisor Authority: Methodology
The sixth annual Advisory Authority Survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Nationwide from May 27 – June 25, 2020 among 1,768 financial advisors and 817 investors, ages 18+. Among the 1,768 financial advisors, there were 758 RIAs, 642 Registered Reps, 500 Wirehouse and 165 other advisors. Among the 817 investors, there were 131 Millennials (Ages 18 – 39), 161 Generation X (Ages 40 – 55), 433 Boomers (Ages 56 – 74) and 92 Matures (Ages 75+). Investors are weighted where necessary by age by gender, race/ethnicity, region, education, income, marital status, household size, investable assets and propensity to be online to bring them in line with their actual proportions in the population. Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. Because the sample is based on those who were invited to participate in the Harris Poll online research panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.
Nationwide, a Fortune 100 company based in Columbus, Ohio, is one of the largest and strongest diversified insurance and financial services organizations in the United States. Nationwide is rated A+ by both A.M. Best and Standard & Poor’s. An industry leader in driving customer-focused innovation, Nationwide provides a full range of insurance and financial services products including auto, business, homeowners, farm and life insurance; public and private sector retirement plans, annuities and mutual funds; excess & surplus, specialty and surety; pet, motorcycle and boat insurance. For more information, visit www.nationwide.com. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Nationwide, Nationwide is on your side, the Nationwide N and Eagle are service marks of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. © 2020
About The Harris Poll
The Harris Poll is one of the longest running surveys in the U.S. tracking public opinion, motivations and social sentiment since 1963 that is now part of Harris Insights & Analytics, a global consulting and market research firm that delivers social intelligence for transformational times. We work with clients in three primary areas; building twenty-first-century corporate reputation, crafting brand strategy and performance tracking, and earning organic media through public relations research. Our mission is to provide insights and advisory to help leaders make the best decisions possible. To learn more, please visit www.theharrispoll.com.
Contact: Meghan Busch
Bliss Integrated Communication
Nationwide Advisory Solutions
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A new venture fund to start investing in entrepreneurs at Wisconsin’s colleges and universities in November
A new venture capital fund will start investing in Wisconsin’s university and college entrepreneurs this fall after closing on $6 million in fundraising.
The Winnow Fund, a seed-stage venture capital fund led by Richelle Martin, announced the fundraising in a news release Monday.
The Winnow Fund plans to start investing in November. The fund plans to invest in existing startup companies and entrepreneurs at colleges and universities in Wisconsin. It will continue to raise funds for another couple of months.
Winnow Fund has raised $6 million from the Badger Fund of Funds, as well as The Capital Times, Johnsonville Ventures and more than two dozen other investment firms and individuals, according to a news release. Martin left her job at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she led the Office of Industrial Partnerships to work on the fund two years ago.
“Students have great ideas but need someone to guide them through the process of creating a company to commercialize their idea,” said Ken Johnson, a Badger Fund of Funds partner, in a news release. “Richelle Martin’s legal background, know-how, and experience at UW-Madison make her a perfect fit to help student inventors and entrepreneurs create and grow their companies.”
Martin said she believes the pandemic has played right into her strategy for the fund focused on very early-stage investment opportunities.
“The pivots and pandemic-related innovations are all still in the pre-revenue and pre-seed stage and that is exactly what we’re looking at,” she said. The Winnow Fund finished raising $6 million during the coronavirus pandemic and related economic downturn.
“The pandemic has kind of been an equalizer so that we’ve all kind of found ourselves with the same limitations, frustrations and new experiences,” Martin said.
Another venture fund formed under Wisconsin’s Badger Fund of Funds ended its effort to raise money to invest in Wisconsin companies this spring because of uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. The Milwaukee-based fund, Bold Coast Capital, intended to raise $10 million to invest.
The Badger Fund of Funds was established in 2015 with $25 million from the state to invest in startup companies. The Winnow Fund is the fourth fund in the Badger Fund of Funds to begin investing. The Idea Fund of La Crosse, Winnebago Seed Fund and Rock River Capital Partners all raised funds and are investing with a commitment from the Badger Fund of Funds.
Sarah Hauer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram @HauerSarah and Twitter @SarahHauer. Subscribe to her weekly newsletter Be MKE at jsonline.com/bemke.
FedEx stock: Analysts tout volume surge, capacity crunch ahead of earnings report
FedEx stock is trading at highs not seen since 2018 as a surge in home delivery volume and fewer air cargo alternatives have wooed analysts ahead of the company’s earnings report Tuesday.
Wall Street sentiment surrounding the Memphis logistics giant has improved since its previous earnings report beat tepid expectations. FedEx stock was trading at $232.79 a share Friday, similar to late 2018 levels before company executives sounded the alarm on a global trade slowdown.
FedEx Ground is delivering a dizzying amount of online shopping orders as more people stay at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, and FedEx Express has picked up flight activity in an environment where few passenger planes are available to carry cargo in their belly holds.
Beyond the positive industry trends, analysts say the company now has a clear path toward better profit margins after heavy, e-commerce-related investments at FedEx Ground and seeing benefits from the costly integration of European courier TNT Express.
“The current setup for FedEx is perhaps the best it has been since mid-2013,” Jack Atkins, an analyst at financial services firm Stephens, said in a note.
Here are three key developments to watch for when FedEx reports its first-quarter earnings Tuesday.
FedEx executives have said business-to-business volume at air cargo giant FedEx Express is recovering after hitting bottom in mid-April due to COVID-19 shutdowns. This commercial volume is much more profitable than typically lightweight and inefficient home deliveries.
The air cargo industry still needs time to recover — the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said July cargo activity was down 13.5% from the year before.
How long recovery takes is up for debate. Atkins said he expects FedEx’s commercial volume to “return to more historical levels” over the next several quarters as economic activity rebounds. William Fitzalan Howard, a transport and logistics analyst at Berenberg, said in a note the outlook “is increasingly weak” for medium- and long-term global trade growth.
Meanwhile, FedEx’s business-to-consumer activity is booming thanks to the shift toward online shopping. Average daily volume at FedEx Ground jumped from 8.8 million to 11.1 million in its most recently reported quarter.
FedEx had prepared for continued e-commerce growth well before COVID-19, as it expanded FedEx Ground to seven-day delivery year-round and launched initiatives to increase home delivery efficiency. The current volume spike will be the new normal for shippers, even with growth slowing from earlier peaks, Howard said.
“We also expect the momentum to continue after the pandemic has passed, thanks to increase digitalisation trends and new customers shifting online for the first time,” he said.
Industry-wide air cargo activity is down, but FedEx Express is expected to rebound quickly as many cargo-carrying passenger planes stay grounded, increasing demand for its services.
This can already be seen at the Express World Hub in Memphis, which saw cargo weight handled in July increase more than 18% from the year before. The union for Express pilots said the company “has been operating at or above peak levels” for several months.
More demand gives FedEx more pricing power. The air cargo industry’s capacity dropped 31.1% from the year before, while cargo rates are up 60%, per the IATA. FedEx Express has also tacked on a temporary surcharge for international shipments.
“Capacity is tight across the global supply chain, and it is especially tight for expedited capacity,” Atkins said.
While Express is benefiting from a capacity crunch, FedEx Ground is benefiting from the flood of online orders. Ground currently has surcharges in place on some home deliveries and packages it hands off to the U.S. Postal Service. The company will also enforce surcharges during the busy holiday shipping season, saying it’s necessary to keep service levels high.
Some of these charges apply specifically to large customers shipping significantly more volume.
“Along these lines, FedEx is implementing a two-tiered strategy: push for revenue quality with the customers that are creating the surge while also protecting small customer share,” Duane Pfennigwerth, an airlines analyst for Evercore ISI, said in a note. “The company is having ‘rigorous conversations’ with its largest customers as we head into peak planning.”
FedEx Ground delivery contractors said earlier this year the volume surge is similar to what they see during the holidays. Now the holidays are fast approaching, bringing even more packages to the table.
FedEx plans to hire 70,000 people for the peak season, or 27% more than the year before, to help it handle the rush. The company is also expanding its e-commerce capabilities further and providing workers at its Memphis and Indianapolis hubs a bump in pay through peak.
“These surges are not cheap to deal with, requiring extra workers and sortation capacity running at maximum,” Howard said.
Keeping service levels high is already a challenge for FedEx and other shippers during COVID-19. The stakes are higher during peak season, as operational problems “can cause vast, expensive and embarrassing backlogs,” Howard said.
The distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine “could further accelerate what is already going to be a very interesting peak demand period,” Pfennigwerth said, although it’s unknown when a vaccine will be approved.
Whenever that happens, a herculean effort by the transportation industry is expected to follow. Quick, temperature-controlled shipping services that can navigate complex border-crossing processes will be necessary to move billions of doses throughout the globe, the IATA said in a news release.
“(FedEx) has been active in the movement of PPE across the U.S. and globally since the early days of the pandemic, and expedited, time-sensitive movement of goods is core to what (FedEx) has been doing for decades,” Atkins said.
FedEx will hold its first-quarter earnings call for the 2021 fiscal year at 4:30 p.m. CT Tuesday.
Max Garland covers FedEx, logistics and health care for The Commercial Appeal. Reach him at email@example.com or 901-529-2651 and on Twitter @MaxGarlandTypes.
Covid-19 Live Updates: L.A. Schools Begin Testing 775,000 Students and Workers
Wisconsin has reported its highest levels of new daily cases with spikes in college towns. The damage to the world’s major economies from the virus has been six times more severe than the 2009 financial crisis.
A top Trump health aide, without evidence, accused government scientists of “sedition.” He also warned of a left-wing revolt after the election. (Read the full story.)
A sweeping initiative to test and screen all 700,000 students and 75,000 employees in the Los Angeles public schools for the virus has started, with five cases last week among more than 5,400 children and adults tested, the district’s superintendent said.
All were among adults who work for the district. Up to 20,000 more employees are to be tested this week, said Austin Beutner, the superintendent, whose Los Angeles Unified School District is the nation’s second largest, behind New York City’s.
Some 700 small children in district-provided child care were also tested, said Mr. Beutner, but none were infected.
With the exception of certain special-needs students, who recently got the go-ahead to return to classrooms for very limited instruction, classes at Los Angeles Unified have been remote.
The $150 million program, announced last month amid national alarm over inadequacies in testing, is expected to be among the largest and most comprehensive school-based initiatives in the nation by the time Los Angeles classrooms fully reopen, which will depend on positivity rates.
Mr. Beutner has said the district would rely on two testing companies: Clinical Reference Laboratory in Kansas for spit tests, and for nasal tests, SummerBio, a small Bay Area start-up that specializes in automated test processing. The district, he said, will be SummerBio’s first customer.
Last week’s tests, conducted on Thursday and Friday, were among principals, custodians and others working in sanitized school buildings, as well as children in the district’s child care program.
“The next round will be for all employees, whether or not they’re at a school site, and then we’ll roll into testing students,” Mr. Beutner said.
The positivity rate — about 0.1 percent of tests conducted — was far lower than the 3.4 percent overall rate in Los Angeles County, said Mr. Beutner, who said that was to be expected. Los Angeles Unified’s tests are being administered regardless of symptoms, whereas the 11,000-plus tests conducted each day in the county have tended to be among people who have sought testing because of symptoms or fear of exposure.
In New York City, about 17,000 public school staff members have been tested ahead of the first day of school on Sept. 21, with 55 testing positive, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday. Starting in October, the city will require monthly, random testing of between 10 to 20 percent of students and staff members in all school buildings. “Some students will test positive at some point in the year,” the mayor said.
The top communications official at the powerful cabinet department in charge of combating the coronavirus accused career government scientists on Sunday of “sedition” in their handling of the pandemic and warned that left-wing hit squads were preparing for armed insurrection after the election.
Michael Caputo, 58, the assistant secretary of public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, said without evidence that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was harboring a “resistance unit” determined to undermine President Trump. He also suggested that he personally could be in danger.
“You understand that they’re going to have to kill me, and unfortunately, I think that’s where this is going,” Mr. Caputo, a Trump loyalist installed by the White House in April, told followers in a video he hosted live on his personal Facebook page.
In a statement, the department said Mr. Caputo was “a critical, integral part of the president’s coronavirus response, leading on public messaging.”
Mr. Caputo delivered his broadside against scientists, the media and Democrats after a spate of news reports over the weekend that detailed his team’s systematic interference in the C.D.C.’s official reports on the pandemic. Former and current C.D.C. officials described to Politico, The New York Times and other outlets how Mr. Caputo and a top aide routinely demanded the agency revise, delay and even scuttle the C.D.C.’s core public health updates, called Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports, which they believed undercut Mr. Trump’s message that the pandemic was under control.
Those reports have traditionally been so shielded from political interference that political appointees see them only just before they are published.
Mr. Caputo on Sunday complained on Facebook that he was under siege by the media and said that his physical health was in question and his “mental health has definitely failed.”
In his Facebook video, Mr. Caputo ran through a series of conspiracy theories, culminating in a prediction that Mr. Trump will win re-election but his Democratic opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr., will refuse to concede.
“And when Donald Trump refuses to stand down at the inauguration, the shooting will begin,” he said. He added: “If you carry guns, buy ammunition, ladies and gentlemen, because it’s going to be hard to get.”
As wildfires tore through huge areas of Oregon this week, prison inmates were hurried away from the encroaching flames — not to freedom but to an overcrowded state prison, where they slept shoulder to shoulder in cots, and in some cases on the floor. Food was in short supply, showers and toilets few, and fights broke out between gang members.
They were safe from one catastrophe, but delivered to another: the coronavirus pandemic, which has spread at an alarming rate in America’s prisons.
“From what we know about Covid-19, how quickly it can spread and how lethal it can be, we have to prepare for the worst,” said Bobbin Singh, the executive director of the Oregon Justice Resource Center, a prisoner advocacy organization.
Twin crises of the pandemic and a devastating wildfire season have taken a significant toll in prisons along the West Coast. Virus outbreaks have spread through cellblocks — Oregon’s state prison system has had 1,600 infections over the past three months — and poor ventilation systems have whipped in smoke from the fires.
Kristina Boswell, a prisoner in Oregon who was moved overnight on Friday, described a chaotic evacuation in an audio recording her lawyer shared with The Times.
She said prisoners were bound together with zip-ties and loaded into buses in the middle of the night, without their medications or water. When they arrived, she said, there was a shortage of mattresses and no chance of social distancing.
“We’re all in dorm settings,” said Ms. Boswell, who was among more than 1,300 female prisoners moved to Deer Ridge Correctional Facility in Madras, Ore. “Everyone is crammed in.”
Wisconsin is facing its highest level of new daily cases during the pandemic, averaging more than 1,000 new cases a day in the last week, with college towns driving the troubling surge.
On Sunday, the state reported a new daily record of 1,582 cases and a 20 percent positivity rate. Most of the cases have been among people between the ages of 20 and 29, a health department spokeswoman said.
Wisconsin has reported more than 1,700 cases linked to college campuses, according to a New York Times database, with over 1,000 of those at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the school’s flagship campus. La Crosse County, home to University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, had one of the highest per capita case counts in the state over the last seven days, while some large counties like Milwaukee, Waukesha and Racine have not seen a major uptick in cases and remain below the state average.
On Sunday afternoon, the chancellor at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse announced “shelter in place” restrictions for all residence halls on campus. And in Madison, the faculty senate called a special session set for Monday afternoon to vote on shortening spring break to a three-day weekend.
Wisconsin was not hit as hard as some other states early on in the pandemic, but it has not made it through unscathed. Just over 1,200 people have died of the coronavirus, with some of the highest daily death reports coming in late May.
Kenosha, the site of days of street protests over race and policing that have drawn people from all over, has not reported a spike in new cases. In an email message, Liane Blanck of the Kenosha County Division of Health expressed more concern about the effect from schools restarting this month than from the unrest in late August.
President Trump on Sunday held a campaign rally indoors for the first time since late June, when he appeared at an event in Tulsa, Okla., that was later blamed for a surge in coronavirus cases in the area.
The rally on Sunday night, held at a manufacturing plant outside Las Vegas in defiance of a state directive limiting indoor gatherings to 50 people, was attended by thousands of supporters, the vast majority of whom did not wear masks.
Steve Sisolak, the Democratic governor of Nevada, said on Twitter that Mr. Trump was “taking reckless and selfish actions” that endangered the lives of people in the state. “This is an insult to every Nevadan who has followed the directives, made sacrifices and put their neighbors before themselves,” he said. “It’s also a direct threat to all of the recent progress we’ve made, and could potentially set us back.”
The Trump campaign had vetted several outdoor venues, but they were all blocked by the governor, according to an administration official familiar with the planning. Tim Murtaugh, a campaign spokesman, defended the indoor setting, saying in a statement, “If you can join tens of thousands of people protesting in the streets, gamble in a casino, or burn down small businesses in riots, you can gather peacefully under the First Amendment to hear from the president of the United States.”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Monday that he was prepared to negotiate with Speaker Nancy Pelosi at any time and with “no conditions” as stimulus talks between the White House and Democrats in Congress continued to stall.
Speaking to CNBC, Mr. Mnuchin said that he believed a robust economic recovery was underway but that parts of the economy, particularly small businesses, needed additional support. He also said that President Trump could roll out executive orders to provide additional stimulus, but he acknowledged that there were limitations to what could be done without Congress.
While Mr. Mnuchin suggested that he was open to a deal for coronavirus relief, the chances of Republicans, Democrats and the White House agreeing on one remain complicated by disagreements and distrust.
“I am somewhat concerned that she’s afraid that any deal will be good for the president,” Mr. Mnuchin said of Ms. Pelosi.
Ms. Pelosi, meanwhile, accused Republicans of merely pretending to want to provide more support and criticized a limited relief bill, championed by Senate Republicans, as “relief in name only.”
Last week, Senate Republicans failed to pass a substantially scaled-back stimulus plan that included aid for unemployed workers, small businesses, schools and vaccine development.
Mr. Mnuchin said that he would be working with Ms. Pelosi on a plan to extend government funding and that he was hopeful that a proposal that is expected from the House’s “Problem Solvers” caucus could attract bipartisan support.
After several weeks of partying college students complicating their schools’ reopening plans, high school students are now creating the same disruptions. Several K-12 school districts in the Northeast have delayed the start of in-person classes in recent days after high school students attended large parties, leading to concern about increased spread of the virus.
Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School in Sudbury, Mass., just west of Boston, delayed opening classrooms by two weeks, to Sept. 29, after the police broke up a party involving 50 to 60 students from the school on Saturday, local officials said.
The Board of Health said the police had reported that the students were not wearing masks or practicing social distancing, and that many had either fled when the police arrived or given false names to officers.
Although there were no known cases of the virus among students at the party, the board said that without complete information about who had attended, “the risk to the school community cannot be adequately assessed.”
In nearby Dedham, Mass., the school district also delayed in-person instruction after an uptick of cases in the town, which local health officials attributed to two recent gatherings of young people, including a party attended by high school students.
In Pelham, N.Y., high school students partying during and after the Labor Day weekend led the school district to postpone the start of in-person learning for all students and to require that high school students either be tested before coming to school or quarantine for 14 days.
The superintendent, Dr. Cheryl H. Champ, wrote in a letter to families that more than 100 teenagers appeared to have attended the parties and that video showed students “engaging in risky behavior, failing to practice physical distancing, and not wearing masks or face coverings.”
Also in New York, Carle Place Union Free School District on Long Island delayed bringing students back to school after end-of-summer parties led to positive cases.
“As we are learning the hard way, the actions of a few can impact the many,” the superintendent, Christine A. Finn, wrote to families.
The cities of Marseille and Bordeaux significantly tightened restrictions on public gatherings on Monday after authorities pointed to a concerning surge of cases in the cities and surrounding areas.
The two cities were among several areas where the French government, amid a nationwide rise in cases, has identified a worrying spread of the virus, including among older people.
Officials in both cities imposed a new ban on gatherings of more than 10 people in public places such as parks, riverbanks and beaches and canceled school outings and student parties. Visits to retirement homes will also be more restricted.
In Marseille, a city on the Mediterranean coast, officials banned the selling and consumption of alcohol after 8 p.m. And in Bordeaux, in the country’s southwest region, authorities banned bars from having standing customers or playing music on the street, and made it illegal to drink alcohol in public areas.
The limit for large outdoor gatherings in Gironde, the area that encompasses Bordeaux, had been 5,000 — the same as the limit for the rest of the country. Now public gatherings are limited to 1,000 people, and events like carnivals and antique sales will be banned, local authorities said in a news conference on Monday.
Fabienne Buccio, the prefect for the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region, which includes Bordeaux, said at the news conference that venues that usually organized “dancing parties” like weddings would no longer be allowed to do so.
“The idea is not to no longer get married, but to postpone big festivities tied to weddings,” Ms. Buccio said, adding that public transportation would be bolstered during rush hours to avoid overcrowding in buses and trains.
In other developments around the world:
Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian prime minister, left a Milan hospital on Monday, nearly two weeks after he was admitted for pneumonia caused by Covid-19. In a short speech, he warned Italians not to underestimate the gravity of the virus. Cases have been growing in Italy in recent weeks, and Mr. Berlusconi most likely contracted the virus while vacationing on the island of Sardinia, which became a viral hot spot in August.
India reported 92,071 new cases on Monday, the fifth consecutive day that new cases exceeded 90,000 in the country, according to a New York Times database. India has the world’s second-highest number of cases after the United States. On Monday, members of Parliament were gathering for a session with social-distancing precautions.
Starting Monday, Britain has lowered the limit on the number of people allowed to meet to six from 30. The country recorded 3,330 new infections on Sunday, the third consecutive day of new case counts surpassing 3,000, a level not seen in Britain since May.
Also in Britain, London’s West End will reopen its first musical since March. “Six,” the hit about the wives of King Henry VIII, will start an 11-week run at the Lyric Theater on Nov. 14. It was supposed to debut on Broadway the day New York’s theaters closed.
Antarctica, the only continent free of the coronavirus, is preparing for an influx of researchers in the coming months as a change of season makes studies on the icy South Pole more feasible. The first researchers, from the United States, arrived on Monday after quarantining in New Zealand.
Israel will be returning to a nationwide lockdown for at least three weeks, starting on Friday, the eve of the Jewish New Year.
A health official in Australia said on Monday that she was under police protection because of death threats amid rising opposition to her pandemic policies. Dr. Jeannette Young, the chief health officer of Queensland, had been criticized over a requirement that travelers from other parts of Australia quarantine for two weeks, especially after a woman in quarantine was not allowed to attend her father’s funeral.
Amazon said on Monday that it would hire 100,000 new workers in the United States and Canada for its warehouses and logistics network, another sign that the pandemic has resulted in a huge growth in demand for the e-commerce giant.
Amazon has been one of the biggest winners of the crisis as people turn to online shopping rather than visit traditional brick-and-mortar retailers; those businesses have been decimated. As the broader economy suffered from the economic fallout of Covid-19, Amazon reported record sales and profit last quarter.
Dave Clark, senior vice president of worldwide operations for Amazon, said in a news release that the company was opening 100 buildings this month for sorting products, delivery and other purposes. The new jobs will pay a starting wage of $15 per hour and will include a $1,000 starting bonus in some cities.
The hiring announcement is on top of the 33,000 salaried job openings that Amazon said last week it had available in areas such as cloud computing and warehouse management. In 2020, Amazon said, it has opened 75 new fulfillment and sorting centers, regional air hubs and delivery stations in the United States and Canada.
Amazon previously said that it hired 175,000 additional people to meet the huge surge in demand related to Covid-19.
The damage to the world’s major economies from coronavirus lockdowns has been six times more severe than the 2009 global financial crisis and created an “unprecedented” blow to growth in the second quarter in almost every country except China, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said Monday.
Growth in the nations represented by the Group of 20 — an organization of 19 countries and the European Union, representing 80 percent of the world’s economic production — fell by a record 6.9 percent between April and June from the previous three months as governments kept people indoors and froze business activity. The drop eclipsed a 1.9 percent contraction recorded in the same period in 2009, when the financial crisis was at a peak, the organization said.
China, where lockdowns ended earlier than in the rest of the world, was the only economy to bounce back, expanding at an 11.5 percent rate.
While growth figures have been published by national governments, the organization’s tally puts the magnitude of the damage into a global perspective. The biggest growth declines were in India (minus 25.2 percent) and Britain (minus 20.4 percent).
Growth in the United States shrank by more than 9 percent, and by nearly 15 percent in the euro area. By contrast, China, South Korea and Russia appeared to be the least negatively affected.
The global economy will fare far worse should a second wave of infections lead governments to renew wide-scale quarantines, the organization has warned.
Before the pandemic, Tiffany Foy and a team of other dental hygienists would visit schools in rural and urban parts of Oregon to treat thousands of children a year, many of whom had cavities, painful abscesses and “big holes” in their teeth, she said.
In March, the program was abruptly suspended after the state shut down in-person learning to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. Ms. Foy, who works for a nonprofit organization that provides oral health care regardless of a patient’s income or insurance, said she and her fellow hygienists had not been back in schools since.
“They could have a mouthful of cavities and the parents aren’t even aware,” Ms. Foy said.
Hygienists typically examine students in classrooms, gyms or nurses’ offices, where they look for cavities, provide fluoride treatments and apply sealants — thin, protective coatings that adhere to the chewing surface of back teeth. Children receive free toothbrushes and toothpaste and are taught proper dental care, said Myechia Minter-Jordan, president and chief executive of DentaQuest Partnership for Oral Health Advancement and Catalyst Institute, which serves about 70,000 children a year across the country.
Dr. Minter-Jordan estimated that about one million children receive free access to dental care through school-based dental programs. Since the pandemic suspended many of the programs, the organization has been reaching out to school districts and state health officials to find other ways to get care to children, including online checkups.
The National Football League’s season got into full swing on Sunday, and Kurt Streeter, a sports columnist for The Times, was watching. He writes:
The return of professional football to a nation living on a raw and perilous edge, still struggling to confront a lethal virus and trying to heal its deep racial wounds, offered fans a tense and unlikely paradox. I loved watching the games, but I loathed it, too.
After so many endless, pent-up weeks, maybe you couldn’t wait to see the impossible tackles and stunning touchdowns. But at the same time, maybe you worried about what the return of professional football might mean for sports, for the nation and for all of us.
Hold tight. We could be one big outbreak of Covid-19 away from a calamity and deep regret.
Reporting was contributed by Livia Albeck-Ripka, Liz Alderman, Tim Arango, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Aurelien Breeden, Maria Cramer, Abdi Latif Dahir, Shaila Dewan, Shawn Hubler, Jennifer Jett, Annie Karni, Isabel Kershner, Alex Marshall, Jennifer Medina, Elisabetta Povoledo, Alan Rappeport, Amanda Rosa, Adam Satariano, Anna Schaverien, Matina Stevis-Gridneff, Kurt Streeter, Kate Taylor and Katie Thomas.
Consolidated Communications Announces Strategic Investment from Searchlight Capital Partners; Initiates Refinancing
Searchlight commits to strategic investment of $425 million to accelerate growth
New capital will be deployed to significantly enhance the Company’s fiber infrastructure, increase market penetration and strengthen balance sheet
Customers and communities to benefit from 1.4 million fiber passings
Company announces refinancing of its outstanding debt;
no significant debt maturity until late 2027
Company will hold an Investor Call this morning at 7:30 a.m. CT
MATTOON, Ill., Sept. 14, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Consolidated Communications Holdings, Inc. (Nasdaq: CNSL) (the “Company” or “Consolidated”) today announced that it has entered into an agreement with an affiliate of Searchlight Capital Partners, L.P. (“Searchlight”), in connection with which affiliates of Searchlight have committed to invest up to an aggregate of $425 million in the Company. The investment has been unanimously approved by the Consolidated Board of Directors.
In connection with the investment from Searchlight, Consolidated will reduce net debt by $325 million and launch a refinancing of substantially all of its remaining $2 billion of outstanding debt to extend debt maturities and enhance liquidity through an upsize in revolver capacity. As a result, Consolidated expects to have access to additional capital to accelerate fiber deployment and the Company expects to reduce its net leverage ratio to 3.5x upon the receipt of the entire $425 million investment.
“Today’s announcement is a transformative event for Consolidated Communications, enabling us to immediately accelerate our growth plans and bring significant benefits to our customers and the communities we serve,” said Bob Udell, president and chief executive officer of Consolidated Communications. “With Searchlight’s investment, we will capitalize on growth opportunities and transform our company into a leading, fiber-to-the-home, business and wholesale provider. By leveraging our existing dense core fiber network and an accelerated build plan, Consolidated will significantly boost speeds, expand 1Gbps coverage and strategically extend our fiber network across our commercial and carrier footprint to boost on-net and near-net opportunities. We are excited to be partnering with Searchlight who we view as a strategic capital partner. Searchlight has significant expertise in communications, fiber and fiber-to-the-home, which will benefit us as we launch our multi-year fiber investment.”
Udell added, “Our Board and management team conducted a thorough analysis of our business with a focus on strengthening our balance sheet, enhancing our network capabilities and positioning Consolidated to drive growth and deliver attractive returns. We are confident this agreement is in the best interest of Consolidated and its shareholders, and will create a stronger and more resilient company poised for long-term value creation.”
“We have long respected Consolidated for its proven track record of operating and financial excellence,” said Andrew Frey, partner at Searchlight Capital. “Strategically, Bob and his management team have transformed Consolidated from a regional telephone company into a leading fiber operator in the U.S. We are excited to provide capital and also partner with the Company to accelerate its investment in fiber, and help the Company drive accelerating revenue growth.”
Compelling Strategic and Financial Benefits
The Company intends to use the proceeds from this investment to enhance its fiber infrastructure and accelerate investments in high-growth areas of its business. The Company’s accelerated investment activity will deliver significant benefits to Consolidated customers including 1.4 million consumers and small businesses, as well as the broader communities it serves, including expanded 1Gbps coverage, broadband speed increases and a faster, more efficient network in targeted regions. Consolidated will continue investing in commercial and carrier expansion by leveraging consumer fiber builds to edge out its network. Together, these investments serve as the foundation of a multi-year reinvestment initiative that will enable Consolidated to deliver superior services and an exceptional customer experience across all three customer channels while returning to revenue growth.
The $425 million investment commitment is structured in two stages. At the closing of the first stage, Searchlight will invest $350 million in the Company in exchange for the right to receive an unsecured subordinated note with a principal amount of approximately $395 million and 8 percent of the Company’s common stock. In addition, Searchlight will receive a contingent payment right (“CPR”) convertible, upon the receipt of certain regulatory and shareholder approvals, into an additional 16.9 percent ofthe Company’s common stock.
Upon receipt of FCC and Hart Scott Rodino approvals and the satisfaction of certain other customary conditions, Searchlight will invest an additional $75 million and will be issued the note, which will be convertible into shares of perpetual preferred stock of the Company with an aggregate liquidation preference equal to the principal amount of the note at that time. In addition, the CPR will be convertible into additional shares of common stock, representing 10.1 percent of the Company’s common stock. Upon completion of both stages, the common stock and CPR issued to Searchlight will represent approximately 35 percent of the Company’s common stock on an as-converted basis.
Approvals and Timing to Closing
The first stage of the investment is not subject to any regulatory approvals and is expected to occur concurrently with the refinancing, subject to the satisfaction of customary conditions. The second stage of the investment is subject to certain regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions. The parties expect to close the second stage of the investment in mid-2021, subject to satisfaction of these conditions.
At the closing of the first stage of the investment, the Consolidated Board of Directors will appoint one Searchlight nominee, David Fuller, an advisor to Searchlight. Following the closing of the second stage of the investment, Searchlight would be entitled to appoint a second director to the Consolidated Board.
“We look forward to benefitting from Dave’s perspective and extensive experience as former president and executive vice president at TELUS, a Canadian telecommunications company, as we execute on our plan to drive growth at the Company,” said Bob Currey, chair of the Consolidated Communications Board of Directors. “We believe Dave will bring extensive experience in broadband infrastructure transformation and we are confident he will be a valuable addition to our Board.”
Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC and Wells Fargo Securities, LLC are serving as financial advisors to Consolidated Communications and Schiff Hardin LLP is serving as legal advisor to Consolidated Communications. J.P. Morgan Securities LLC is serving as lead financial advisor to Searchlight, and Goldman Sachs LLC, Deutsche Bank and TD Securities Inc. have also provided financial advisory services to Searchlight. Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz is serving as legal counsel, and Wiley Rein LLP is serving as regulatory counsel, to Searchlight.
Conference Call and Webcast Information
Consolidated will conduct a live conference call and webcast today at 7:30 a.m. CT. The live webcast and replay will be available on the “Investor Relations” section of the Company’s website at
. The live conference call dial-in number for investors and analysts is 1-877-374-3981, conference ID 8772636. A telephonic replay of the conference call will be available through Sept. 21 and can be accessed by calling 855-859-2056.
About Searchlight Capital Partners
Searchlight is a global private investment firm with over $7 billion in assets under management and offices in New York, London and Toronto. Searchlight seeks to invest in businesses where its long-term capital and strategic support accelerate value creation for all stakeholders. For more information, please visit
About Consolidated Communications
Consolidated Communications Holdings, Inc. (NASDAQ: CNSL) is a leading broadband and business communications provider serving consumers, businesses, and wireless and wireline carriers across rural and metro communities and a 23-state service area. Leveraging an advanced fiber network spanning 46,000 fiber route miles, Consolidated Communications offers a wide range of communications solutions, including: high-speed Internet, data, phone, security, managed services, cloud services and wholesale, carrier solutions. From our first connection 125 years ago, Consolidated is dedicated to turning technology into solutions, connecting people and enriching how they work and live. Visit
for more information.
Certain statements in this communication are forward-looking statements and are made pursuant to the safe harbor provisions of the Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These forward-looking statements reflect, among other things, our current expectations, plans, strategies, and anticipated financial results. There are a number of risks, uncertainties, and conditions that may cause our actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements. These risks and uncertainties include a number of factors related to our business, including the uncertainties relating to the impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on the company’s business, results of operations, cash flows, stock price and employees; the possibility that any of the anticipated benefits of the proposed strategic investment from Searchlight or our refinancing of outstanding debt will not be realized; the outcome of any legal proceedings that may be instituted against the Company or its directors; the ability to obtain regulatory approvals and meet other closing conditions to the investment on a timely basis or at all, including the risk that regulatory approvals required for the investment are not obtained on a timely basis or at all, or are obtained subject to conditions that are not anticipated or that could adversely affect the Company or the expected benefits of the investment; the anticipated use of proceeds of the strategic investment; economic and financial market conditions generally and economic conditions in our service areas; various risks to the price and volatility of our common stock; changes in the valuation of pension plan assets; the substantial amount of debt and our ability to repay or refinance it or incur additional debt in the future; our need for a significant amount of cash to service and repay the debt restrictions contained in our debt agreements that limit the discretion of management in operating the business; regulatory changes, including changes to subsidies, rapid development and introduction of new technologies and intense competition in the telecommunications industry; risks associated with our possible pursuit of acquisitions; system failures; cyber-attacks, information or security breaches or technology failure of ours or of a third party; losses of large customers or government contracts; risks associated with the rights-of-way for the network; disruptions in the relationship with third party vendors; losses of key management personnel and the inability to attract and retain highly qualified management and personnel in the future; changes in the extensive governmental legislation and regulations governing telecommunications providers and the provision of telecommunications services; new or changing tax laws or regulations; telecommunications carriers disputing and/or avoiding their obligations to pay network access charges for use of our network; high costs of regulatory compliance; the competitive impact of legislation and regulatory changes in the telecommunications industry; and liability and compliance costs regarding environmental regulations; and risks associated with discontinuing paying dividends on our common stock. A detailed discussion of these and other risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results and events to differ materially from such forward-looking statements are discussed in more detail in our filings with the SEC, including our reports on Form 10-K and Form 10-Q. Many of these circumstances are beyond our ability to control or predict. Moreover, forward-looking statements necessarily involve assumptions on our part. These forward-looking statements generally are identified by the words “believe,” “expect,” “anticipate,” “estimate,” “project,” “intend,” “plan,” “should,” “may,” “will,” “would,” “will be,” “will continue” or similar expressions. Such forward-looking statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause actual results, performance or achievements of the Company and its subsidiaries to be different from those expressed or implied in the forward-looking statements. All forward-looking statements attributable to us or persons acting on our behalf are expressly qualified in their entirety by the cautionary statements that appear throughout this communication. Furthermore, forward-looking statements speak only as of the date they are made. Except as required under the federal securities laws or the rules and regulations of the SEC, we disclaim any intention or obligation to update or revise publicly any forward-looking statements. You should not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements.
Investor Relations Contact:
Jennifer Spaude, 507-386-3765
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