Dead oceans, a Twitter pump-and-dump and trillion-dollar Tesla

Planet Business: Boat burning in Glasgow ahead of Cop26

Cop26 opener: A performer from Ocean Rebellion dressed as UK prime minister Boris Johnson sets a prop boat alight on the banks of Glasgow’s river Clyde. Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA

Cop26 opener: A performer from Ocean Rebellion dressed as UK prime minister Boris Johnson sets a prop boat alight on the banks of Glasgow’s river Clyde. Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA

 

Image of the week: Burning boats

“I believe the children are our future,” Whitney Houston once sang, but that was in the 1980s, when Earth’s leaders had yet to consciously decide to set that future on fire, as illustrated in a protest performance this week by Ocean Rebellion. Campaigners from the offshoot of Extinction Rebellion decamped to Glasgow ahead of the Cop26 climate conference to set alight the sail of a small prop boat marked “your children’s future”, with one performer adopting this decade’s scariest Halloween guise to date – a “Boris Johnson” costume – and another appearing as an “oil-head”, wearing a petrol can as a mask. Stacks of fake money were also burned during the protest, staged to highlight the UK government’s “total lack of purpose in combating catastrophic climate change, ocean acidification and biodiversity loss that will devastate all our futures and leave a dead ocean for future generations”. Best of luck with the summit, everybody.

In numbers: Up in smoke

203.7 billion
Cigarettes sold in the US in 2020. This was up from 202.9 billion in 2019, according to the US Federal Trade Commission, marking the first annual rise in 20 years.

636.5 billion
Peak annual US cigarette sales, reached in 1981.

$7.8 billion
It wasn’t merely the stresses of the pandemic that saw cigarette sales climb. There was also a near 3 per cent increase in cigarette advertising and promotion spending by the US tobacco industry, mainly through price discounts to retailers and wholesalers.

Getting to know: Steven Gallagher

Ohio-based stock trader Steven Gallagher is an alleged pump-and-dumper, accused by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of falsely hyping stocks before selling them at inflated prices. The twist in these allegations, however, is that Gallagher “brought old-school boiler-room tactics to the Twitter age”, encouraging followers of his account @AlexDelarge6553 to buy thinly traded penny stocks in which he had already amassed holdings. He then offloaded them for a profit, and not just any profit: a sum of more than $1 million (€860,000). The SEC has now imposed an injunction on Gallagher and frozen his assets, while the US Department of Justice said on Tuesday that he had been arrested for additional violations, including wire fraud and market manipulation. “This case is a reminder that investors should be wary of taking financial advice from unverified sources on Twitter and other social platforms,” said the SEC’s Richard Best. “Alex DeLarge”, tediously, is a character in A Clockwork Orange.

The list: Tesla’s $1 trillion valuation

Electric vehicle maker Tesla this week crossed a $1 trillion stock market valuation for the first time, joining a club currently limited to Apple, Saudi Aramco, Google’s parent Alphabet, Amazon and Microsoft. So what else is there to know about its market capitalisation?

1 Speedy ascent. Appropriately for a car company, it got there fast, taking just 18 years from its founding. Only Facebook, which briefly surpassed the threshold in June, has done it faster.

2 Valuation per car. Tesla only built about 500,000 cars in 2020, meaning the stock market thinks it is worth $2 million per car. That’s a little bit more than the selling price for one of its models.

3 Rivals, what rivals? Tesla, according to stock investors at least, is now worth more than the nine largest carmakers in the world.

4 Gearing up. Never mind that Tesla is the lowest-revenue company to ever be valued at $1 trillion, and that it would only come 89th on a S&P 500 ranked by last year’s revenue – that was last year.

5 Elon factor. Tesla’s share price saw Elon Musk become $100 billion richer than poor Jeff Bezos. According to calculations by the UN World Food Programme, just 2 per cent of his wealth could solve world hunger.

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