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Calpers to invest more than $30bn in private markets

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Calpers to invest more than $30bn in private markets

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Calpers, the US’s biggest public pension plan, is to increase its holdings in private markets by more than $30bn and reduce its allocation to stock markets and bonds in an effort to improve returns.

A proposal to increase the $483bn fund’s positions in assets such as private equity and private credit from 33 per cent of the plan to 40 per cent was approved on Monday, according to an announcement by the fund and notes from its board meeting. 

The formal approval comes two years after Calpers admitted that a decision to put its private equity programme on hold for 10 years had cost it up to $18bn in returns.

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However, a review of its investment policy found that, despite the gains it had already missed, private equity was still the asset class with the highest expected long-term total return.

“Strong and ongoing growth in private equity returns is behind this measured and appropriate increase,” said Calpers trustee David Miller, chair of the investment committee. 

“Market conditions are evolving and the investment team needs latitude to deploy capital intelligently to keep the fund on track for sustainable returns.”

According to analysis published by Calpers alongside its board notes, private equity was the top-performing asset class in the decade to June 30 2023, with annualised returns of 11.8 per cent. That compares with 8.9 per cent from public equities and 2.4 per cent from fixed income. The documents did not disclose if the figures took account of fees.

The portfolio shake-up, which was confirmed after a scheduled asset allocation review, will bring the California-based plan into line with other big retirement systems in the US, including Calstrs, which has just over 40 per cent of its portfolio in private markets.

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As part of the move, Calpers will increase its bet on private equity from 13 per cent to 17 per cent of its portfolio, although this could potentially rise as high as 22 per cent.

At the same time, it is pulling back from investing in stock markets, with its allocation to equities set to fall from 42 per cent to 37 per cent of its portfolio. It will also trim its allocation to fixed income from 30 per cent to 28 per cent.

In 2021, Calpers’ board approved an expansion into private assets including private equity, real assets and private debt, from 21 per cent to 33 per cent of the portfolio, and also gave itself the ability to borrow money to invest in assets that would help diversify its holdings.

Last year the Financial Times reported that Calpers was planning a multibillion-dollar move into international venture capital, as the fund moved towards investing in riskier assets to drive returns.

The fund also reported a return of 10.3 per cent last year. It is yet to announce a replacement for chief investment officer Nicole Musicco, who resigned last year after 18 months in the role.

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Meta shares fall as it predicts higher expenditure on AI

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Meta shares fall as it predicts higher expenditure on AI

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Meta’s revenues jumped by more than a quarter in the first three months of the year, beating expectations, but its forecasts left Wall Street underwhelmed and the shares fell 10 per cent in after-hours trading on Wednesday.

Revenues at the social media group rose 27 per cent to $36.5bn, just above analyst expectations of a rise to $36.2bn.

Meta said it had raised the high end of its full-year capital expenditure guidance from $37bn to $40bn in order to “continue to accelerate our infrastructure investments to support our artificial intelligence (AI) roadmap”. It added that it expected capital expenditures to “continue to increase next year”.

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It said it anticipated current quarter revenues in the range of $36.5bn-$39bn, versus consensus estimates of $38.3bn.

Prior to the announcement, Meta’s stock had risen more than 40 per cent this year, having been in record territory since a bumper fourth-quarter earnings announcement in February during which it announced its first dividend and signalled a strong recovery from a recent advertising slump. 

Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has been attempting to keep investors happy and cut costs while investing in the artificial intelligence race, its longer-term metaverse ambitions and the costly technology and infrastructure required to support both.

This month Meta released a new version of its AI model, Llama 3, which it said had vastly improved capabilities, including the ability to reason. The company also unveiled a new generation of its AI custom-made chips.  

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With federal fraud trial looming, George Santos drops out of New York House race

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With federal fraud trial looming, George Santos drops out of New York House race

Former Republican Rep. George Santos of New York has dropped his bid to return to the U.S. House.

Alex Brandon/AP


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Alex Brandon/AP


Former Republican Rep. George Santos of New York has dropped his bid to return to the U.S. House.

Alex Brandon/AP

Another chapter in the scandal-plagued career of New York Republican George Santos sputtered to an end this week as he abandoned his independent bid for a U.S. House seat on Long Island.

“I don’t want to split the ticket and be responsible for handing the house to Dems,” Santos wrote in a social media post. “Staying in this race all but guarantees a victory for the Dems.”

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Santos won his election in New York’s 3rd Congressional District in the 2022 midterms. He was part of a red wave in New York that helped give Republicans a razor-thin majority.

But his personal and professional narratives quickly unraveled.

It turned out Santos, who was initially supported by many of New York’s most prominent GOP leaders, lied about his family’s religion, his education and his business experience.

Santos even claimed falsely to have been a competitive college volleyball player.

In May 2023, while facing a House ethics probe, Santos was arrested on federal fraud charges that accuse him of bilking political donors. Santos has pleaded not guilty. The Justice Department eventually expanded the criminal counts against Santos to 23 charges.

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“Santos is charged with stealing people’s identities and making charges on his own donors’ credit cards without their authorization,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said in an October 2023 statement.

Santos’s trial on Long Island is expected to get underway in September. His former campaign treasurer has already pleaded guilty in the case.

Ousted from Congress, Santos tried for a comeback

In December 2023, with his scandals and legal troubles deepening and political allies abandoning him, Santos was expelled from Congress in a 311-114 vote. Many Republicans joined the effort to purge him from office.

In the months since, Santos has emerged as a far-right gadfly and influencer, firing political salvos at Democrats and at moderate Republicans.

Santos initially said he would run in the Republican primary in New York’s 1st Congressional District but later shifted to run as an independent.

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In his social media post announcing that he’s abandoned his campaign, Santos again blasted the “abysmal” voting record of Rep. Nick LaLota, the Republican who currently holds the seat.

LaLota played a key role in the bipartisan effort to force Santos from office.

John Avlon, who is running in the 1st Congressional District’s Democratic primary, expressed his disappointment at the end of the three-way race: “Gotta say: I was really looking forward to the debates.”

Since Santos’s numerous lies were revealed, he has become a political pariah in New York City. But Santos’ post suggested that even now his political career may not yet be over:

“It’s only goodbye for now, I’ll be back.”

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Boeing burns through $4bn in first quarter after door plug blowout

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Boeing burns through $4bn in first quarter after door plug blowout

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Boeing burnt through almost $4bn of cash in the first quarter, reflecting slower 737 Max production and compensation to customers as the US plane maker grappled with the aftermath of the mid-air accident in January.

The $3.9bn of free cash outflow is slightly lower than the $4bn-4.5bn the company had warned in March, but compares with an outflow of $786mn for the same period last year. Boeing reported a $355mn net loss in the first quarter.

The company’s financial results “reflect the immediate actions we’ve taken to slow down 737 production to drive improvements in quality”, said chief executive Dave Calhoun.

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There has been a 500 per cent increase in reports to Boeing’s internal safety hotline compared with last year.

The company is working to improve processes including training, inspection and how “travelled work” where jets that move through the production line with problems addressed later in the assembly process, is handled in the 737 factory in Renton, Washington. Boeing also is attempting to stabilise its supply chain.

“Near term, yes, we are in a tough moment,” said Calhoun in a letter to staff on Wednesday. “Lower deliveries can be difficult for our customers and our financials. But safety and quality must and will come above all else.”

The plane maker is building fewer than 38 Maxes per month, reducing deliveries that are necessary to bring in cash in order to improve the quality of its manufacturing following the mid-air blowout of a door plug on an Alaska Airlines flight.

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Boeing faces investigations by aviation regulators and the US Justice Department. Though no one was killed, the explosive loss of cabin pressure injured some on board and recalled the two fatal crashes that led to the worldwide grounding of the Max for nearly two years.

A preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board found that four bolts meant to fasten the panel to the fuselage were missing.

A US Federal Aviation Administration audit of Boeing found “multiple instances” where it allegedly failed to meet manufacturing and quality control requirements. Regulators have given the company until the end of May to submit a plan to improve.

Boeing said on Wednesday it was “implementing a comprehensive action plan” to address the audit’s findings.

The company did not issue any financial guidance for the year on Wednesday. It initially declined to issue guidance in January, with Calhoun saying “now is not the time”.

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The 737’s troubles have led to a shake-up in Boeing leadership. Calhoun said last month he would step down as Boeing chief executive at the end of the year, with the chair of the board Larry Kellner leaving after the annual meeting in May. Stan Deal, head of Boeing’s commercial plane division, departed immediately.

Boeing shares rose 3.6 per cent in pre-market trading after closing on Tuesday at $169.28.

Baird analyst Peter Arment said the stock represented “a buying opportunity”. “The kitchen sink quarter was not bad as feared, with progress expected on production, deliveries and [free cash flow] in the coming quarters coupled with a management change,” he said.

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