And the business turkey of the year award goes to… Boeing!


Negative interest rates

This is the dumbest thing ever. The idea, promoted by the Japanese and European central banks, that reducing countries’ borrowing costs to less than zero would be economic nirvana, was totally nuts.

Not only didn’t it work, but interest rates of less than zero (or close to zero for higher-quality borrowers) did huge damage to insurance companies and pension funds, which invest today to be able to pay benefits in the far future.

You can bet that we’ll soon be reading about the huge losses insurers and pension funds racked up by taking big risks to offset negative rates. And that negative rates will be in the running for Turkey of the Decade.

WeWork imploded following its botched attempt to sell stock on Wall Street.Credit:AP

WeWork

The funniest turkey of the year involves We, the parent company of WeWork. We, which was losing money hand over fist, convinced sucker investors that an office-rental company was really a high-tech operation whose privately traded stock was worth $US47 billion ($69 billion).

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Oops. Soon after that, We’s numbers were disclosed in initial public offering documents and the company turned from a triumph into a turkey. Suddenly, We needed a financial bailout, its stock was revalued downward to $US7 billion (which is still probably too high) and its IPO was delayed, possibly forever.

SoftBank, which bailed We out, now owns a controlling interest in this mess and big stakes in other messes, as well. Perhaps SoftBank should consider becoming a corporate sponsor of Turkey Trot races.

Saudi suckers

One of my favourite turkeys involves the March purchase of a 70 per cent stake in Saudi Basic Industries (SABIC) by Saudi Aramco, which is in the process of trying to go public. Aramco, 100 per cent owned by the government of Saudi Arabia, purchased 2.1 billion SABIC shares for 123.39 Saudi riyals each from a Saudi sovereign wealth fund in March.

When last I looked, the 900 million SABIC shares that trade on Tadawul, the Saudi stock market, were selling at 93.1 riyals. That puts Aramco’s SABIC investment of 63.6 billion riyals – about $US17.2 billion – underwater. A sweet deal for the wealth fund, which sold at close to SABIC’s market high. A turkey transaction for Aramco.

Boeing

Boeing is the biggest business turkey of the year. I’ve made it my last item because I didn’t want to start this column by writing about something so awful and depressing. The other turkeys involve only money. This one involves lost lives.

Dozens of grounded Boeing 737 MAX planes crowd a parking area near its factory in Seattle.

Dozens of grounded Boeing 737 MAX planes crowd a parking area near its factory in Seattle.Credit:AP

Boeing was so hot to peddle its MAX jets that it adopted shortcuts and played games that contributed to two plane crashes that killed a total of 346 people. A horrible story.

Many Boeing MAX jets are still out of service, which has caused travel problems and may have helped lead to higher fares because there are fewer flights and fewer airline seats than normal available.

Dead fliers, higher fares, fewer flights. Happy holiday travelling, Boeing.

The Washington Post

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