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Greed is Subtle
The morning alarm woke up Ghen. With an annoyed sigh, he stretched out his arm and silenced the foul-sounding chirps. Slowly sitting up in bed, he let out a deep yawn and got to his feet. Running a couple of chitinous fingers along his antennae to stimulate them to life, he made his bed and then went to his closet. Today was a work day, so he needed his suit. Once the pants were on, he stretched out his wings so that he could button up the shirt, then relaxing them once all the buttons were secured. Dressing for the day was done, now for the morning meal. Entering his kitchen, he took out the chilled leftovers of the evening meal last night and popped it into the radiator, first defrosting and then slightly cooking it. During that process, he also fished out a ceramic cup and placed it in his brewer, serving himself some synthesized caffeine. His idle thought led him to being amused that, when eaten directly off a plant, it has a concentration that could kill him three times over. But after going through some refinement and roasting, all it does is make him hyper. Once the meal was put together, his plate of heated leftovers and a cup of almost-piping-hot cup of Xia's, he took his time to enjoy it. His communicator vibrated. When he looked, he found it was from his boss. "Hello?" Ghen answered. "Ghen, the meeting's been moved up to a few minutes from now." His boss, Xkik, announced. "Apparently higher up has something important they want to say. We have a terminal ready for you, I'll message the login details." "Wha-, what's so important?" Ghen asked in bewilderment. "Did a water line rupture or something?" "No, nothing like that." Xkik replied with a slight chuckle. "It's actually about the rumors we've been hearing. That human corporation wanting to acquire us? That's what they're talking about." Ghen could feel everything inside his thorax drop to the floor. "That must mean it's true then, right? Did we get sold off by the Queen to this company then?" "Show up to the meeting and you'll get your answer." Xkik said simply. When he finished, Ghen got the notification on his communicator. There's the login details, allowing him to remotely attend the meeting. "They're about to start, hurry up." Once Xkik disconnected, Ghen worked fast to login and set up the remote viewing. Once everything was done, his screen started transmitting the meeting room. It was already packed. And off by the main board, he saw his answer. There was a human, resting against the wall on his two legs. Standing right in the center of everyone's view was the coordinator, Tizx, watching the clock periodically. As soon as the meeting's start time was reached, the coordinator began. "Alright everyone. I realize that this was rather short notice, so I want to say how appreciative I am that you made it. Now then, let's just get right to it. For some time now, many of you have been hearing rumors that a human corporation has been interested in us. Why? We never really knew. We're just an organization responsible for finding, extracting and providing water to the colony here all under the direction of the Queen herself. Well, as of now, I have the answer for you. Why don't I let Ryan say that?" Stepping back, Tizx motioned for the human, Ryan, to take over. With a nod, Ryan practically bounced over and then took the position. "Good morning to you all. I hope my Zazk is passable, heh. Anyways, the answer to those rumors, is yes. Terran Galactic Company is indeed interested in you all. Which now leads to me. I'm here to announce that, effective yesterday evening, this water company is now a subsidiary of Terran Galactic Company, under the name of Zilia Water Delivery." Many other sub-coordinators broke into hushed conversation, no doubt speaking their thoughts with each other about this move. Ghen could only wonder if this was even a good thing. What will the humans do? Will he still have his job? Will he have to learn how to deal with the ruthless humans? "Now, I am well aware this is quite the...uh, change." Ryan continued. "That's why I'm happy to inform you that, no, nothing negative or detrimental will happen to you. You just have new people to answer to. Operations will continue as normal, everybody here will still keep their jobs. The only real change any of you will personally experience is that Coordinator Tizx here will now report to someone else. On behalf of the Terran Galactic Company, we are extremely excited and are looking forward to working with you all. Thank you for your time." A week later. At least Ryan wasn't lying. After the initial shock wore off, things went back as they normally did. There were no terminations, no reductions in annual pay or anything. Nothing really changed. At least until this new meeting was called. Ghen was at the worksite this time, so he took his seat and watched as, once again, Ryan led the meeting. "Hello again, everyone!" He said cheerfully, his Zazk noticeably improved. "I hope I didn't end up looking like a liar, right? Everything's still normal, all that?" All the zazk in the room confirmed, providing comments to their pleasant surprise as well as lingering thoughts. "Awesome! Awesome." Ryan said jubilantly, his fleshy mouth revealing his bone-white teeth. "Now then, you're probably wondering why I'm here again, right? Well, I got another fantastic piece of news for you all! Two, actually. I'll start with the first: Zilia Water Delivery has just completed its IPO. The company is now publicly traded!" Ghen and the others voiced their confusion, having no idea what in the name of the Queen Ryan was talking about. What was Ryan talking about? What's an IPO? And why exactly is being publicly traded such a significant thing? "Oh, you guys don't know any of that?" Ryan asked in surprised confusion. After everybody confirmed, he let out a quick huff as he began his explanation. "Well, to begin, IPO is short for Initial Public Offering. Basically what that means is that, before today, Zilia was privately held. Only certain individuals could buy and sell shares here. But now that we're public? Literally anyone can buy and sell shares in the company, hence us being publicly traded." "Uh, what's a share?" Ghen asked, still completely lost. "Oh, boy..." Ryan muttered under his breath before returning to his peppy image. "To simply put it, a share is short for having a share of ownership in a company. When you buy a share, you're buying a piece of ownership, and when you sell, you're selling that amount." "So wait...if someone buys a share, they're a co-owner then?" One of the other team coordinators asked. "If they get enough, yeah." Ryan nodded. "You need a lot though, and that really depends on the company. If I had to give an answer though? I'd say usually you need to have a lot more shares than a lot of people combined to be officially a co-owner, but we call that being a majority shareholder." "And how do we do that?" Ghen asked, now growing curious but still not understanding why such a concept exists. "Simple. Buy shares." Ryan said simply. "And that leads into the second piece of awesome news. Zilia's corporate has a product in mind, a premium-package of water delivery. Instead of the usual water that you pump out, filter and ensure its potable before delivery, with the premium package, not only will you get that, but you'll also get all of the required nutrients and vitamins the zazk body requires! And they feel you guys have the best expertise and understanding to pull it off! So, here's what we're offering as a good-faith bonus: A 25% increase to your annual salary as well as being given stock options." Ghen wasn't sure about the second part, but the salary definitely got his attention, as well as everyone else's. Although his job was considered to have a good pay, Ghen isn't going to say no to a higher salary. In fact, he's been focusing his work on getting a promotion so he can come home with even more credits in pocket. "What do you mean by stock options?" Ghen asked after some time. Ryan let out that smile again, the one that revealed his teeth. "If you choose to transfer over to the new group, you'll be provided 50,000 shares in Zilia itself. Why's that awesome? Let me walk you through it. Right now, our last closing price per share was 3.02 credits. And if you have 50,000 shares during that time, you're sitting on 151,000 credits, if you cash it out immediately." "And why shouldn't we?" One of the coordinators demanded in an ambiguous tone. "Because the price per share changes a lot." Ryan explained promptly. "When we got done with the IPO? It closed at 2.73 a share. Right now? My money's on the closing price being 2.99 a share. However, we are extremely confident in this premium package being successful. If it does? Well, my bet is that the share price will skyrocket to 3.12 a share. If you hold those shares and the price gets to what my bet was? You'll instead get 156,000 credits. Just by holding onto them, you just made an additional 5,000 credits!" "And what if we have more shares?" Ghen questioned, now getting excited at the prospect of free money. "Even more money!" Ryan laughed a bit. "And don't forget about dividends, but that's for another time. The premium group is gearing up right now, we just need the workforce. If any of you wants in, I'll be back tomorrow with all the forms needed to make it official. Take the day and tonight to think it over, yeah?" Everything else melted into a blur. Ghen was practically on autopilot that whole day. Was this the secret to the humans' incredibly massive economy? How so many of them have amassed so much money out of nowhere? All you had to do was just buy this share out of a company and you get more money without even working? As soon as he got home, Ghen knew what he was going to do during the night. After feverishly looking through the galnet, now having the human race connected to it, he looked and gathered up as many books that were translated into zazk as he could find, all talking about the human economic system. The last time he undertook such an intensive study was during his primary education phase. And during his search, he even found forums on the galnet that were completely dedicated to the human's economy. All of them talking about strategies on what company, or stock, to pick. How to analyze a company's performance to determine if it was worth the money, or it had potential to grow over time. And that was when he discovered the humans found another method to the extremely simple buying and selling process. There were humans and some other immigrated aliens who made five times what Ghen could receive over a simple month just by watching the share prices during trading hours, and then buying and selling them at the proper times. Ghen's mind was just absolutely flabbergasted. He thought it was just some strange concept only aliens could make, but no, not with the humans. They've practically made their economy into an art or a science. No, not even their economy. Everything. If humans can see a way to make money off of it, they'll do it. And if there isn't, they'll look for a way. Healthcare was monetized. Galnet services, transportation, shopping at the store, they even made all of their utilities into profit-oriented companies. And it was there that Ghen paused, the realization slamming into him. Everything was monetized. Which means, if you don't have the money for it, you're not getting it. Right? Are the humans truly that ruthless? So obsessed with making money? To the point that they're willing to deprive their own people of the absolute necessities if it's a source of credits? Ghen let out a scoff. There's no way. Nobody is that cruel and callous. He's never been to the United Nations. He can't rely on what a bunch of random people on the galnet says. He decided that from here on out, he'll only go as far as saying that humans are a little obsessed with credits, nothing more. ... There he was. Ryan, sitting in the office provided to him. And there was a rather large line leading to him. Looks like word got around. Although, the line wasn't as large as he expected it to be. Maybe the others thought it was just a ruse? That there's no such thing as making free money by spending it on such a made-up concept? Ghen only knows that, if it is a ruse, it's an extremely elaborate one, where all of the humans are in on it. And he believes that's just extremely ridiculous. At the end, if he's unsure, he'll just take the transfer for the very real increase in his very real salary. And although he spent a very good chunk of the night reading up on how humans do things, he's still going to play it smart. He'll leave his 50,000 shares alone and see where it goes from there. "Good morning sir." Ryan greeted warmly once Ghen took his seat. "Now, name please?" "Ghen." He answered, barely keeping his nerves down. "Alright...and what's your position at this location?" Ryan questioned after scribbling on his form. "I monitor the pumping stations near the extraction sites." Ghen explained, staying on point. "To be more specific, I check to see if they're in need of maintenance, as well as reading the flow rate that's determined by the calculators installed there. If there's too little for what's needed, I pump out more. And if there's too much, I pull it back a little." "Nice...and how long have you been doing it for?" Ryan complimented with a nod. "As of tomorrow, ten years." Ghen replied, voice quickly changing to minor awe once he realized that fact. "Excellent. Do you have anyone in mind you'd like to replace you here?" Ryan questioned after another scribble. "If you don't have anyone, you're free to say so." Ghen took a moment to think it over. A bunch of names went through his mind, but one stuck with him. "Tilik. He's just been accepted here, but he's learned quickly. Very attentive and he always catches something subtle. I think he'll do really well in my position, even better actually." "Tilik, really?" Ryan questioned with a little shock, going through his completed forms. Ghen felt a short sense of panic in him. Did something happen, or was Tilik actually transferring? His answer didn't take long to reveal itself. "Right, Tilik was actually one of the first people to want to transfer here. He's actually requested to be part of the testing teams specifically. Do you have a second choice?" "Um...no, actually." Ghen replied, feeling a little ashamed. "Tilik was my only choice, to be honest." "Hey, don't worry." Ryan said assuringly with his hands raised. "Nothing wrong with that. Sometimes, there's just nobody up to snuff, right? 'Kay, so, last question. Is there anything specific you'd like to do when given the transfer?" "If you need someone monitoring new pumps, I'd be happy to do that." Ghen stated. "So basically same job but with better payoff, am I right?" Ryan grinned. "I hear you. Sometimes, we're just not paid enough for what we're doing. I know I think that sometimes. Uh, our secret, yeah?" "Yeah, our secret." Ghen nodded, thinking it'd be better to have friendly relations with the human, just in case. "Awesome. Back on topic, that's it." Ryan announced, placing the form on his pile. "We'll give you a call when you're accepted." "Oh, uh, that's it?" Ghen questioned with a shrug in shocked surprise. "What, expecting a question like, why do you want to transfer?" Ryan chuckled a bit as he leaned in his seat. "You can bullshit all you want, but we both know the answer. Sweet money and stock options. Not saying that's a bad answer of course, just that it's pretty obvious." "I suppose it is." Ghen commented, realizing the point. "Also, you mentioned this...dividend? Is that for Zilia shares?" Ryan laughed a little bit before nodding. "Yep, announced before I came here. About 0.43 per share. Want to know why that's awesome? Instead of waiting for the proper price to cash out your shares, now? The company pays you for each share you hold." "A...Are you serious?" Ghen demanded, flabbergasted. Ryan nodded with his now-trademark grin. "Dead serious. If you get the transfer, and get those 50,000 shares? A little head math...right, if you hold onto those, in addition to your salary, you'll now annually be paid 21,500 credits, if you keep it at 50,000 shares. Only you can decide to sell or buy shares." Ghen just stood there silent and motionless, no idea of whether to believe it or not, to which Ryan just laughed. Once he walked out of the room, he managed to snap back to reality. Again, just focus on the very real pay-raise. He'll deal with the other parts later. After he returned to his spot, he spotted Tizx approaching by his desk. The coordinator seems to be as casual as always. "I saw you in that line a bit ago, Ghen." He said as he leaned on the desk. "Guess you're really taking that human's word?" "I mean, I don't know about all this share business or what not." Ghen began with a shrug, his tone sounding a little defensive. "But I mean, having a bigger salary? Course I'm going for it when I can. And if all this magic credits turn out to be real? You realize we can live like the royal servants, right? Get the best cars, the nicest food and all that?" "I'd be very careful, Ghen." Tizx warned in a sudden shift in tone. "Don't trust those humans. The way they just...obsess over money? Come up with more and more insane ways of getting credits? I don't know, it just makes my wings twitch." "You think this is a bad idea?" Ghen asked with a little surprise at the change-in-demeanor. "I think you should be careful, with the humans, and with what you're saying." Tizx replied, straightening his posture. "I wouldn't put it past those Earthmen to backstab you if it gets them a few more credits. And we all know how the royal servants get if any of us lowly commoners start thinking we can break into their circle." "I hear you, I'll be on my guard, promise." Ghen stated with a nod. With a confirming nod of his own, Tizx returned back to his duty, walking past Ghen's desk. Several weeks later. Everything became so much better. Ghen got the transfer. He didn't need to relocate to a new residence either. And after he was walked through into learning how to manage his stock account, and seeing that new form of payment in his hands, he already felt as though he made the best decision. But it was only when he decided to take those shares more seriously that he became privy to what he was given. After receiving the dividend payment, and actually seeing it was real, valid credits after transferring it to his main bank account, all he could describe was the most powerful high he ever felt. While his first thoughts were to buy himself a royalty-class car, some nicer furnishings for his home, or even a better home entirely, he ended up going the smarter route. After going back to his stock account, he discovered that Zilia's shares rose to about 3.22 credits in price. Knowing that this was the easiest money he could ever make, he took all of his dividend earnings and bought more shares in Zilia, bringing him to owning 56,891. And from his new regional coordinator, a human named Dylan, tomorrow is the grand release of the premium package. For just a monthly rate of 14.99 credits, the tap water will now include a sizeable portion of all nutrients and vitamins required in the zazk physiology. Still, Ghen has to admit. He's not entirely sure why anybody would want such a thing, if they'd even go for it. But, as long as he's practically swimming in easy credits, he won't pay much attention to it. And just like when he was intensively studying the basics of how the human economy worked, he barely got any sleep. His mind was constantly thinking about the things he would buy. Or rather, what other stocks to put his credits into. Even now he can still hardly believe it. Just spend your money on some, make-believe thing and, if you wait long enough and picked the right stock, you'll get more than you spent back? His mind even wandered onto what human colonies, or even their homeworld, Earth, was like. If everybody was making so much money, what kind of things would they offer? What kind of ridiculous service or product or item can you get? He's even debating on joining some forum and just asking around. Explain how he's new to how humans do things and was wondering what he should expect if he's successful. By the time he felt like he can go to sleep, the binary-stars of the system were rising from the horizon. After getting out of his bed and changing to clean clothes, his mind returned onto what-ifs. What if he bought better clothes? He's had his eye on that human brand of luxury clothes, Tessuti di Venezia, that's been all the rage amongst the royal servants. Or maybe he can go on vacation and just check out Earth for real? It was a short ride to his workplace from his home. After getting stuff his stuff and preparing to walk through the doors, he heard the roar of a car grow louder. When he looked, he saw the sleekest and quite possibly the coolest looking car he's ever seen. Each time the engine revved it would startle him, both from how harsh it sounded as well as just how intense it sounded. And after it parked, he saw the doors pop out and then slide along the body back. And there, he saw Tilik, the seat literally turning and extending out a bit before he got off. As soon as he saw Ghen staring, he struck a rather prideful pose after putting on his lab coat and then sauntered over to Ghen. "What do you think?" Tilik said, without any doubt inviting praise or compliments. "D...Did you actually buy that?" Ghen asked, unable to tear his eyes away from the car. "You're Queens-damn right I did!" Tilik laughed happily. "Thing takes off like a starship, has temperature-controlled seating, all-in-one center console, barely any bouncing on rough roads. Hoof, best decision I've ever made!" "How much did that thing cost?" Ghen asked after letting out an incredulous laugh. "Five million credits." Tilik replied, earning an absolutely shocked stare from Ghen. "And thanks to the incredible salary I have, in addition to all these shares and dividends, I'll pay back the credits I borrowed in no time!" Ghen needed a few moments before he could speak again. "All I've been doing is buying more shares." Tilik laughed and then patted the now-envious monitor's back. "Smart man. I got a little carried away, yeah, but not anymore. Any spending credits I got, going right back to investing. That's what it's called right, investing?" "Yeah, it is." Ghen nodded, feeling a fire light up in his thorax. "And also? Today's the day that the premium water thing is being released. Here's hoping it starts out well, right?" "Oh it will, trust me." Tilik chuckled as they both began making their way inside the workplace. "Lots of research, lots of study. By the Queen, so much of it...it'll make your head spin." And after hearing that, Ghen had a moment of realization. "Hey, Tilik? How did you get such a nice position anyways? Weren't you just studying under me before the humans came along?" Tilik let out a sigh after opening the door. "I'll be honest, I never wanted your job. Not because it's boring or terrible, just...I didn't suffer so many sleepless nights in the science academy just to be a glorified button pusher. This is what I've always wanted. Doing science, solving problems rather than just applying the solution, you know?" "Wait, you got an academic certificate?" Ghen questioned, completely floored. "How did you end up beneath me then? I should've been answering to you!" "Simple." Tilik gave a heavier sigh. "A royal servant was asking for the same job I was. Take a guess at who got it." "Ouch. Good thing the humans came along when they did, yeah?" Ghen was taken aback. He never heard anything about a servant taking a job at his place. "Looks like you're proving yourself to be well suited." "By the Queen, of course I am." Tilik nodded. "Like I said, I nearly broke my wings through so many nights, got certified top of my class, all just to get pushed to the dirt because someone who was born into a particular family wanted the same thing I did? I know I'm smarter than any of those empty-skull servants back in the Center. I know that, whatever, uh...corporate? Yeah, whatever corporate wants out of science, I will xeek give it to them." "Well, let me know how things go in the lab." Ghen said, admiring his drive as they neared the main office floor. "Because this is where the button pusher needs to go." Tilik let out a laugh as he nodded. "Hey, how about we meet up at Queen's Fine Eatery tonight. I'll pay, yeah?" Ghen, at first, wanted to admonish him for choosing such an outrageously expensive place to go. But he quickly realized that, he truly is good for it, thanks to the humans. "Well, hey, if you're paying for it." ... It was a fantastic opening. After being told what news sites to keep in mind for stocks, he first heard it from Dylan, and then got more detail on Business Today. There was such a massive demand right from the start that Zilia needs to increase extraction just to meet it. But what really got his attention was the effect it had. Zilia Water Delivery's share price just blasted off. After seemingly holding steady at about 3.15, by the time he got home and logged onto his account, it already reached 7.04 a share. The calculator on his account told him that he got a value-gain of 54.26%. Never in his entire life had he felt such...joy. With all of the shares he currently has? He's sitting at 400,512.64 credits. He knows that it is woefully pathetic compared to what the royal servants have just in their pockets, but the fact that he has such money, just by owning some intangible concept? Why even work at Zilia? Why doesn't he just sit at home, figure out what companies to invest in and make his money that way? What's even the point in working a real job, getting a pathetic pay when you can just take the money you have, determine where to spend it, and get triple back? All just sitting on your wings at home, researching? He was so wrapped up in his excited high that he completely forgot he was going to meet Tilik at Queen's. After quickly and haphazardly putting on his nicer clothes, he got to the place only a few minutes late. Tilik was there by the guide, no doubt having been waiting for him. As soon as he strode up, Tilik's wings stiffned out some. No doubt he must've seen the numbers as well. "I can see your wings, Ghen." Tilik began with an excited chuckle. "Made some serious credits?" Ghen let out an incredulous scoff, struggling to find the words for a moment. "Incredible. All I'm going to say." "Likewise." Tilik chortled some before nodding to the table guide. "All here. Table please?" "Right this way, sir." The guide said politely. It was a short walk, travelling between round tables. The vast majority were populated by zazk, but Ghen was surprised at seeing a few humans here as well. No doubt corporate workers checking out the local food. He did spot them having bowls filled with some kind of mass. Some were brown, others white with what looks to be black specks on them. They arrived at their table. A rather nice one, affording a view out the windows into the busy colony streets. Once Tilik and Ghen settled in, the guide handed out the menus. "May I suggest our rather popular option for tonight?" The guide began. "Human ice-cream. Ingredients sourced from Earth itself. Very cold, but incredibly sweet, and coming in many flavors. The most popular amongst us is called vanilla-bean. The vanilla itself soaks in the cream for much of the process, and then the innards sprinkled on top of it near the end. Rumor has it that the Queen herself has demanded personal shipments of such a treat straight from the home of vanilla, an island on Earth named Madagascar." Ghen didn't even spare a single thought. "Vanilla bean ice cream then, please." "Same." Tilik seconded when the guide glanced to him. With a slight bow, the guide proceeded to ferry their orders to the kitchen. Thankfully it was just a short wait before the guide returned, carrying a large plate containing bowls of ice cream. Ghen could feel the saliva on his mandibles as the bowl was placed before them. He could just feel the cold air around that glistening mass of sugary goodness. The white snow decorated with the black dots of vanilla bean. Once the guide left them, Tilik and Ghen both dived in at the same time. As soon as the ice cream entered his mouth, touched his tongue, he exploded in incomprehensible bliss. The sweetness, the smooth and creamy mass, even the taste of vanilla he wasn't sure about was just absolutely delightful. It was so overwhelming that his entire body limped, slumping in his seat as he was forced to ride on the surging tide of joy and happiness sweeping over him. Tilik was no different. He too was taken completely by the effects of the ice cream, his wings fluttering some against the seat. Ghen could hear some noise. It was the humans they passed by. They were chuckling, grinning, and glancing over at them discreetly. Unlike the two zazk, the humans seemingly just enjoyed the ice cream as if it was just another nice dessert to them. Or perhaps they couldn't allow themselves to succumb to the high? And as soon as the wave of indescribable bliss and happiness subsided, Ghen knew. He just knew. This was the life. He wanted this. The ice cream was just the beginning. So many things denied because he didn't have the credits, or worse, not the blood. Because he was just a drone in the great Collective, even if he had the credits, he wasn't allowed because of what caste he was born in. That fire that sparked in him when he saw Tilik's new car? It exploded into a raging firestorm. And when looking into Tilik's eyes, Ghen could see the same. He was on the same page as Ghen was. Both of them were sold. They have the credits. And the humans? If you can pay for it, they'll never discriminate. All they cared about is if you have the money. And by the Queen, Ghen and Tilik will endeavor to amass as much credits as physically possible. The rest of the night faded into a blur. A blur that evokes only one thing. Bliss. It was only when he walked through the door of his pathetic hut that Ghen's mind snapped back to focus. His mandibles felt sticky. And he felt a weight in his stomach. How much ice cream did he eat? Whatever it was, he ate such volume that the lower-section of his throax extended and rounded out, visible even under his shirt. He felt something odd in his pocket. It was a receipt. 43,000 credits for ten bowls of vanilla bean ice cream. Was that ten bowls for both of them? Or individually? Ghen didn't care. He's good for it. Returning back to his calculator, he acted upon the decision that he had made at that eatery. He's acquiring as many books about investing and stock trading as he could find, frequent and study all the discussions and arguments presented by other like-minded individuals such as he, all to ensure he can live the good life. And he had a very good feeling Tilik was doing the exact same thing. Well, first, the gurgling in his stomach, as well as the feeling of something rising demanded his attention. Looks like he'll need to take the night off to let his stomach get back to normal. Three Years Later. Ghen looked out beyond the horizon, seeing the colony that he grew up in. On the far side was where his old house was. With only a simple robe on, made from the finest silk from Earth's nation-state of China, he relaxed in his seat. It was a long road. Stockpiling credits from pre-existing investments and from subsequent pays, he and Tilik made it. From having only half a million in assets and cash, now transformed to over eight-hundred million. And now, his call contracts on American Interstellar? They've just announced a breakthrough in their next generation of warp drives, reducing the speed coefficient even further, resulting in far faster travel. And with that, their stock price climbed sharply. Another hundred million credits in the bank. Soon, very soon, he and Tilik are about to become the galaxy's first zazk billionares. But that's not enough. There are many humans who are billionares. Only those he can count on one hand are considered trillionares. He's going to break into that circle. He and Tilik. Looking beyond the colony, he saw the abandoned building of the workplace he transferred to when the humans arrived. Turns out, the reason for such a high demand was that the humans also slipped in sugar to the tap water. As soon as that broke, many influential royal servants demanded investigations and outright banning of Terran Galactic Company's influence over the former government division. Zilia's stock price plummeted. But thanks to an advance tip from his human coordinator, Dylan, he and Tilik made a put contract. And that's where they struck gold, as the human saying goes. Dylan warned that if they were citizens of the United Nations, they'd be investigated and convicted for insider trading. But, since they weren't, and the Collective were only just introduced to capitalism, there's no risk at all. Now the colony is going through a withdrawal phase, Zilia has been dissolved and reformed back as a government division and are currently at work re-establishing the standard, plain water delivery. "Well, shit." Tilik muttered as he walked up to Ghen's side, taking well to human speech. "Looks like you win. American Interstellar's announcement really was a good thing. There goes a million credits. Ah well, the Royal Shipyards will make it back for me soon." "Oh? Did they just go corporate?" Ghen asked curiously, glancing to Tilik. "Hell yeah they did." Tilik chuckled, sitting down. "Queen and her retard servants fought it hard, but Royal Shipyards is now officially a human-style corporation. And, to a surprise to all the xenophobes in the galaxy, they're already being offered contracts for ship production. That'll raise the stock price pretty good." "What's that human word...?" Ghen muttered, already having a reply in mind. "Dick? Yeah, calls or suck my dick, Tilik." Tilik roared in laughter. "Already made them. Forty credits a share by this day next month." "I have half a mind to go thirty." Ghen chuckled. "Either way, until then, I heard from Dylan that he knows a guy who knows several prime human women who happen to be into zazk." "You're interested in women?" Tilik said as his wings fluttered. "With how often you tell me to suck you off, I'd have thought differently." "Oh, I always thought it was you who was into men." Ghen responded dryly. "Just wanted to be a good friend, you know? Considering how you never seem to make it past, Hey sweet thing, I'm rich you know." "Oh, go fuck yourself." Tilik countered with a little laugh. After he stopped, wings stiffened, he looked to Ghen. "So, know any royal servants we can put the squeeze on for more revenue streams?" "I got just the one." Ghen nodded, sitting up. "Fzik. He's been fighting to control the ice cream trade. Worried it's a corrupting influence. Got done talking with the human CEO of Nestle earlier. If we clear the way, he'll know how to squeeze a little more gains in stock price when he makes the announcement." Tilik's wings stiffened even more, signaling his approval. "Alright, time to throw some credits around, yeah?" AN: Sorry for the period of no updates. College is starting up, lots of stuff to clear and work out. Not sure why but I just got a bug up my butt about incorporating money and the stock market into a short. Here it is. Sorry if it seems abrupt, character limit fast approaching. Let me know how you guys think about it!
OBLIGATORY FILLER MATERIAL – ESCAPE FROM STALAG SULTANATE, Part 1
That reminds me of a story. “HELLFIRE AND DALMATIANS!” I shouted to no one in particular. “What’s the problem, dear?” Esme asks in that way she has of telling me to calm down without having to say it directly. “This bloody fucking country. A day late and several dollars short.” I fume. “Can’t get a new liquor license because of the bloody COVID. Can’t go to a hotel bar and have a snort because of the bloody COVID. Can’t even slip across the border to Dubai and soak up some room service and buckets of complimentary cocktails because of the bloody COVID.” Yes, the Sultanate of Oman, in its infinitesimal wisdom, has traditionally followed other GCC countries by at least three months in making any sort of proclamations regarding this latest bugaboo: the hideous, deadly, itchy, loathsome, and possibly serially bent, noxious, pandemical COVID-19; aka, this pandemic’s entry for flu. Their response is one of immense knee-jerk without first having thought of the consequences. “Bloody lockdown, 2100 to 0700. What is this, the whole fucking country’s been bad and now being sent to bed without any supper?” I wondered aloud. “Idiot benchodes.” Even Esme couldn’t come up with a rejoinder to that. “Plus they close all the bars. And all the hotels. And the fucking bottle shops. It’s not enough that these fucking Muppets jack the ‘sin tax’ on booze and cigars by 100%, now they’re not even legally available.” I swore. Of course, once you’ve spent even a small portion of the time that I have in the Middle East, you have your connections. Your system. Your access to the seedy underbelly of any society; the venerable Black Market. Jesus Q. Christ on toast with baked beans, fried tomatoes, black pudding, and mushrooms, I could get most anything in the Middle East, be it legal, shady, or just plain illegal. However, before you all recoil in horror that the venerable Dr. Rocknocker dabbles in the prohibited, just remember: the ends always dojustify the means. “I'm telling you, Esme dear; this Gulf story is getting too complicated. The weasels have started closing in.” I complain to Es as she hands me a fresh drink. “Do you think…?” Esme asks expectantly. Esme is more than ready to go. I’ve used this place as a base of operations for years whilst I wear out the Omani legal system suing those asswipes that think just because they’re local and I’m a kafir, they’re immune to the law. I’ve spent a long, profitable and time-consuming period of the last few years proving them wrong. But, time was marching onwards. I agreed with Esme, we’ve milked this particular cash cow dry. It was time to hitch up our bootstraps, call it a day, and get the hell out of Dodge. But not before I took care of a few loose ends. Now, the country had recently lost its venerable Sultan, who croaked back in January of this year. Sultan Qaboos was a good egg, friend to expat and local alike. Did a shitload of good for this benighted Middle East sandpit. Dragged it kicking and screaming out of the 12th century into, well, not exactly the 21st, but a whole hell of a lot closer. He realized that he needed revolutionary, not evolutionary change in the country. By revolutionary, he needed American, British, Canadian, and the like Western Expats here to do the heavy thinking and lifting and Eastern Expats like Indians, Bangladeshis and Nepalese to do all the scut work. Yeah, I know. That sounds racist as fuck, but sometimes that’s the way the ball bounced. Simple evolution of society where Omanis graduated the local equivalent of grade school, through high school, into University, and finally into Entry level jobs in the oil and gas industry wasn’t going to cut it. Took too long and the country needed a serious cash flow now. So, that’s what he did. And it worked a treat. Then he died. And his chosen took over. Except his chosen was pretty much antithetical to everything the previous and very revered and successful, Sultan wanted. Soon, there are 100% ‘sin taxes’ aimed directly at the western expats. Tourists included. Then there’s quotas and ‘Letters of No Objection’, which are impossible to get so that the Eastern Expats can’t switch jobs. Then, there are Sultanic proclamations of new taxes on tourists, new taxes on fast food, new taxes on this, that and the other. Then there’s, in his own words, “Oman is for Omanis”, blatantly ridiculous and xenophobic Omanization, and the general swipe at all expats. “GET OUT.” This was the clear message of the new sultan. He wanted to take over and possibly nationalize all the oil workings in the country. Ask Venezuela, Iran, and Myanmar how well that worked out for them. Then he wants all expats out on their asses. He wants Omanis to take over all the jobs, even though they’re nowhere near educated nor experienced enough for the positions. Then take up the massive GDP slack in lower oil production and oil prices with tourism. Given everything else, that last line should be enough to get him off the throne. He’s fucking nuts if he thinks people are going to want to cruise or overland anywhere near a place where foreigners are seen only as a cash supply, are despised, and would welcome these all new 100% tax levies. Be that as it may, Esme and I decided that we have had enough of 135O F summer temperatures, virtual house arrest under the guise of a COVID lockdown, and idiots who were the only ones stupid or twisted enough not to vamoose when the great, big bloody letters were clearly written on the wall. But, there was the physical act of getting out of the country. Now, I had plenty of strings which I could pull, but I decided I’d start low and save those until we really needed them. So low, in fact, we went to the US Embassy in Muscat. “How low can you go?” reverberated through my head. What a haven of sad-sacks, flubadubs, and third rate hobbyists. Was either Esme or I surprised that when we finally secured an invitation to the embassy, that required a bit of string-pulling with the ex-Ambassador to Oman, now in Kabul; that besides the peach-fuzz faced Marine guarding the place, we were the only Americans in the joint? “This is American soil!” I laughed, as I pulled out a huge Cuban cigar and was immediately told to extinguish it. “We’re as American as apple pie and napalm! We file our fucking 1040s every April; I pay my fucking long-distance taxes and demand US assistance to vacate this gloomy place of sandy, sweaty, sultry Sturm und Drang!” “Shut up, Rock”, Esme chided me, “They don’t understand English. Much less, the florid English the way you trowel it on.” “Fuckbuckets”, I remonstrated. “Here I had memorized the whole Patrick Henry speech he made to the Second Virginia Convention on March 23, 1775, at St. John's Church in Richmond, Virginia. Troglodytes. No admiration for the classics.” “Rock, dear?” Esme noted, “It’s almost 1100 hours. Best to get to our appointment.” True, our appointment was slated for 1100 hours. But around here, anything starting within three hours of the stated time was considered close enough. We dragged ourselves, none too cheerfully, to the waiting room. Once we pried open the door, there was the usual “If you hear a high pitched wail, hit the deck” signs, and other things one could do while kissing one’s ass goodbye if there was a terrorist attack, we had a whole new slew of bullshit with which to deal. “Social distancing. 6 feet. Or if you’re from Baja Canada, 1 cow’s length.” “Must wear a mask. Bandanna, bandoliers, and large-caliber weapons or sombrero optional.” “No sitting. Faux Naugahyde seats are too difficult to sterilize. You must stand at attention, do not talk amongst yourselves, and remain patient until your number is called.” “Well, fuck!”, I snorted quietly, as I raised my first secret flask in rapt attention to our old glory of red, white, and blue. “Good thing they didn’t say nothin’ about getting a load on. If I’m going to be treated like cattle, I’m going to at least have something to chew on in the process.” “Oh, lord”, Esme grumbled, “You didn’t bring that Japanese Rye Whiskey with you, did you?” “ルハイム”, I said, which is Japanese for “L’chaim”! “Oh, hell”, Esme grinned as she borrowed my flask, “This is going to be a long day.” I began to protest but remembered that I was wearing my Agency-issued field vest. I must have had at least 5 or 6 more flasks lurking around in those pockets somewhere. Funny aside: they don’t bother with my going through an X-ray machine nor do they confiscate my phone, radio, knives, nor other field equipment when I go to the US Embassy. It took them almost two solid hours last time, and by the time they got to my Brunton Compass, emergency flasks, a few spare blasting cap boosters, and saw the label sewn into the back of my vest, they decided they’d just send Rack and Ruin some evil Emails and let me pass unmolested. “I’ll drink to that”, I say as I raise a flask as the locals raise an eyebrow. “Courtesy of Atheists International. We’re here for your children…” The collective gasps and growls indicate they weren’t happy with me or my betrothed. “Don’t care, Buckwheat”, I smiled, “Never did, never will. We’re out of here for good. You can curse my name all you want then. But, then again, why you standing in the American Embassy trying to get a visa to visit the land of the great evil empire?” All the locals and most of the Eastern Expats crowded into a corner as far away from us as they physically could. “BOO!” I snickered over a shot of Wild Turkey 101 Rye. “Now serving number 58! Number 58!” came the call over the tannoy. “Look at that”, I remarked to Es as I stashed both our flasks, “It’s only 12:35. Record time.” We both shimmy into the glass-fronted and presumably bullet- but not C-4 resistant- glass. We pick up the telephones there and acknowledge that we are who we said we were. The East Indian fella, one Harsh Talavalakar, behind the multiple layers of glass asked us why we were here. “Didn’t you read the appointment card?” I asked, “We’re here to have Uncle Sam get us passage out of this sordid and sultry place.” “You are American citizens?” he asked, vacantly. “That’s what it says on appointment cards and these here blue passports,” I replied. “Well, how was I to know?” he scoffed, returning to his half-consumed powdered sugar doughnut. “Maybe read the appointment card and see that we are US Citizens here on the behest of Ambassador Bethesda Orun?” I replied. “Like I have time to read everything that comes across my desk”, he scoffed again. I tapped on the glass to make certain I had his full attention. “Look here, Herr Harsh. I’m not sure how you got this job at the American Consulate but want to be very clear with you. My wife and I are residents of this place for the last 20 years. We’re American citizens of very high standing and have more high powered connections than an Arduino in a nuclear power station. We have direct connections with Langley, Virginia and if you want to retain your cushy job, you’ll put down that fucking doughnut and pay very rapt attention to the two Americans standing here who are getting more and more irritated with some Indian benchode that doesn’t think he has to really do his job. You savvy? You diggin’ me, Beaumont” I guess the benchode got his attention. The two scowls he received from Esme and myself sort of cemented the idea that we’re not too pleased and not with to be trifled. “Yes, sir?” he said, “And ma’am”, as Harsh quickly corrected himself as the doughnut disappeared. “We want out. Gone. Vamoose. Outta here. AMF. You got me?” he nods behind the shatterprone glass. “Now I know the borders are sealed and the airport’s closed, but fuck that. We want out and we want gone for good. I can’t make that much simpler or clearer. Get after it, son.” I said, as seriously as I could. “Well, sir”, he began, “ The airport’s closed…” “Are you deaf or born stupid and been losing ground ever since?” I asked, rhetorically. “I know that. We all know that. My HAT knows that. So, what devious little plan does the US Embassy have in store in just such an unsavory situation?” “Well”, he chokes a bit, “There’s this unofficial lottery where America citizens are issued random numbers and if their number comes up, there are seats made available on special clandestine charter flights.” Considering that Es and I are some of the last American citizens left in the country, I thought our chances might be pretty good. “OK”, I said, “Let us have two of your finest numbers.” “Yes, sir”, he said, “That will be US$500 total.” “Excuse me?” I said. “Oh, yes”, he smirked, “US$250 per number. Chances are you’ll never be called, but with these numbers, at least you stand a chance.” “OK”, I said, “Forget the numbers. I want your name and operating number. I’ve got a report to file that’s due in Virginia before breakfast.” “Oh, sir”, he smirked more, “I cannot release that information. Thanking you. Now be having a good day.” And he slammed the supposedly bulletproof shield between himself and Es and me. “Bulletproof? Maybe. Nitro proof? No fucking way.” I groused as I fished out a couple of blasting cap superfast boosters. “Calm down, dear”, Esme smiled to me as we walked out, “When he wasn’t looking, I took his picture, got his operating number, and full name. In fact, I think I got some information on where he lives…” In the cab on the way back to our villa, I reviewed and confirmed Es’s subterfuge. Flasks number 6 and 8 needed serious replenishment by the time we arrived home. “That’s fucking right, Ruin.” I yelled over the phone, “We need extraction. And now. Along with our personal effects and a few hundredweight of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ boxes of stuff we need to be transported.” “Well, Rock”, Agent Ruin replied, “That’s a tall order. Usually, extraction is for one person and the stuff they’re wearing. Tell you what. Let Rack and I work on it for a week or so. We’ll arrange transport of your personal effects, then we’ll see about getting you and Esme to Dubai. At least there, you can order a plane. Hell, knowing you, you’ll get Tony Stark to fly in and provide door to door service. Sit tight. We’ll be back in touch.” “Good!” I say as I slam the phone down. With these newfangled cellphone telephone instruments, they lack the same sort of satisfying “KER FUCKING CLANG” the old landlines used to have. “Es!”, I yelled, “Start packing. We’re due out of here within a week.” That meant we needed to do some packing triage: • Things going home with us. • Things being shipped. • Things being sold. • Things being left behind. • Things no one was about to get their furry little mitts on. “Oh, fuck!”, I startled. I had just remembered the John Wick-ian stash of various explosives, and adjunct materials I had buried in the basement. Obviously, I couldn’t take it home with me, I couldn’t sell it, and I sure as festering frothing fuck wasn’t going to leave it here. I needed to call one of my more shifty and swarthy friends and arrange for passage out to the deep, dark desert. Around the area where the new sultan had opened a couple of brand new landfills. Looks like I was going to expand them a few meters once we disposed of the few hundred kilos of accumulation I attained over the last few years. See, I’m a packrat. I never leave nor toss anything that might be convenient. Might have a benefit. Might prove to be useful sometime down the line. So, I’ve accumulated a bit of kit. Like…well…a few hundred sticks of Du Pont 60% Extra Fast Dynamite. A couple dozen spools of Z-4 Primacord, in various degrees of fullness. A shitload of C-4; enough bricks for a Floydian wall. A couple, well, a dozen, well, two dozen cases of binary liquid explosives. Hey, this stuff is hard to come by… Continuing, several thousand blasting caps and superfast flash blasting cap boosters. Some mercury fulminate. Some nitrogen triiodide. A couple tens of pounds of PETN. An equal amount of RDX. A few Erlenmeyer flasks full of shit even I’m not certain of what it is… Oh. And a few kilos of freshly decanted, raw nitroglycerin; packed in sturdy wooden boxes lined with new fuzzy lamb’s wool. Not that much. Just 10 or 12 kilos. Yeah. I can’t leave that here. Even a small accident with this stuff would lay waste to not only our villa; but my landlord’s villa with whom we share a common wall. Besides, as Omanis go, my landlord was the only dishdasha dressed denizen for which I had any respect or admiration. He was a good guy. I needed to return his villa at least in some semblance of what I received when we first rented from him. So, I had to dispose of many, many billions of kilojoules of potential energy. I needed to do this out in a distant and far away from prying ears and eyes regions and I needed a truck to haul this stuff out to the range. To be continued…
Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Swaps* (*But Were Afraid To Ask)
Hello, dummies It's your old pal, Fuzzy. As I'm sure you've all noticed, a lot of the stuff that gets posted here is - to put it delicately - fucking ridiculous. More backwards-ass shit gets posted to wallstreetbets than you'd see on a Westboro Baptist community message board. I mean, I had a look at the daily thread yesterday and..... yeesh. I know, I know. We all make like the divine Laura Dern circa 1992 on the daily and stick our hands deep into this steaming heap of shit to find the nuggets of valuable and/or hilarious information within (thanks for reading, BTW). I agree. I love it just the way it is too. That's what makes WSB great. What I'm getting at is that a lot of the stuff that gets posted here - notwithstanding it being funny or interesting - is just... wrong. Like, fucking your cousin wrong. And to be clear, I mean the fucking your *first* cousin kinda wrong, before my Southerners in the back get all het up (simmer down, Billy Ray - I know Mabel's twice removed on your grand-sister's side). Truly, I try to let it slide. Idomybit to try and put you on the right path. Most of the time, I sleep easy no matter how badly I've seen someone explain what a bank liquidity crisis is. But out of all of those tens of thousands of misguided, autistic attempts at understanding the world of high finance, one thing gets so consistently - so *emphatically* - fucked up and misunderstood by you retards that last night I felt obligated at the end of a long work day to pull together this edition of Finance with Fuzzy just for you. It's so serious I'm not even going to make a u/pokimane gag. Have you guessed what it is yet? Here's a clue. It's in the title of the post. That's right, friends. Today in the neighborhood we're going to talk all about hedging in financial markets - spots, swaps, collars, forwards, CDS, synthetic CDOs, all that fun shit. Don't worry; I'm going to explain what all the scary words mean and how they impact your OTM RH positions along the way. We're going to break it down like this. (1) "What's a hedge, Fuzzy?" (2) Common Hedging Strategies and (3) All About ISDAs and Credit Default Swaps. Before we begin. For the nerds and JV traders in the back (and anyone else who needs to hear this up front) - I am simplifying these descriptions for the purposes of this post. I am also obviously not going to try and cover every exotic form of hedge under the sun or give a detailed summation of what caused the financial crisis. If you are interested in something specific ask a question, but don't try and impress me with your Investopedia skills or technical points I didn't cover; I will just be forced to flex my years of IRL experience on you in the comments and you'll look like a big dummy. TL;DR? Fuck you. There is no TL;DR. You've come this far already. What's a few more paragraphs? Put down the Cheetos and try to concentrate for the next 5-7 minutes. You'll learn something, and I promise I'll be gentle. Ready? Let's get started. 1.The Tao of Risk: Hedging as a Way of Life The simplest way to characterize what a hedge 'is' is to imagine every action having a binary outcome. One is bad, one is good. Red lines, green lines; uppie, downie. With me so far? Good. A 'hedge' is simply the employment of a strategy to mitigate the effect of your action having the wrong binary outcome. You wanted X, but you got Z! Frowny face. A hedge strategy introduces a third outcome. If you hedged against the possibility of Z happening, then you can wind up with Y instead. Not as good as X, but not as bad as Z. The technical definition I like to give my idiot juniors is as follows: Utilization of a defensive strategy to mitigate risk, at a fraction of the cost to capital of the risk itself. Congratulations. You just finished Hedging 101. "But Fuzzy, that's easy! I just sold a naked call against my 95% OTM put! I'm adequately hedged!". Spoiler alert: you're not (although good work on executing a collar, which I describe below). What I'm talking about here is what would be referred to as a 'perfect hedge'; a binary outcome where downside is totally mitigated by a risk management strategy. That's not how it works IRL. Pay attention; this is the tricky part. You can't take a single position and conclude that you're adequately hedged because risks are fluid, not static. So you need to constantly adjust your position in order to maximize the value of the hedge and insure your position. You also need to consider exposure to more than one category of risk. There are micro (specific exposure) risks, and macro (trend exposure) risks, and both need to factor into the hedge calculus. That's why, in the real world, the value of hedging depends entirely on the design of the hedging strategy itself. Here, when we say "value" of the hedge, we're not talking about cash money - we're talking about the intrinsic value of the hedge relative to the the risk profile of your underlying exposure. To achieve this, people hedge dynamically. In wallstreetbets terms, this means that as the value of your position changes, you need to change your hedges too. The idea is to efficiently and continuously distribute and rebalance risk across different states and periods, taking value from states in which the marginal cost of the hedge is low and putting it back into states where marginal cost of the hedge is high, until the shadow value of your underlying exposure is equalized across your positions. The punchline, I guess, is that one static position is a hedge in the same way that the finger paintings you make for your wife's boyfriend are art - it's technically correct, but you're only playing yourself by believing it. Anyway. Obviously doing this as a small potatoes trader is hard but it's worth taking into account. Enough basic shit. So how does this work in markets? 2. A Hedging Taxonomy The best place to start here is a practical question. What does a business need to hedge against? Think about the specific risk that an individual business faces. These are legion, so I'm just going to list a few of the key ones that apply to most corporates. (1) You have commodity risk for the shit you buy or the shit you use. (2) You have currency risk for the money you borrow. (3) You have rate risk on the debt you carry. (4) You have offtake risk for the shit you sell. Complicated, right? To help address the many and varied ways that shit can go wrong in a sophisticated market, smart operators like yours truly have devised a whole bundle of different instruments which can help you manage the risk. I might write about some of the more complicated ones in a later post if people are interested (CDO/CLOs, strip/stack hedges and bond swaps with option toggles come to mind) but let's stick to the basics for now. (i) Swaps A swap is one of the most common forms of hedge instrument, and they're used by pretty much everyone that can afford them. The language is complicated but the concept isn't, so pay attention and you'll be fine. This is the most important part of this section so it'll be the longest one. Swaps are derivative contracts with two counterparties (before you ask, you can't trade 'em on an exchange - they're OTC instruments only). They're used to exchange one cash flow for another cash flow of equal expected value; doing this allows you to take speculative positions on certain financial prices or to alter the cash flows of existing assets or liabilities within a business. "Wait, Fuzz; slow down! What do you mean sets of cash flows?". Fear not, little autist. Ol' Fuzz has you covered. The cash flows I'm talking about are referred to in swap-land as 'legs'. One leg is fixed - a set payment that's the same every time it gets paid - and the other is variable - it fluctuates (typically indexed off the price of the underlying risk that you are speculating on / protecting against). You set it up at the start so that they're notionally equal and the two legs net off; so at open, the swap is a zero NPV instrument. Here's where the fun starts. If the price that you based the variable leg of the swap on changes, the value of the swap will shift; the party on the wrong side of the move ponies up via the variable payment. It's a zero sum game. I'll give you an example using the most vanilla swap around; an interest rate trade. Here's how it works. You borrow money from a bank, and they charge you a rate of interest. You lock the rate up front, because you're smart like that. But then - quelle surprise! - the rate gets better after you borrow. Now you're bagholding to the tune of, I don't know, 5 bps. Doesn't sound like much but on a billion dollar loan that's a lot of money (a classic example of the kind of 'small, deep hole' that's terrible for profits). Now, if you had a swap contract on the rate before you entered the trade, you're set; if the rate goes down, you get a payment under the swap. If it goes up, whatever payment you're making to the bank is netted off by the fact that you're borrowing at a sub-market rate. Win-win! Or, at least, Lose Less / Lose Less. That's the name of the game in hedging. There are many different kinds of swaps, some of which are pretty exotic; but they're all different variations on the same theme. If your business has exposure to something which fluctuates in price, you trade swaps to hedge against the fluctuation. The valuation of swaps is also super interesting but I guarantee you that 99% of you won't understand it so I'm not going to try and explain it here although I encourage you to google it if you're interested. Because they're OTC, none of them are filed publicly. Someeeeeetimes you see an ISDA (dsicussed below) but the confirms themselves (the individual swaps) are not filed. You can usually read about the hedging strategy in a 10-K, though. For what it's worth, most modern credit agreements ban speculative hedging. Top tip: This is occasionally something worth checking in credit agreements when you invest in businesses that are debt issuers - being able to do this increases the risk profile significantly and is particularly important in times of economic volatility (ctrl+f "non-speculative" in the credit agreement to be sure). (ii) Forwards A forward is a contract made today for the future delivery of an asset at a pre-agreed price. That's it. "But Fuzzy! That sounds just like a futures contract!". I know. Confusing, right? Just like a futures trade, forwards are generally used in commodity or forex land to protect against price fluctuations. The differences between forwards and futures are small but significant. I'm not going to go into super boring detail because I don't think many of you are commodities traders but it is still an important thing to understand even if you're just an RH jockey, so stick with me. Just like swaps, forwards are OTC contracts - they're not publicly traded. This is distinct from futures, which are traded on exchanges (see The Ballad Of Big Dick Vick for some more color on this). In a forward, no money changes hands until the maturity date of the contract when delivery and receipt are carried out; price and quantity are locked in from day 1. As you now know having read about BDV, futures are marked to market daily, and normally people close them out with synthetic settlement using an inverse position. They're also liquid, and that makes them easier to unwind or close out in case shit goes sideways. People use forwards when they absolutely have to get rid of the thing they made (or take delivery of the thing they need). If you're a miner, or a farmer, you use this shit to make sure that at the end of the production cycle, you can get rid of the shit you made (and you won't get fucked by someone taking cash settlement over delivery). If you're a buyer, you use them to guarantee that you'll get whatever the shit is that you'll need at a price agreed in advance. Because they're OTC, you can also exactly tailor them to the requirements of your particular circumstances. These contracts are incredibly byzantine (and there are even crazier synthetic forwards you can see in money markets for the true degenerate fund managers). In my experience, only Texan oilfield magnates, commodities traders, and the weirdo forex crowd fuck with them. I (i) do not own a 10 gallon hat or a novelty size belt buckle (ii) do not wake up in the middle of the night freaking out about the price of pork fat and (iii) love greenbacks too much to care about other countries' monopoly money, so I don't fuck with them. (iii) Collars No, not the kind your wife is encouraging you to wear try out to 'spice things up' in the bedroom during quarantine. Collars are actually the hedging strategy most applicable to WSB. Collars deal with options! Hooray! To execute a basic collar (also called a wrapper by tea-drinking Brits and people from the Antipodes), you buy an out of the money put while simultaneously writing a covered call on the same equity. The put protects your position against price drops and writing the call produces income that offsets the put premium. Doing this limits your tendies (you can only profit up to the strike price of the call) but also writes down your risk. If you screen large volume trades with a VOL/OI of more than 3 or 4x (and they're not bullshit biotech stocks), you can sometimes see these being constructed in real time as hedge funds protect themselves on their shorts. (3) All About ISDAs, CDS and Synthetic CDOs You may have heard about the mythical ISDA. Much like an indenture (discussed in my post on $F), it's a magic legal machine that lets you build swaps via trade confirms with a willing counterparty. They are very complicated legal documents and you need to be a true expert to fuck with them. Fortunately, I am, so I do. They're made of two parts; a Master (which is a form agreement that's always the same) and a Schedule (which amends the Master to include your specific terms). They are also the engine behind just about every major credit crunch of the last 10+ years. First - a brief explainer. An ISDA is a not in and of itself a hedge - it's an umbrella contract that governs the terms of your swaps, which you use to construct your hedge position. You can trade commodities, forex, rates, whatever, all under the same ISDA. Let me explain. Remember when we talked about swaps? Right. So. You can trade swaps on just about anything. In the late 90s and early 2000s, people had the smart idea of using other people's debt and or credit ratings as the variable leg of swap documentation. These are called credit default swaps. I was actually starting out at a bank during this time and, I gotta tell you, the only thing I can compare people's enthusiasm for this shit to was that moment in your early teens when you discover jerking off. Except, unlike your bathroom bound shame sessions to Mom's Sears catalogue, every single person you know felt that way too; and they're all doing it at once. It was a fiscal circlejerk of epic proportions, and the financial crisis was the inevitable bukkake finish. WSB autism is absolutely no comparison for the enthusiasm people had during this time for lighting each other's money on fire. Here's how it works. You pick a company. Any company. Maybe even your own! And then you write a swap. In the swap, you define "Credit Event" with respect to that company's debt as the variable leg . And you write in... whatever you want. A ratings downgrade, default under the docs, failure to meet a leverage ratio or FCCR for a certain testing period... whatever. Now, this started out as a hedge position, just like we discussed above. The purest of intentions, of course. But then people realized - if bad shit happens, you make money. And banks... don't like calling in loans or forcing bankruptcies. Can you smell what the moral hazard is cooking? Enter synthetic CDOs. CDOs are basically pools of asset backed securities that invest in debt (loans or bonds). They've been around for a minute but they got famous in the 2000s because a shitload of them containing subprime mortgage debt went belly up in 2008. This got a lot of publicity because a lot of sad looking rednecks got foreclosed on and were interviewed on CNBC. "OH!", the people cried. "Look at those big bad bankers buying up subprime loans! They caused this!". Wrong answer, America. The debt wasn't the problem. What a lot of people don't realize is that the real meat of the problem was not in regular way CDOs investing in bundles of shit mortgage debts in synthetic CDOs investing in CDS predicated on that debt. They're synthetic because they don't have a stake in the actual underlying debt; just the instruments riding on the coattails. The reason these are so popular (and remain so) is that smart structured attorneys and bankers like your faithful correspondent realized that an even more profitable and efficient way of building high yield products with limited downside was investing in instruments that profit from failure of debt and in instruments that rely on that debt and then hedging that exposure with other CDS instruments in paired trades, and on and on up the chain. The problem with doing this was that everyone wound up exposed to everybody else's books as a result, and when one went tits up, everybody did. Hence, recession, Basel III, etc. Thanks, Obama. Heavy investment in CDS can also have a warping effect on the price of debt (something else that happened during the pre-financial crisis years and is starting to happen again now). This happens in three different ways. (1) Investors who previously were long on the debt hedge their position by selling CDS protection on the underlying, putting downward pressure on the debt price. (2) Investors who previously shorted the debt switch to buying CDS protection because the relatively illiquid debt (partic. when its a bond) trades at a discount below par compared to the CDS. The resulting reduction in short selling puts upward pressure on the bond price. (3) The delta in price and actual value of the debt tempts some investors to become NBTs (neg basis traders) who long the debt and purchase CDS protection. If traders can't take leverage, nothing happens to the price of the debt. If basis traders can take leverage (which is nearly always the case because they're holding a hedged position), they can push up or depress the debt price, goosing swap premiums etc. Anyway. Enough technical details. I could keep going. This is a fascinating topic that is very poorly understood and explained, mainly because the people that caused it all still work on the street and use the same tactics today (it's also terribly taught at business schools because none of the teachers were actually around to see how this played out live). But it relates to the topic of today's lesson, so I thought I'd include it here. Work depending, I'll be back next week with a covenant breakdown. Most upvoted ticker gets the post. *EDIT 1\* In a total blowout, $PLAY won. So it's D&B time next week. Post will drop Monday at market open.
Power REIT -- Stock analysis and Value Investors Club application
This is my Value Investors Club application on Power REIT. Tell me what you think. Power REIT is a real estate trust with investments in solar, railroad, and newly in medical cannabis greenhouses. Thesis:Power REIT (PW) is the best way to invest in the cannabis area without the traditionally binary hit or miss nature of emerging industries.PW is anchored by a portfolio of traditional properties allowing it to more safely and at lower cost invest in cannabis assets.PW earns a return on invested capital (ROIC) in great excess of the cost of capital. Return of 12%-19% in new properties, recently issued bonds at 4.62%.PW is under valued despite a seemingly rich market price because of probable massive increase in revenue, earnings, and funds from operation (FFO).The margin of safety is significant. Significant Assets:6 Controlled Environment Agriculture greenhouse facilities aggregating over 131,00 square feet7 solar farm ground leases totaling 601 acres112 miles of railroad propertyApprox. $10 mil. cash Significant Liabilities:Approx. $24 mil. Long term debt at interest rates less than or equal to 5%Major debt: $15,500,000 at 4.62% fully amortizing, maturing in 2054Maturities as follows:2021 $635,5022022 $675,3742023 $1,168,2972024 $715,7772025+ $21,208,698Preferred stock: 144,636 shares of 7.75% Cumulative Redeemable Perpetual Preferred Stock, at $25. General info:Power REIT is currently pursuing investment in what they call controlled environment agriculture or CEA, essentially greenhouses. PW seeks out strictly medical cannabis producers who for whatever reason need additional financing, they then purchase the real estate they own and lease it back to them, and at times help with financing of construction. PW is one of the few ways for cannabis producing companies to get any sort of financing as federally it is still illegal and banks are weary. This gives PW lots of negotiating power in deal making, and that is why they can for example, buy and finance a 5.2 acre CEA property in southern Colorado for around $1 Mil. and get a straight lined rent of $192,000 equating to around a 19% FFO yield. These properties and tenants are of greater quality than the typical cannabis operation, remember they require tenants to maintain a medical cannabis producers license in the lease. That is a key for PW, this is not a speculative cannabis play that is dependent on federal legalization, on the contrary, a lease they have in a Maine property includes the clause that states that "After the deferred-rent period, rent is structured to provide a 12.9% return based on the original invested capital amount with annual rent increases of 3% rate per annum. At any time after year six, if cannabis is legalized at the federal level, the rent will be readjusted down to an amount equal to a 9% return on the original invested capital amount and will increase at a 3% rate per annum based on a starting date of the start of year seven." PW is partly a play against the federal legalization. On the topic of debt:A company with a market cap of under $50 mil with about $24 mil in debt might seem a little risky, but here is where the stability from the solar and rail assets comes in. Their existing FFO from those two asset classes is a little over $1 mil while the debt payments with exception of 2023 don't exceed $1 mil for the foreseeable future. So as long as they don't issue new debt in an uncharacteristically bad way PW will have no solvency issues. Management:Management is skill-full. The CEO David Lesser is pretty much for all intents and purposes the whole company, he is the sole full time employee. He is excellent in terms of real estate expertise. It is very clear he knows his stuff. He has a long history in real estate and more specifically in renewable/clean energy real estate. Lesser is also the chairman of the board, and the largest shareholder. He gets paid exclusively in various forms of equity. His interests are aligned with owners interests. Insider ownership is around 30%, very high for a REIT. Lesser is also key on avoiding share dilution as stated, and in practice unlike many REITs. There have been no share dilutions besides management's compensation plan. The major recent financing was the 2019 bond issuance. Relative PricingFor this section I will refer to Innovative Industrial Properties (IIPR) another publicly listed REIT that invests in cannabis assets. IIPR invests in a wider range of assets like retail not just CEA. I am much more suspicious of IIPR's real estate and management. There have been many questions raised about the quality of real estate and solvency of tenants. The CEO seems sleazy and they constantly dilute shareholders. I think PW is superior in terms of intangibles and tangibles. IIPR is PW only publicly traded comparable. IIPR has grown FFO per share 133% for the MRQ YoY. PW has grown FFO per share 107% over the same time. PW only started investing in high return CEA in late 2019, and engage in more conservative financing, so the difference in growth rates is marginal. IIPR is currently being priced at around 19.1 times forward 12 months FFO.PW is priced at only 14 times forward 12 months FFO. (If management's most basic expectations are met)In terms of relative price PW, if it sold at the 19.1 multiple it would be selling for $32.4 which I still think could yield an above market rate of return over time. ValuationI believe PW to be the type of business that the market undervalues because of high uncertainty but low risk. The high uncertainty comes from not knowing how much management will want to grow and raise capital, will management continue to use safe amounts of leverage, will new financing options become available to cannabis companies etc. The low risk comes from the fact that PW has very low risk of going to 0 or even decreasing substantially in share price because of the current safety in investment return and diversification. I'll put a floor as to what I think a low risk price is. Let's say base case scenario over the next year PW invests the existing $10 mil. in cash at a yield of 12.5% (below the usual yield of around 18%), doesn't raise any additional capital, and lease payments are collected and debts paid as scheduled. PW FFO per share would be about $0.45 per quarter. If they trade at an P/FFO multiple of 20 (PW currently trades at 27) that makes the price $36 per share. However, I do think capital will be raised, management has expressed interest in doing so. In that case the strong ROIC and high cash flow would give PW a high ceiling to grow as far as macroeconomic and market conditions allow.
Share price increases when new real estate acquisitions are announced. Eventual dividend. PW currently pays no dividend because the preferred has satisfied the REIT return of capital requirement recently, however with income rising 100%. It is likely a dividend will be coming soon and that will attract more attention. Continued performance and time. Edit: as a disclaimer, I am Obviously long PW
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The first droplets of rain smack the plane glass window. I stand on one side, fiddling the small recorder in one hand, and nursing a glass of scotch in the other. On the other side of the window an expansive city sprawls out in every direction, and high above it the storm that has been brewing is finally starting to burst. The rain droplets will soon be a downpour. Storms make me nervous. A thin bolt of lightning rips through the sky, momentarily illuminating the fat, heavy, dark clouds. They were plenty. No stars will show tonight. Another silent streak of light, and I see the normally bustling street below has gone quiet, save for a sparse sprinkle. Yellow cabs scurry about like insects, collecting their payments as they drop off their late night patrons. The faint sound of rolling thunder can be heard, muffled by the thick glass of my office. Eighteen stories up, I see the rain intensifying before those below. Normally, the dampening of the window prevents all outside noise...it's important for the patients to feel safe. Now, long after my office has closed, I find the thunder far more jarring than the constant whirring of the air-conditioning system, always pumping in oxygen that somehow smells fresh and artificial simultaneously. I understand. I take another short sip of my drink and turn away from the upcoming turmoil, returning to my desk. I find my eyes drawn to the framed certificates and degrees hung about my walls, questioning their ultimate meanings. I know that I'm safe in my office, my own personal slice of the world...but again, storms make me nervous. They didn't always, quite the opposite in fact, as a child I was rather fond of the whip-cracks in the sky, the smell of fresh rain. My distaste for them, I can actually pinpoint. Its a direct correlation of one of my patients. The one patient that scared me. Now, I've dealt with some truly sick and disturbed minds in over twenty-five years as a psychologist...but only one has ever truly frightened me. I currently hold a tape recording of our one and only session in my hand. Jack Lowe. The man was a lunatic, no doubt about that. His delusions tearing his mind pushing him further and further from reality as each second ticked away. It was in this very office that I met Jack, and sometimes, on nights like these when I find myself unable to pry his words free from my mind, I can almost see him sitting across from me, cigarette dangling in his hand. On nights like that, like tonight, the only remedy for my obsession is to listen to the recording and drink. I loosen my tie as I place the recorder on my desk and then I sip my scotch. I pull the bottle from the small shelf hidden under my desk and place it next to the small black device, inside of which a tape labeled "Lowe, J. Ses.1" resides. I hesitate for the briefest second before pressing play, leaning back in my chair and shutting my eyes. "Marnie, please send in Mr. Lowe." I hear my own voice coming from the speaker. Its so vivid...the picture in my mind that hearing his name conjures. I hear shuffling before the unmistakable sound of my office door squeaking open. I remember so clearly the man who walked through, and into my life all of those years ago. He was thin, one step above emaciated in fact, baggy clothes that wore the man instead of the other way around. He clearly had Norwegian ancestry, dirty blonde shoulder length hair that was quite messy, his unshaven cheeks gave way to a thicker patch of blonde hair on his chin that I think must have been a goatee of sorts before he had let himself go. Immediately I saw a horrendous case of insomnia, the purple skin around his sunken eyes would have been a give away for even someone wholly untrained in mental illnesses. "Have a seat Mr. Lowe." I hear the smile in my voice. "Just Jack..." A new voice joins the cast, and I feel the hairs on the back of my neck prickle hearing his soft almost whisper once again. I down the remainder of my glass and swiftly refill it. "Hello Jack, I'm Doctor Harkins. Your paperwork here says you're dealing with..." I hear the sounds of papers shuffling, and silently mouth the next word in tandem with my past self. "Hallucinations?" A period of silence follows on the recording, but my clear recollection fills in the gap. Jack, with his eyes locked on the floor nodded slowly, almost imperceptibly. There was such a distraught feeling surrounding the man and I can still feel the uneasiness shoot through my veins like ice. "How long has this been going on, Jack?" I asked, no hint of the smile in my words. "Its...its not a... persistent thing doc, it happened one time...I can't sleep though, I can't eat, I can't..." He trailed off. I remember him placing his hands softly on his face and rubbing the heels of his palms into his eyes. "I'm losing my fucking mind, doc...I need...something." Jack said the words with a shaky, uncertain tone. "What do you think you need, Jack?" I asked. "That’s why I'm here, right? To figure out a way to forget, yeah?" A slight hint of agitation permeated his voice. "Forget...let's go back Jack...you said the hallucinations were an isolated event?" I asked. "My Dad died, yeah, and I know shrinks like to think everything is linked to something with some or another parent thing, but it wasn't that. See, dad and me, we weren't close...not since I was a kid. He always paid more attention to my sister, even back then...she's the one who called me to tell me the news." The words flowed hectically from Jack's mouth and I remember the sheer desperation in his eyes when he looked up at me, they pleaded, begged me to hear him out and not jump to conclusions. "Alright, go on Jack, I'd like to hear about everything." My voice conveyed a sense of calm, attempting to ease Jack, help him relax. "You uh, care if I smoke?" He asked. I recall waving my hand in a "by all means" gesture. The soft sound of metal scraping a flint followed. "So yeah, Dani called me and said Dad died, it's sad, but it happens right? I ask her what happened..." Jack jabbed his now burning cigarette in my direction. "Cancer, of course. What else? So, I ask her about the funeral. Two days, no problem, I'll drive down to Connecticut, spend some time with the family and honor the old mans legacy. I packed up some shit...man I can't believe I'm telling you this, you're gonna think I'm out of my fuckin' mind...hell, I probably am." The soft hiss of his cigarette burning followed his words as he took a long drag. "I'm not here to judge you Jack. I'm here to listen to you and come up with a way to help. I don't think you're crazy." I assured him. The cold, skeptical look he gave me, crossing his hands between his knees, dangling his cigarette...it sticks with me to this day, and I truly believe that I'll carry it to my grave. I pour my third glass. "So I'm packing some things for a few days, and I hit the road first thing in the morning. I called Dani as soon as I left the city, telling her I'd be there tomorrow, yeah? Yeah. She tells me, 'yeah, okay, let me call Ray-' that's her husband, right, so she says 'let me call Ray, see if we can get the guest room set up in time, if not, Mom still has your old room set up back home'. She tells me she's gonna call back in fifteen, all good right?" Jack paused and looked at me inquisitively. He must have been aware of his frantic, almost manic speech pattern. I nodded, again in unison with my past self, exactly as I remember. On cue, jack continued. "So...I do what anyone does, toss the cell in the passenger seat and crank some tunes. I remember, some 90s boy band, but I was alone...no shame. I blasted it. It was nice out too. Green trees, blue sky. I rolled down the windows and remember, doc, I remember the air tasting and smelling so FRESH...in spite of the bad news I was feeling pretty damn great." He had glanced away at this, taking another draw off his cigarette. He felt ashamed. He thought it was wrong to feel good in light of a parents death. "So would you say it was a pleasant drive?" I asked, beginning to pry, attempting to do exactly what his eyes had begged me not to and connect his unhealthy mental state to the death of his father. "At first it wasn't so bad. Yeah, pleasant. But that didn't last. You know, you notice shitty drivers around you. You pay attention when cars behind or in front of you merge, or exit...but you never really pay attention to NOT having anyone else around you. It took me a while to realize that in two hours of driving I hadn't seen a single car besides mine. Now, it was still pretty early, so weird but not that weird. I did notice though that not one damned commercial had played on the radio. Just straight 90s hits..." The burning sound of cigarette paper again, followed quickly by another flick of the lighter. Jack's leg began furiously tapping, and I recall wondering if it was anxiety or substance withdrawals. "Dani hadn't called either." He continued after a moment. "She said 'fifteen' and it had been a couple hours by then. I just figured she got caught up dealing with Dad shit and had forgotten to call me back. Whatever, no biggie, so I pick up the phone, right, and I just punch in her digits...this is where I got fucked up, doc...because after two rings I heard that automated 'number no longer in service' message. I looked at my phone and sure enough it said Dani's name. I was confused, so I tried again, and again I got the 'dododedo'..." He imitated the electronic beeps, and raised his hands into a shrugging pose "...number not in service. You think I'm some kind of nut, yeah?" He finished, dropping his hands to his side. "Not at all, Jack." I lied. "Yeah, right. So anyway, I'm getting a little weirded out at this point, thinking something's wrong and then boom, it hits me. I try a different number. I call my job, back in the city. You guessed it, a robot telling me to fuck off 'cause the number just ain't in service. I call number after number, nothing. I start to think my phone is broken, so I call 911...that shits supposed to work from any phone, service or not...same...fucking...message. As if that wasn't freaky enough, doc, the second I hit the 'end call' button, the radio cuts out. Almost right away it comes back on, and you know what the song was? It was nothing. There was no song, on this channel that was apparently twenty-four seven, all 90s, no commercial gem. No, I heard the fuckin' robot voice, and she was just saying random ass numbers." He said, starting to get a flustered look on his face. "A numbers station?" I asked, enthralled with his tale. As far-fetched as it was, I could tell that he wholeheartedly believed every word was true. "No! Not really!" Jack said abruptly, as he stood from his chair and began to pace around the room. "1...2...1...2...that's it. That's all the robot bitch would say, over and over, 1...2...1...2. Bizarre, right? I...I thought maybe binary, but no, there was no break in the pattern. Not a single double of either digit, just 1...2 repeat." I raised my brows and allowed my eyes to track the man, who was increasingly lost in his thoughts. He continued. "Changing the station didn't help, and the power off button worked as well as the volume, as in they didn't. Useless. Every dial was useless. It was driving me crazy, doc...I knew I had to pull over, I was getting light-headed, and then I saw it. The only building around. I was so relieved to see other cars in the parking lot. Just a few but goddamn it was a good sight to see." He said and chuckled nervously, shaking his head in disbelief. "If only I'd known, right? So I park and get out of my ride, and do one of those fast walks up to the building. This place was like a truck stop mixed with a convenience store, you know the kind. The type a family would stop at on their way to a vacation to get their kids snacks and drinks, yeah. So I think, 'why not grab me a snack and drink'. I was already starting to shake that paranoia and was calling myself silly, pushing the unexplainable from my mind as I opened the glass door. That little jingle bell attached to it startled me, but in a good way. It was the first non-robotic sound I'd heard in a while. Inside, it looked normal, like you'd expect. Rows of candies and chips, florescent lights shining onto white floor tiles, and most importantly there were other people. I was never happier to hear a fuckin' baby cry, man." Jack said, flopping back into his chair and lighting another smoke. I remember now, recalling everything with the recorders aide, the way Jack's face sank. There was silence, and I take the moment to top off my scotch. I know what's coming, and the warmth the alcohol fills my body with is competing with the chill in my bones. "Jack...?" My past self urged. "Yeah. Yeah, right, this is where everything got fucked." He said softly, almost as if asking permission. I nodded, and he proceeded to take the reigns, determined to tell his tale. "When me and Dani were kids, and I'm talking little, like I was maybe eight or nine, and she was probably six... there was an accident. See, you know how when you're little you're carefree and don't think about consequences or shit? So there we were playing outside right, and we come across a knife. Like a kitchen knife. We both knew we weren't supposed to mess with shit like that, especially rusty shit that looked like it had been dropped years ago by like a family moving or something. Anyway, we thought we were badasses. Long story short, I got stabbed in the belly. It was an accident, like I said we were kids. It was pretty bad though, had to get stitches, a tetanus shot, and Dani got a good hard talking to. It left this gnarly scar. It's important, so remember it, yeah? "Anyway, back to the convenience store. I'm noticing more people, let's see, we got crying baby and mamma, overweight trucker, bald dude in a suit, a really cute lady, and a few others. Oh yeah! The tired looking guy manning the cash register, which doubled as one of those bubblegum stands with stacks and stacks of cigarettes behind him. "Things are looking normal, right, and I'm starting to forget about the weird shit in the car. I'm sure I just had some weird cell service and the radio was just glitchy. So I grab a bottle of pop from the back cooler and grab a bag of sunflower seeds, yeah...head to the checkout. "Dude gives me a 'hey, anything else for you?' right, and I say 'yeah lemme get a pack of smokes' and point behind him. He turns around grabs the pack and goes to hand it to me, but freezes just as he starts to extend his arm. From his mouth comes a deep but light 'Wuhhhhhhh' sound." Jack imitated the sound and produced an eerie, unsettling noise that was like a low moan. "I was about to ask the dude what the fuck was wrong with him, but just as I opened my mouth a loud rip of thunder cracked outside. It sounded deafening, like lightning had struck right next to me. The lights went out and the glass front of the store lit up a brilliant, electric blue. I turned my attention to it, and saw streaks of lightning slashing the sky like some huge electric god was swiping it's claws across the clouds. The blue sky was gone, and in it's place was blackness. "I turned back to the guy behind the counter. He wasn't doing that sound anymore thank fuck, but he was still frozen in place, pack of cigarettes in his outstretched hand. I reached out for them. I don't know why I did it, but at the time I wasn't thinking clearly I guess. Anyway, I did, and as soon as my fingers touched the box of cigs...its like...like my perspective shifted or something. My vision kinda adjusted, and I could see that he was...he was a standee. A cardboard cutout. My fingers sat on the flat, glossy surface and I felt the urge, the need to press. So I did, and the flat standee with the image of the cashier on it, it fell backwards, softly dropping into the floor. "I freaked. I gasped, unable to catch my breath. I stumbled backward into what had been a display of snacks, but now was just a rectangular protrusion sticking up from the floor with the images of snacks painted on. I bolted over to the glass window as another impossibly loud crack of thunder clapped in the sky above. Rain was beating the windows, blurring the world outside, but what I could make out was just as insane as what was happening inside. "All of the cars aside from mine were gone, and my blue sedan sat on the edge of what looked like a cliff. I scanned with my eyes squinting, and saw that it was as if the ground had been ripped from the earth. Beyond the jagged, torn earth was blackness. Nothingness. At that point I was sure that a gigantic hand had reached down from somewhere beyond the cosmos and grabbed the convenience store and dragged it into space. "I began to scream, turning to see that all of the other patrons were static, as flat as the cashier had been. More standees, right, and I saw that everything in the store was a farce. The rows of snacks, all fake. The displays, fake. Fuck, doc, even the big round security mirrors in the upper corners of the aisles looked like circles painted grey, not a hint of reflection to them. "Still screaming I looked for the door. Nowhere. The door was fucking gone. I looked back to my car, and the thing...it was dissolving. Being washed away by the rain. That's when I heard a voice, echoing my own thoughts. 'what the fuck is happening!?' she said. I whipped around and saw a girl sitting on her ass, lit up by the blue glow from the constant streaks of light in the sky, I could see that she was terrified." Jack took a moment to wipe the tears that were falling down his stubbled cheeks, and lit another cigarette before speaking again. "She looked about 19 or 20. I didn't recognize her, but she wasn't cardboard and I considered that a win. I stopped screaming and ran to her, offering her my hand. I was saying 'thank god, thank god' so happy to not be alone, you know. She looked relieved too, through her tears and terror she looked happy to see me, too. She took my hand and I helped her to her feet. As soon as she was standing her eyes widened to the point I expected they'd fall out. 'What in the fuck are those...?' she asked me in a panicky whimper. I turned to see the silhouettes standing motionlessly at the window, back-lit by the blue, contrasting their glowing red eyes. They stood shoulder to shoulder, encircling the building. Silently they stood guard as the storm raged around then. With each flash of lightning I caught a glimpse of their nightmarish, metallic surfaces. Skeletons. They were metal skeletons." Jack halfheartedly chuckled at this, clearly it was forced, judging by the way his eyes continued to pour their tears. "Felt a little like John Conner. Not as brave though, as my instinct was to pull the girl along with me to the back of the store, trying to put as much distance between us and those...fucking things...as I could. They made no attempt to chase though. They just watched as we pressed our backs to the facade that used to be coolers. The girl was breathing hard and fast and suddenly she shrieked out 'look!' pointing a finger to an ugly green door nearby. "We had no other options, so we booked it. We got to the door only to see that it was lacking a knob. So it seemed we were fucked, yeah? Not quite. I unleashed a fury of kicks on the bastard, forcing it open with a spray of splinters. We hurried through into a storeroom, I guess is what it was. It had what looked to me like a mop bucket and spray bottles, but I couldn't be sure since they were extremely crude and appeared to be made of papier mâché . The girl had rushed to the back of the room. 'Look!' she pointed to a ladder that was attached to the back wall. "My eyes followed it up to see a hatch. Roof access! Almost instantly, I heard the glass front of the store shatter, the sound of hurricane like winds began to fill the building. 'Hurry!' she shouted over the gale, waving me up. I did go up. I climbed and climbed. First ten feet, then twenty, then thirty. The hatch only inching closer. I refused to look down. I KNEW that I'd been climbing for way too long, much higher than I knew the trip should have been. The hatch continued to move ever so slowly closer, and I was completely aware that the room was getting smaller as I climbed. The walls closed around me until I was surrounded by a cylinder of concrete, no wider than a manhole cover. I could hear the girl following closely, but no words were exchanged. "Finally, after climbing hundreds of feet into the air, I'd reached the hatch door. I was terrified as I grabbed for the handle. I didn't want to lose my grip and fall into whatever hell was below. I pressed it, and opened it despite the resistance. I was able to climb out of the claustrophobic hole and onto the roof. As soon as I was free, I turned to help girl. You're probably expecting me to say something like 'she wasn't there, right?' Oh no, she was there. A fucking cardboard cutout reaching up for me. As soon as I recognized it, she fell from the ladder and softly descended into an orange glow far below. I stood, feeling the wave of anxiety crushing me, and I watched the hatch slam closed. Before I could react, a brilliant white light from above blinded me. I felt myself fading from existence, my atoms separating. I lost myself. "The next thing I remember is the white light dissipating, and my eyesight coming back, blurry at first, but it focused as my hearing returned. I can't quite explain what I heard. It was organic but mechanical at the same time. Clicks and whirring. I blinked a few times, and blinking felt so weird, like my eyes were different. I flicked them around, and when they landed on the two absurdly tall, scale covered insectoids, I was thrown into a panic attack. I tried to move, to get away...but I found that I couldn't. I was restrained, apparently on my back, my limbs and head tightly fixed to whatever I was laying on. My rattling had drawn the attention of the creatures, who looked at me with bulbous eyes. The clicking and buzzing sounds had been coming from them, and I found that thought especially horrifying. They began frantically pressing buttons on a panel seemingly connected to whatever was holding me in place...some kind of operating table or medical bed I assume. "Then, the strangest thing happened, doc...my head cleared and the buzzes and clicks...I began to comprehend them. I was almost able to understand. I was getting words like 'awake' and 'hurry'. Then, the most intense pain of my life ripped through my brain. I screamed, and was terrified to find that the scream wasn't my own. I heard one of the creatures clearly through the pain, and it said 'put it back in. If it crashes again we'll deal with it at that point' and the other replied 'there may be errors' as it pulled a lever. The instant that happened, I felt the sensation of dissolving again, my molecules separated and rearranged...the intense light filled my vision once more. "Next thing I know, I'm hearing a ringing. My vision unblurred and I saw that the sound was coming from my phone, already in my hand. I look around to find that I was free of any restraints, and back in my apartment here in the city. I answered the phone and Dani's voice filled my head, distant and muffled at first, but rapidly becoming sharp and clear. 'Hey bro, just checking in on you, what have you been up to...?' she asked. 'Dani, Dani, I was on my way there, and something happened!' I shout. 'Whoa calm down, what's going on? Why were you coming here? Is everything okay?' she said. She sounded concerned, but a bit standoffish. "I told her I was coming to the funeral. 'Who died?!' she asked. I was quiet for a moment, remembering what the insect creature had said. 'There could be errors'. I lied and told Dani it was an old friend of mine from school, and that I'd call her about it later. "That's about it doc. That's what I've been dealing with. I don't know what to think. Am I some kind of experiment? Am I a criminal among a race of bug-aliens and this world my prison? Is this whole world, no, universe some kind of simulation just for me? Doc, I don't think I'm human, hell I'm not convinced the human race ever even existed. If I die, is it possible that all of this gets blinked out of existence? Is that possible, doc?!" Jack said through a torrent of tears. "Jack, isn't it much more likely that this was a psychotic break? Tell me, do you have a history of drug abuse?" I ask, but just as I do, a voice from the recorder interrupts. "Doctor, your next appointment is here." Marnie says. "We'll pick this up next week, Jack." My past self says, and I hear myself stand from chair. I wince, dreading the last thing Jack ever said to me. I clearly remember him standing, and raising his shirt, revealing a smooth, thin, but unscarred stomach. "Errors. There may be errors." Followed by the sound of my office door opening and closing. A long moment of silence followed, before I heard myself ask Marnie to please cancel my remaining appointments for the day. The recorder clicks and brings me back to the present. The storm continues outside. I find myself contemplating Jack's story for the millionth time. He never came back for his next appointment. Its entirely possible that he had simply lied about the stab wound, but the look on his face, I don't know. Is there a chance that he really did experience these outlandish things? If so, what does that imply? Maybe that's why I decided to share this with the world tonight. I no longer wish to bear this alone. I think chronicling this, while it's definitely a breach of my confidentiality agreement, is the healthiest thing for me. I wish I could purge his story from my mind, but I can't help but be uncomfortable when it storms.
Power REIT -- Deep dive analysis Power REIT is a real estate trust with investments in solar, rail road, and newly in medical cannabis greenhouses.Thesis:Power REIT (PW) is the best way to invest in the cannabis area without the traditionally binary hit or miss nature of emerging industries.PW is anchored by a portfolio of traditional properties allowing it to more safely and at lower cost invest in cannabis assets.PW earns a return on invested capital (ROIC) in great excess of the cost of capital. Return of 12%-19% in new properties, recently issued bonds at 4.62%.PW is under valued despite a seemingly rich market price because of probable massive increase in revenue, earnings, and funds from operation (FFO).The margin of safety is significant.Significant Assets:6 Controlled Environment Agriculture greenhouse facilities aggregating over 131,00 square feet7 solar farm ground leases totaling 601 acres112 miles of railroad propertyApprox. $10 mil. cashSignificant Liabilities:Approx. $24 mil. Long term debt at interest rates less than or equal to 5%Major debt: $15,500,000 at 4.62% fully amortizing, maturing in 2054Maturities as follows:2021 $635,5022022 $675,3742023 $1,168,2972024 $715,7772025+ $21,208,698Preferred stock: 144,636 shares of 7.75% Cumulative Redeemable Perpetual Preferred Stock, at $25.General info:Power REIT is currently pursuing investment in what they call controlled environment agriculture or CEA, essentially greenhouses. PW seeks out strictly medical cannabis producers who for whatever reason need additional financing, they then purchase the real estate they own and lease it back to them, and at times help with financing of construction. PW is one of the few ways for cannabis producing companies to get any sort of financing as federally it is still illegal and banks are weary. This gives PW lots of negotiating power in deal making, and that is why they can for example, buy and finance a 5.2 acre CEA property in southern Colorado for around $1 Mil. and get a straight lined rent of $192,000 equating to around a 19% FFO yield.These properties and tenants are of greater quality than the typical cannabis operation, remember they require tenants to maintain a medical cannabis producers license in the lease. That is a key for PW, this is not a speculative cannabis play that is dependent on federal legalization, on the contrary, a lease they have in a Maine property includes the clause that states that "After the deferred-rent period, rent is structured to provide a 12.9% return based on the original invested capital amount with annual rent increases of 3% rate per annum. At any time after year six, if cannabis is legalized at the federal level, the rent will be readjusted down to an amount equal to a 9% return on the original invested capital amount and will increase at a 3% rate per annum based on a starting date of the start of year seven." PW is partly a play against the federal legalization.On the topic of debt.A company with a market cap of under $50 mil with about $24 mil in debt might seem a little risky, but here is where the stability from the solar and rail assets comes in. Their existing FFO from those two asset classes is a little over $1 mil while the debt payments with exception of 2023 don't exceed $1 mil for the foreseeable future. So as long as they don't issue new debt in an uncharacteristically bad way PW will have no solvency issues.Management.Management is skill-full. The CEO David Lesser is pretty much for all intents and purposes the whole company, he is the sole full time employee. He is excellent in terms of real estate expertise. It is very clear he knows his stuff. He has a long history in real estate and more specifically in renewable/clean energy real estate. Lesser is also the chairman of the board, and the largest shareholder. He gets paid exclusively in various forms of equity. His interests are aligned with owners interests. Insider ownership is around 30%, very high for a REIT.Lesser is also key on avoiding share dilution as stated, and in practice unlike many REITs. There have been no share dilutions besides management's compensation plan. The major recent financing was the 2019 bond issuance.Relative PricingFor this section I will refer to Innovative Industrial Properties (IIPR) another publicly listed REIT that invests in cannabis assets. IIPR invests in a wider range of assets like retail not just CEA. I am much more suspicious of IIPR's real estate and management. There have been many questions raised about the quality of real estate and solvency of tenants. The CEO seems sleazy and they constantly dilute shareholders. I think PW is superior in terms of intangibles and tangibles. IIPR is PW only publicly traded comparable.IIPR has grown FFO per share 133% for the MRQ YoY. PW has grown FFO per share 107% over the same time. PW only started investing in high return CEA in late 2019, and engage in more conservative financing, so the difference in growth rates is marginal.IIPR is currently being priced at around 19.1 times forward 12 months FFO.PW is priced at only 14 times forward 12 months FFO. (If management's most basic expectations are met)In terms of relative price PW, if it sold at the 19.1 multiple it would be selling for $32.4 which I still think could yield an above market rate of return over time.ValuationI believe PW to be the type of business that the market undervalues because of high uncertainty but low risk. The high uncertainty comes from not knowing how much management will want to grow and raise capital, will management continue to use safe amounts of leverage, will new financing options become available to cannabis companies etc. The low risk comes from the fact that PW has very low risk of going to 0 or even decreasing substantially in share price because of the current safety in investment return and diversification. I'll put a floor as to what I think a low risk price is. Let's say base case scenario over the next year PW invests the existing $10 mil. in cash at a yield of 12.5% (below the usual yield of around 18%), doesn't raise any additional capital, and lease payments are collected and debts paid as scheduled. PW FFO per share would be about $0.45 per quarter. If they trade at an P/FFO multiple of 20 (PW currently trades at 27) that makes the price $36 per share. However, I do think capital will be raised, management has expressed interest in doing so. In that case the strong ROIC and high cash flow would give PW a high ceiling to grow as far as macroeconomic and market conditions allow.CatalystShare price increases when new real estate acquisitions are announced.Eventual dividend. PW currently pays no dividend because the preferred has satisfied the REIT return of capital requirement recently, however with income rising 100%. It is likely a dividend will be coming soon and that will attract more attention.Continued performance and time. Submitted August 11, 2020 at 11:37PM
Stock: Square (SQ) - 48.30$ Direction: Neutral Bullish Price Target:50$ Type: Short Put Fundamental: Nothing in Square’s formula has changed since the start of the Coronavirus outbreak. There is a note that due to the closure of many SMBs, Square’s transaction count will be significantly affected. Square’s price fell from about 85$ to about 49$ in the span of the first Coronavirus slide, bottoming out at 32$, which was quickly brought up to about the 40$ average. Since then, it has grown alongside the rest of the market. Square will face very little growth for the foreseeable future, but can be a great candidate for covered calls. Technical: Priced below 20, 50, 200 day moving average. MACD slight shows bullish convergence. RSI shows around 40, coming up from oversold. Options sentiments are bullish in volume and Bearish open interest. Implied movement is a whopping 12.1% or about 5.85$ Short interest is at 7.83%, with 5.2 days to cover. Support at ~41$, with 52w high being 87.25$. Sentimental: Square is a company that will not die. While the valuation was rich, Square was primely in the growth category, with its consistent revenue and EPS increases. The current coronavirus selloff has affected every stock on the market and Square was no exception. In addition, the recent purchase of Honey, alongside essentially halted SMBs, leaves SQ exposed to large risks. Analyst revisions have been entirely negative, as the outlook looks very grim. Typically in an elevated IV environment, sell-side earnings play becomes less effective. In addition, because of the current volatile macro environment, the binary event’s sway over price points becomes mitigated as well, making earnings movement even less predictable. I believe the bottom line here is if SQ moves against you, it can be beneficial long term to absorb the shares and sell covered calls as a way to generate cash-flow. While this leaves many smaller trades on the sidelines, extraordinary times and risk management dictates safer plays. Sell SQ - 4/03 $40 Puts 4 of 5, Highly risky
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