Connect with us

Markets

Billionaire Branson Targeted in $5 Million Scam ‘straight Out of Le Carre’

Published

on

Richard Branson
  • Billionaire Branson Targeted in $5 Million Scam ‘straight Out of Le Carre’

Richard Branson, billionaire founder of the Virgin group, has revealed he was targeted by a fraudster posing as Britain’s defense minister who tried to get him to contribute $5 million to a supposed secret ransom payment.

Appealing for information to help identify the conman, Branson said he suspected the same person had later impersonated him to steal $2 million from a friend of his by pretending to raise funds for people affected by Hurricane Irma.

“This story sounds like it has come straight out of a John le Carre book or a James Bond film, but it is sadly all true,” Branson wrote in a blog.

Instantly recognizable with his wavy blond hair and beard, Branson is one of Britain’s best-known businessmen. The Virgin brand is licensed for use by a range of businesses from airlines to train companies to telecoms and gyms.

Branson wrote that six months ago, after an elaborate set-up involving a note on fake government notepaper, he spoke on the phone to someone purporting to be Defence Secretary Michael Fallon.

The man told Branson that a British diplomat had been kidnapped and was being held for ransom by terrorists.

He said that while the government did not pay ransoms, there was a particularly sensitive reason why the diplomat had to be saved, and the government was confidentially asking a syndicate of British business people to step in.

“I was asked to contribute $5 million of the ransom money, which he assured me the British government would find a way of paying back,” Branson wrote.

Feeling suspicious, Branson checked with the government and was told that Fallon had not spoken to him. The matter was reported to the police.

Six months on, Branson learnt that a friend, whom he described as a very successful businessman in the United States, had been called by a conman posing as him.

“When the call happened, the conman did an extremely accurate impression of me and spun a big lie about urgently needing a loan while I was trying to mobilize aid in the BVI (British Virgin Islands),” he wrote.

Branson owns a small island in the BVI archipelago which, as was well publicized, was devastated by Hurricane Irma. The caller took advantage of that context.

“They claimed I couldn’t get hold of my bank in the UK because I didn’t have any communications going to Europe and I’d only just managed to make a satellite call to the businessman in America,” Branson wrote.

“The business person, incredibly graciously, gave $2 million, which promptly disappeared.”

A spokesman for Fallon said he was aware of two attempts, one not involving Branson, to impersonate the minister for illicit gain, and Fallon’s office were assisting the police in their efforts to try to catch those responsible.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

Continue Reading
Comments

Markets

Top Five US Oil and Gas Firms Lost $307bn in Market Value Amid COVID-19 Crisis

Published

on

Crude oil

Market Value of US Five Largest Companies Decline by $307bn in 2020

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, the oil and gas industry was faced with slumping prices. However, with a record collapse in oil demand amid the coronavirus lockdown, the COVID-19 crisis has further shaken the market, causing massive revenue and market cap drops for even the largest oil and gas companies.

According to data presented by StockApps.com, the top five oil and gas companies in the United States lost over $307bn in market capitalization year-over-year, a 45% plunge amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Market Cap Still Below March Levels

Global macroeconomic concerns such as the US-China trade war and the oil overproduction set significant price drops even before the coronavirus outbreak. A standoff between Russia and Saudi Arabia in the first months of 2020 sent prices even lower.

After global oil demand plunged in March, Saudi Arabia proposed a cut in oil production, but Russia refused to cooperate. Saudi Arabia responded by increasing production and cutting prices. Shortly Russia followed by doing the same, causing an over 60% drop in crude oil prices at the beginning of 2020. Although OPEC and Russia agreed to cut oil production levels to stabilize prices a few weeks later, the COVID-19 crisis already hit. Statistics show that oil prices dropped over 40% since the beginning of 2020 and are hovering around $40 a barrel.

Such a sharp fall in oil price triggered a growing wave of oil and gas bankruptcies in the United States and caused a substantial financial hit to the largest gas producers.

In September 2019, the combined market capitalization of the five largest oil and gas producers in the United States amounted to $674.2bn, revealed the Yahoo Finance data. After the Black Monday crash in March, this figure plunged by 45% to $373bn. The following months brought a slight recovery, with the combined market capitalization of the top five US gas producers rising to over $461bn in June.

However, the fourth quarter of the year witnessed a negative trend, with the combined value of their shares falling to $367bn at the beginning of this week, $6.2bn below March levels.

Exon Mobil`s Market Cap Halved in 2020, Almost $155bn Lost YoY

In August, Exxon Mobil Corporation, once the largest publicly traded company globally, was dropped from the Dow Jones industrial average after 92 years. As the largest oil and gas producer in the United States, the company has suffered the most significant market cap drop in 2020.

Statistics indicate the combined value of Exxon Mobil`s shares plunged by 52% year-over-year, falling from almost $300bn in September 2019 to $144bn at the beginning of this week.

Phillips 66, the fourth largest gas producer in the United States by market capitalization, witnessed the second-largest drop in 2020. Statistics show the company`s market cap dipped by 49.6% year-over-year, landing at $22.9bn this week.

The Yahoo Finance data revealed that EOG Resources lost over $21bn in market cap since September 2019, the third-largest drop among the top five US gas producers.

Conoco Phillips witnessed a 42% drop in market capitalization amid the COVID-19 crisis, with the combined value of shares plunging by almost $30bn year-over-year.

Statistics show Chevron witnessed the smallest market cap drop among the top five companies. At the beginning of this week, the combined value of shares of the second-largest US gas producer stood at $141.5bn, a 36.9% plunge year-over-year.

Continue Reading

Markets

Gold Hit 26.8% ROI YTD, the Highest Increase in Value Among Top Assets

Published

on

Gold Bars

Gold Delivers 26.8% Return on Investment Year-t-Date

As the world’s earliest form of currency, gold has long been considered a reliable store of value. Unlike banknotes, stock, or other assets, the precious metal managed to preserve the investors’ wealth throughout the years, especially in times of turmoil in the financial markets.

According to data presented by AksjeBloggen, gold hit a 26.8% YTD return on investment, the highest increase in value among top assets.

Gold Return Rate 8.5% Higher than in 2019

Investors tend to focus on gold in times of market volatility, considering it to be a ‘safe haven’ in crises like the coronavirus. In 2019, the value of gold increased by 18.3%, revealed the Blackrock data. The precious metal continued the impressive performance in 2020 with a 26.8% YTD return, 8.5% more than in 2019.

Statistics show that last year, the S&P 500 index increased in value by 31% but was outperformed by Nasdaq, which grew by 35.2%. The MSCI Europe index rose by 26.1% in 2019. China A-shares followed with a 22.3% ROI.

However, the COVID-19 crisis had a massive impact on popular assets, causing a sharp fall in their values during the first half of 2020. The Blackrock data revealed the Nasdaq YTD return hit 23.9%, 11.3% below the 2019 performance. China A stocks reached 10% ROI YTD, much under the 22.3% return in 2019.

Statistics show the S&P 500 index had an 8.4% value increase in the nine months of 2020, almost four times less than in 2019. MSCI Emerging Market Index reached a 4.9% value increase in the same period, compared to 13% in 2019.

The Blackrock data show that crude oil, FTSE 100, and MSCI Europe index witnessed the most significant drop in the nine months of 2020, with their values falling by 34.6%, 22.4%, and 11.5%, respectively.

Global Demand for Investment Gold Surged by 100% YoY

Although many investors value gold as an important portfolio asset, the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic led to a surge in global demand for the precious metal.

The World Gold Council data showed the global demand for investment gold increased significantly since the beginning of the year.

In the fourth quarter of 2019, it amounted to 279.2 metric tons. By the end of March, this figure jumped by more than 93% to 539.6 metric tons. The increasing trend continued in the second quarter of the year, with global demand for investment gold hitting 582.9 metric tons, an almost 100% jump year-over-year.

Statistics indicate the global demand for gold for investment purposes hit a record-breaking 1,152 metric tons in the first half of 2020, the highest figure so far.

Continue Reading

Markets

Oil Prices News: Oil Gains Following Drops in US Crude Inventories

Published

on

markets energies crude oil

Oil Prices Gain Following Drops in US Crude Inventories and OPEC High Compliance Level

Global oil prices extended their 2 percent gains on Thursday after data showed U.S crude oil inventories declined last week.

The price of Brent crude oil, against which Nigerian oil is measured, gained 0.2 percent or 7 cents to $43.39 a barrel as at 12:10 pm Nigerian time. While the U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude appreciated by 8 cent or 0.2 percent to $41.12 barrels.

Oil prices extended their three days gain after the American Petroleum Institute said the U.S crude inventories declined by 5.4 million barrels in the week ended October 9.

The report released after the market closed on Wednesday revealed that distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, declined by 3.9 million barrels. Those stated drawdowns almost double analysts’ projections for the week.

Much of the fall is due to the effects of Hurricane Delta shuttering U.S. production in the Gulf of Mexico, and as such, will be a transitory effect,” said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst, Asia Pacific at OANDA.

“Therefore, I am not getting too excited that a turn of direction is upon markets, although both contracts are approaching important technical resistance regions.”

Also, the report that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies, referred to as OPEC+ attained 102 percent compliance level with their oil production cuts agreements bolstered global oil outlook. Suggesting that demands for the commodity are likely not growing and could drag down prices in few weeks, especially when one factor in the reopening of Libya’s Sharara oil field, workers returning to operation in Norway and the Gulf of Mexico.

Continue Reading

Trending