Bitcoin Could Churn Out 130 Million Tons Of Carbon, Undermining Climate Action. Here’s One Way To Tackle That emission

The power demands and carbon emissions of bitcoin mining could undermine global efforts to combat climate change if stringent regulations are not placed upon the industry, a Chinese study has found. By 2024, mining of the cryptocurrency in China alone could use as much power as the entire nation of Italy uses in a year, with greenhouse gas emissions equalling those of the Czech Republic.

But rather than recommending increased taxation on bitcoin mining to curb emissions, or simply an outright ban on the practice, the paper, published today in the journal Nature, suggests that miners should be encouraged to shift their operations to regions that provide abundant low-carbon electricity.

The research is significant because China carries out at least 65% of the world’s bitcoin operations. Shouyang Wang, one of the report’s authors and chair professor at the Academy of Mathematics and Systems Science at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, told Forbes.com:

“While everyone has focused on bitcoin’s great profitability, we want people to become more aware of its potential issues and start thinking about these questions: is this industry actually worth the associated environmental impact, and how can we make profitable bitcoin mining operation more sustainable in the future?”

Using simulation-based models, the researchers found that, short of any policy interventions, bitcoin mining in China will peak in 2024 consuming 296.59 terawatt hours of electricity—as much as a medium sized country—and generate 130.50 million metric tons of carbon emissions. The authors further note that this consumption and the resulting emissions could derail China’s efforts to decarbonize its own energy system.

“It is important to note that the adoption of this disruptive and promising technique without [taking into account] environmental concerns may pose a barrier to the worldwide effort on GHG emissions management in the near future,” Wang said, adding that the research team was “surprised by the energy consumption and carbon emission assessment results of bitcoin blockchain operation in China.”

But the solution to the challenge, the authors argue, is “moving away from the current punitive carbon tax policy to a site regulation policy”—in essence, ensuring that mining operations move to areas that guarantee high rates of renewable electricity. Under such a policy, they found, only 20% of bitcoin miners remained in coal-intensive energy regions, resulting in lower carbon emissions per dollar earned, compared to a higher taxation scenario.

Under the site regulation model, the researchers found bitcoin operations generated 100.61 million metric tons at peak, as opposed to 105.19 million tons under an additional taxation scenario. Wang said government regulation of the industry was needed, but that bitcoin miners would likely be amenable to his team’s proposed solution.

“Site regulation should be carried out by the government, placing limitations on bitcoin mining in certain regions that use coal-based heavy energy,” Wang explained. “That being said, we think that there are enough benefits to this policy which will incentivize the miners to move their operation willingly. For example, since energy prices in clean-energy regions of China are lower than that in heavy-energy regions, the miners can effectively lower their individual energy consumption cost, which would increase their profitability.”

That isn’t to say, however, that regulation is the only method by which China should be reducing the emissions impact from bitcoin mining. “The government should also focus on upgrading the power generation facilities in clean-energy regions to ensure a consistent energy generation,” Wang said. “That way, the miners would definitely have more incentives to move voluntarily.”

Crunching The Numbers

Bitcoin operates by using blockchain technology—publicly recorded peer-to-peer transfers on encrypted computer networks—which eliminates the need for centralized authorities or banks. Bitcoin miners use arrays of processors to determine results to algorithmic puzzles that verify transactions that are added to the blockchain, for which they are in turn rewarded in bitcoins.

With the value of a single bitcoin having risen from $1 in April 2011 to around $60,000 in April 2021, and with yesterday’s news that the value of the cryptocurrency market has exceeded $2 trillion for the first time, the financial incentives to mine bitcoin are obvious.

But there is a finite supply of bitcoins: they are limited to 21 million in total. To control the currency’s circulation, the supply of new bitcoins is halved every four years, which also halves the miners’ rewards. This has helped ignite fierce competition, attracting an increasing number of bitcoin miners to get into the race, utilizing ever more powerful processing arrays requiring more electricity.

So, in at least one sense, bitcoin is self-regulating. Or as Wang puts it, “this is the industry’s natural built-in way of phasing itself out.”

Silver Linings?

It has until recently proved difficult to determine the total emissions impact of bitcoin mining. Industry advocates have long claimed that miners tend to rely on low-carbon energy due to its relatively low cost, but those claims have been disputed.

Now, using more advanced modeling techniques, Chinese researchers have been able to more accurately estimate the energy uses of specific industry operations. According to the China Emissions Accounts and Datasets platform (CEAD), for example, bitcoin mining accounts for more than 5.4% of emissions from electricity generation in China.

In response, various policy solutions have been suggested, including heavier taxation of bitcoin mining operations. The new research suggests site regulation could be the preferable option. But did Wang think this could result in too many miners moving into areas with abundant renewables, gobbling up energy supply?

“There would be an influx of bitcoin miners into clean-energy regions,” he said. “However, we don’t think that this increase in bitcoin mining operations would place burdens on the local energy grid. The energy-generation infrastructures in the clean-energy regions of China are still being improved and developed … we think that increases in energy generation capacity would outpace the increase in bitcoin mining operations in these regions, which would reduce the potential burdens.”

Even so, with a forecast of 100 million tons of carbon emissions at the industry’s peak, would it not simply be better, in environmental terms, to ban the practice outright?

“We think that simply banning bitcoin mining altogether is not ideal,” Wang said. “Even if bitcoin mining is completely banned, its increasing profitability would drive miners to continue their activities through other measures, such as stealing electricity. That is why we are suggesting a push for moving the miners to clean renewable energy regions would be more ideal.”

Asked whether future cryptocurrency operations could potentially result in the same or similar energy demands as bitcoin, Wang offered a note of optimism.

“Cryptocurrency communities have become increasingly aware of the carbon emissions generated through mining activities,” he said. “As a result … we think the development of these new consensus algorithms would improve the energy efficiency of cryptocurrency mining activities, which would be beneficial for China’s sustainability efforts.”

 

My key interests are in decarbonization and the development of circular economies.

Source: Bitcoin Could Churn Out 130 Million Tons Of Carbon, Undermining Climate Action. Here’s One Way To Tackle That

.

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Kintsugi Banks $20M To Scale Up Voice Biomarker-Based Mental Health Tech

Kintsugi’s voice biomarker technology works to detect signs of clinical depression and anxiety from short clips of speech in any language. (Muqamba/GettyImages)

Startup Kintsugi is using artificial intelligence to build smarter mental health care by helping clinicians detect depression and anxiety in patients more quickly using just their voices.

The company banked $20 million in series A funding to build out its staff, including its marketing, business and operations teams, according to Grace Chang, founder and CEO of Kintsugi.The funding round was led by New York-based global venture capital and private equity firm Insight Partners. Acrew Capital, Darling Ventures, Citta Capital, Side Door Ventures, Primetime Partners, IT Farm, AngelList Fund and Alpha Edison also participated in the round. The company has raised $28 million since its inception in 2019.

Chang, a technologist, and machine learning scientist Rima Seiilova-Olson founded Kintsugi in 2019. The company uses AI technology to close mental health gaps. The company developed an advanced machine learning tool that can score people for signs of mental health conditions using short clips of their voices while anonymizing identifiable information.

It is already being adopted by healthcare organizations and is on track to be used on millions of patient phone calls by the end of 2022.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of adults with recent symptoms of an anxiety or depressive disorder increased to 41.5% from 36.4% between August 2020 and February 2021.

Mental health conditions are not only on the rise, they are only identified by doctors 47.3% of the time and noted 33.6% of the time, according to a global Lancet study. “That means a good 60% to 70% of people really just fall through the cracks,” Chang said.

RELATED: AI startup Kintsugi secures $8M from investors to build out voice biomarker-based mental health tech

Kintsugi developed KiVA, its voice biomarker API platform for enterprise, as a clinical decision support tool providing practitioners with real-time scoring on patients’ mental health by integrating seamlessly with clinical call centers, telehealth platforms and remote patient monitoring apps. The company says its technology detects voice biomarkers for signs of depression and anxiety based on how patients speak—not natural language processing—to provide machine learning models that are uniquely language-agnostic.

The company aims to work with payers, providers, health systems, pharmaceutical companies and small- and medium-sized enterprises.  “What our technology does is, today, we’re integrated into Fortune 500 companies like through the largest care management call center.

What we do is we help augment general practitioners and nurses to be able to identify signs of clinical depression and anxiety so that we can get patients to the right level of care at the time of need during the pandemic,” Chang said. “We saw an explosion of all different types of mental health solutions from coaching to digital health apps to therapies to different types of treatments.”

RELATED: Behavioral health matchmaker SonderMind hits unicorn status with $150M series C

She continued, “With the particular partners that we’ve been working with, they’re all integrated behavioral health solutions where they have access to all of these different resources, but they have a really hard time at the moment trying to understand who needs what, when. We have a technology that helps give that sort of visibility to a generalist who typically doesn’t pick that up.”

Chang says Kintsugi’s ultimate aim is to develop objective, quantifiable and accurate measurements to raise the parity of mental health to that of physical health. “Our Computational Care thesis looks for special teams with empathy and technical wizardry on use cases that matter. Kintsugi sits squarely at that intersection by helping partners optimize when and how patients receive the right care,” said Scott Barclay, managing director at Insight Partners, in a statement.

Kintsugi also is working with the scientific and healthcare communities to provide high-fidelity mental health population insights from its uniquely large global data set. The company says its data set is 110 times larger than the next largest and can better detect and understand signs of mental health conditions across demographics, geographies, social determinants of health and languages.

RELATED: HealthRhythms lands UCHealth partnership, $11M investment to scale up AI-based mental health app

Current clinical partnerships include physicians from Children’s Hospital Colorado and the Pediatric Institute of Discovery and Innovation at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital. Growth xPartners, based in Japan, has also become a Kintsugi collaboration partner.

Experts agree depression and anxiety have been difficult to track with traditional paper surveys, PHQ-9 and GAD-7, which measure the severity of depression and anxiety through a self-guided questionnaire. “I’m really excited to see if we can change the paradigm of mental health and give it some measurement to treat mental health with the same parity as physical health.

Many of the clinicians that we are now working with, they see that vision that if there is measurement there could be parity,” Chang said. “I think that’s exciting for this field that has been kind of the redheaded stepchild of the industry because there just hasn’t been any way to measure if somebody is improving or not.”

“The pandemic has helped bring to light the need for new tools and methods for identifying mental health concerns,” said Fredric Reyelts, M.D., medical director for innovation at Mercy Health, in a statement.

“Capturing this information only annually comes up far too short in evaluating true ongoing mental wellness. Tools that are fluid and can be utilized in various settings will allow for earlier detection and improved patient care,” Reyelts said.

By Heather Landi

Source: Kintsugi banks $20M to scale up voice biomarker-based mental health tech | Fierce Healthcare

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When and How To Say No To Extra Work

Yann Bastard

With more and more teams being understaffed, chances are you’ve been asked to take on more work. Top performers are a prime target for additional requests. But you need to be careful about what you agree to take on. In this piece, the author outlines when it’s best…

Consider your average work week. What percentage of your daily tasks fit into your job description? If you’re like most high-achievers, chances are that over time you’ve assumed many responsibilities outside your main scope of work. But how much do these new obligations contribute to your professional advancement versus running you ragged?

In the wake of the Great Resignation, quiet quitting, and major layoffs, many professionals are being asked to do more with less. When organizations are understaffed, the workload is typically redistributed to remaining team members. While an increase in scope can temporarily boost individual commitment and performance, in the long-term it can lead to burnout and hurt the organization’s results as a whole.

Top performers are a prime target for additional requests. Not only do they enjoy a challenge and the opportunity for growth, but in my experience as an executive coach, I’ve found many high-achievers are motivated by a need to please and to earn the proverbial gold-star for going above and beyond.

Take Irene, a project manager whose team headcount was recently reduced by 15%. Kind, generous, and loyal (sometimes to a fault), Irene wanted to look like a team player and to ease her boss’s stress at this moment of crisis. She volunteered to assume three major initiatives within 48 hours of her colleagues’ departure, rendering her over capacity. Irene soon found herself living at work, moving through each day with a cloud of dread hovering over her head, unable to find time for herself, family, or friends.

While there’s typically nothing wrong with pitching in to help when the organization or your team is short-staffed, you need to make sure you’re saying yes for the right reasons. If you’re someone who, like Irene, tends to agree to every additional request that comes your way, here’s how to gauge when it’s appropriate to push back and how to do so with grace and professionalism.

Say no when … your primary job responsibilities will suffer. 

Let’s say you work on the product team, but you’ve been asked to help with marketing. You may soon find yourself spending so much time reviewing promotional material that your primary job responsibilities — things like user research or strategy — suffer.

If an assignment would detract from your core responsibilities or would compromise your ability to consistently deliver high- quality work without any significant upside in terms of learning or skills acquisition, it’s best to decline and focus on what’s already on your plate.

Avoid saying, “Sorry, this isn’t in my job description.” A better approach is to use a strategy known as the relational account, or explaining why your refusal is in the best interest of everyone involved. Put simply, this means you say “If I helped you, I’d be letting others down.” Or more specifically “I would be unable to do a good job on your project, and my other work would suffer.”

Research shows that this strategy can help you be viewed as caring and conscientious. For example, you might share, “I have to say no, because if I devoted time to marketing activities, then we’d miss several key product launch dates and our revenue goals would suffer.”

Say no when … it’s someone else’s work.

In an age with matrixed teams and highly collaborative workflows, it’s easy to get sucked into doing work that isn’t your job, like the sales rep who finds themselves fielding customer service calls. Irene, the project manager whose story I shared earlier, found herself being dragged into solving issues their director of operations should have been overseeing.

She approached her boss to find a workable compromise and explained: “It’s not possible for me to continue executing these operational duties, nor is it within my purview. Continuing to do so only creates confusion. I’m happy to put together detailed documentation so that the operations team can take over.”

If you don’t mind doing the additional work or feel it contributes to your growth in a meaningful way, clearly outline what you expect the new responsibility will result in, such as better assignments in the future, a move toward a promotion, or a mention at the board meeting. Consider a compensation adjustment to reflect your added value. You could say, “For the last six months, I’ve assumed responsibilities A, B, and C. What’s the best way to ensure my compensation is commensurate with my increased scope?”

Say no when … there’s no clear exit strategy.

Only take on additional responsibilities when you understand the full scope of what’s involved. You want to avoid miscommunication down the road and you don’t want it to be an open-ended arrangement. Perhaps your boss asks you to participate in a new initiative. Get specifics. How long will you be needed on the project? What meetings will you be expected to attend?

If after receiving clarity, you determine it’s not a fit because the opportunity of saying yes is too great, you can lead with gratitude and say, “Thank you for the opportunity. It sounds like an interesting project, but it would be out of integrity for me to commit to it knowing I wouldn’t have the bandwidth or resources available to achieve the goal.”

You might also offer to help in some smaller way. Could you attend brainstorming meetings or agree to consult on drafts of the business plan? Pitching in where and how you can proves you’re a do-er and shows you’re a team player.

Say no when … the ask is unreasonable.

Maybe senior leadership has requested a business plan from scratch within two business days. You know that’s not possible, but what do you do? Try a positive no, which allows you to protect your time while still furthering the relationship. In response to senior leadership’s request, you could explain what you can get done in the time allotted. For instance: “It’s not possible to deliver the entire report by Friday afternoon.

What I could do is have a first draft of section one. How does that sound?” Or, you might offer to adjust the timeline, saying something like, “I hear this is important. Friday isn’t possible, but I can have everything for you by Monday afternoon.”

Perhaps you offer to introduce the person to a coworker who can help or a contractor they could hire. This may sound like, “This isn’t my zone of expertise, but I’ll email you the name of a colleague who I would suggest working with.”

You can’t say no to everything, but saying no for the right reasons can help you feel more confident and empowered.

By: Melody Wilding

Source: When — and How — to Say No to Extra Work

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Twitter Stock: Elon Musk Could Be The Saviour It Needs Right Now

The billionaire investor and CEO of Tesla announced an offer of $54.20 for Twitter stock, which he later called his “best and final” bid for the company.

Musk wants to buy Twitter personally. Tesla is not involved in the deal, although there has been speculation that he will merge the two operations with his other businesses, including SpaceX, into one single holding company, after registering a company called X Holdings.

Musk’s offer for Twitter stock looks like a done deal

As the richest person in the world, Musk shouldn’t have any trouble raising funding for the deal. According to a regulatory filing, he has already lined up $25.5bn in debt financing from key banking partners and is looking to provide $21bn of equity for the deal himself. These funds may come from Tesla’s controversial 2018 bonus scheme.

I say he shouldn’t have any trouble raising the funds as there’s no guarantee Musk’s banking partners will stump up the cash. Part of the debt financing is a margin loan of $12.5bn secured against his stake in Tesla. Equity market volatility could send bankers running if Tesla shares suddenly plunge in value.

There are plenty of other hurdles the deal will have to overcome before the finish line, but where there’s a will there’s a way. While the current market price of Twitter stock is below the offer price of $54.20 (suggesting investors are sceptical), Musk has the resources to push through any deal.

Most importantly it seems as if he has won over the support of Twitter’s management, which only last week tried to block any potential deal by putting in place a so-called poison pill. This would have diluted the billionaire’s stake if he’d bought more than 15% of the business without their approval.

Investors should take the money and run

With tech stocks across the market facing heavy selling pressure, Musk has emerged as a white knight for Twitter’s investors. His interest in the business has shielded its shareholders from the wider market sell-off. As the tech-heavy Nasdaq index has plunged 20% this year, Twitter stock has jumped 20%.

Still, there are many reasons why the deal could fall apart, and considering the current market conditions, there is no telling where Twitter could end up if it does.

As uncertainty prevails, the best option for shareholders may be to take the money and run.

Source: Twitter stock: Elon Musk could be the saviour it needs right now | MoneyWeek

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Critics:

As of now, Twitter is still a publicly-traded company on the New York Stock Exchange. This means that for roughly ~$50 (approx. stock price), you can own a small slice of the social media giant.

However, once Musk follows through on his promise to take the company private, the ability to buy more shares will be over. But even though the deal was struck today, you’ll still be able to buy or sell Twitter stock until the deal is closed.

Dan Raju, CEO of Tradier, tells Select what Twitter shareholders should keep in mind:

  • If the deal is done today, it doesn’t mean you can’t continue to buy and sell the stock. However, he strongly believes the share price will likely become “volatile” between the time of announcing the deal to officially delisting the stock.
  • Raju said it would be “weeks rather than days” before it’s delisted on the NYSE, and it’s “hard to guess” how long the regulatory process will take.
  • His analysis says the acquisition is “good for the stock” and traders could look into call options as a way to bet on the positive reaction if the deal is struck.

So if you desire to have an ownership stake in the future of Twitter before it’s taken private, you’ll need to open a brokerage account where you can buy and hold your stocks. It’s free to open an account with brokerages like Fidelity, Robinhood or Vanguard, which let you buy and sell stock for free.

From there, simply connect a checking account to fund the purchase. Lastly, search the ticker symbol for Twitter, which is “TWTR”, and click the buy button. You can also indirectly own shares of Twitter through ETFs and index funds, which are portfolios of companies compressed into easy-to-buy shares. For example, the widely-known S&P 500 index is made up of just over 500 companies, and Twitter is one of them.

However, be aware that purchasing individual stocks, including Twitter, can be risky — buying Twitter stock above $54.20 could result in a loss.

More contents:

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The Dow Is Dropping, Microsoft Earnings Are Coming—and What Else Is Happening in the Stock Market Today 

Why Twitter’s Sale to Musk Was the ‘Least Risky Choice’

Jeff Bezos Weighs in on Elon Musk’s Twitter Takeover: ‘Did the Chinese Government Just Gain a Bit of Leverage?’

Elon Musk’s Twitter Buy Has at Least One Fan—Founder Jack Dorsey 

A Big Tech encore and Twitter showdown will shape biggest week of earnings season   

Elon Musk Will Make an Indelible Mark on Twitter, Experts Say 

Twitter agrees to be bought by Elon Musk for $44 billion

Reaction to Twitter and Musk split along party lines —‘An encouraging day for free speech’ or ‘a platform where only the loudest can be heard’?

It looks like nothing will stop Elon Musk from owning Twitter

Elon is the singular solution I trust,’ says Jack Dorsey of Twitter takeover plan

Twitter’s Embrace of Elon Musk’s Bid Suggests a First-Quarter Disappointment

How Elon Musk’s Twitter Offer Went From No Go to Reality

Tesla Stock Dropped After Elon Musk’s Deal for Twitter. Blame Margin Borrowing

Twitter Inc. stock outperforms market on strong trading day

Even if Musk would let Trump back on Twitter, the former president and Truth Social’s Devin Nunes say he’s not interested

Dow stages biggest intraday turnaround since February as investors brush off concerns about China’s COVID-19 lockdowns  

The Dow Rebounded, Twitter Jumped—and What Else Happened in the Stock Market Today

Twitter’s board accepts Elon Musk’s offer — and users are either celebrating ‘free speech’ or saying ‘RIP Twitter’

Twitter’s Capitulation to Musk Is Just Another Sign the Stock Market Is in Trouble

These numbers show the company has plenty of life

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As Internet Frenzy Drives Its Stock Price, AMC Warns Investors About The Dangers of Buying In

After tumbling more than 25 percent from its morning opening price and facing a brief suspension in trading, shares of AMC Entertainment recovered some of their losses Thursday in the latest phase of the meme stock frenzy.

The stock closed at $51.34, down about 12 percent from its morning opening price of $58.02, but still nearly double its closing price of a week ago.

AMC’s whipsaw is being propelled by retail investors — many active on Reddit’s WallStreetBets forum — mirroring the trading mania that swept through markets earlier this year alongside GameStop and other companies that institutional investors had bet against. And its rise is just as untethered from financial performance.

Short-sellers have increased their bets against AMC in the past month. On Wednesday, it surged 95 percent to a record $62.55. The same day, company executives unveiled a new portal to connect with individual investors, complete with offers of free popcorn, exclusive screenings and other perks.

Thursday’s swings came after the company announced plans to offer 11.5 million shares and cautioned investors that the market does not reflect the fundamentals of its movie theater business.

But thrill-chasing investors have been rewarded with a staggering run-up. AMC shares began the year at just over $2, exploding nearly 3,000 percent by the closing bell on Wednesday. Since the beginning of May, shares have climbed more than 500 percent and have more than doubled over the past several days.

In a filing Thursday with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company highlighted the extreme price fluctuations of its stock and the stark disconnect between the passions of retail investors and its actual operations.

“We believe that the recent volatility and our current market prices reflect market and trading dynamics unrelated to our underlying business, or macro or industry fundamentals, and we do not know how long these dynamics will last,” AMC said in the filing. “Under the circumstances, we caution you against investing in our class A common stock, unless you are prepared to incur the risk of losing all or a substantial portion of your investment.”

The company went on to list several risks to investors, including rapid and substantial price spikes and falls; the fickle sentiment of online trading communities; share prices that diverge from the company’s financial performance; and the market dynamics of a “short squeeze.”

As with GameStop’s previous flash mob ascent, AMC’s wild ride is tied to pessimistic traders who believe that its shares will fall back down to Earth. AMC, given its weak earnings and high debt load, has drawn the attention of short sellers — investors who bet against a company and who stand to make money when a stock price falls.

But in cases where the bearish bet fails to pan out, and the stock price rises, short sellers still have to cover their borrowed shares and are forced to buy the stock back at the higher price. This is known as a “short squeeze,” which can fuel a cycle of even higher prices, as short sellers buy more shares to mitigate their losses and drive prices up.

“Folks, this is a great time to double down into AMC,” wrote one Reddit user, expressing a shared sentiment of trying to weather the harsh downturn. “The squeeze hasn’t even happened yet. Remember GME?”

But the high-stakes fantasies of crushing short sellers while increasing gains are often met with the harsh turns of the market. Other traders are urging caution, warning against the pull of FOMO, or the fear of missing out, and getting caught in the hype of massive winnings.

“For you noobs,” wrote another Reddit user, referring to newcomers, “Don’t FOMO, 99% of you won’t become life changing rich. The people posting $200k gain porn are the same ones with $80k to YOLO into memes. Don’t yolo your rent money, or life savings, or any money you can’t afford to lose.”

The swings for AMC are particular to that company and not to theater chains as a whole. The stock prices and underlying business of rival outfits are far more stable than AMC; as the pandemic fades they have shown sturdier financials and a more orderly stock rise with traditional investors. The share price of Cinemark, the country’s third largest theater chain, has risen 44 percent since the start of the year while London’s Cineworld, which owns AMC runner-up Regal, has seen its stock price climb 52 percent.

David Trainer, chief executive of New Constructs, an investment research firm, said AMC’s surge is yet another sign of the reckless meme stock investing landscape. “AMC Entertainment’s business was trending in the wrong direction even before the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.

Even before the pandemic, AMC was struggling to break even as it faced a heavy debt load thanks to years of expansion. The company took in $5.5 billion in revenue in fiscal 2019, a number consistent with 2018, but lost a small amount, $150 million. The lockdowns and film-release postponements of the pandemic hurt it further. AMC lost more than $500 million during the first three months of the year and registered a loss of $4.6 billion in 2020, according to SEC filings.

Box office receipts have recently shown promising signs, however. Despite the rise of streaming during the pandemic, “A Quiet Place Part II,” the first major theater-exclusive studio release in eight months, has grossed $61 million in its first six days of release, a number just shy of the $63 million of the pre-pandemic original film in 2018. Theaters hope that momentum can be maintained with future releases, such as this month’s “F9,” and is not simply a function of post-lockdown novelty.

AMC is also using the issuance of the 11.5 million shares to raise money and pay down its debt. That — along with the sale of 8.5 million shares to Mudrick Capital earlier this week and the conversion of a $600 million debt note by investor Silver Lake Partners into stock this winter — has raised nearly $2 billion for the chain.

AMC chief executive Adam Aron had said the sum could allow AMC to execute on “highly attractive theatre acquisition opportunities.”

Many analysts, however, believe that major expansion is a question mark given AMC’s large debt load. Even with the fresh $2 billion, the company is still believed to owe between $4 billion and $5 billion to lenders, including interest. It has closed some 60 theaters since the start of the pandemic, about 10 percent of its overall locations, and few of them are expected to reopen.

Some observers hold out hope the company could take over locations from Pacific Theatres/Arclight Cinemas, a 300-theater Southern California chain that had been forced to close this spring; such a move would require only the assumption of leases and rebranding, not a full-scale infrastructure investment. Aron stoked the possibility by saying this week AMC is “in discussions, for example, with multiple landlords of superb theatres formerly operated by Arclight Cinemas and Pacific Theatres.”

But the company would have fierce competition to take over some of those locations, particularly some desirable Arclight outlets, and would also be competing with some of its own theaters, if it were successful.

AMC could look to further reduce its debt by selling some of its European locations. AMC has about 3,000 screens in Europe, a little less than 30 percent of its overall total.

With the meme stock frenzy continuing, analysts said, AMC’s stock swings were understandable and might not stop any time soon.

“The company’s announcement of a raise has clearly sent the stock into yet another whirlwind of volatility and it is no surprise that it was followed by myriad disclosures from the company urging investors to exercise caution,” said Nicole Tanenbaum of Chequers Financial Management.

Given AMC’s heavy indebtedness, it makes sense for the company to fortify its balance sheet by paying down some of its debt by issuing new shares, she said. And as it offers loyalty perks to shareholders, “the company is clearly leaning into the mania,” she added, “as AMC appears to be looking to ride this wave as far as it can take it.”

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Hamza Shaban is a business reporter covering national and breaking news. He joined The Washington Post in 2017 as a technology reporter. Previously, he covered tech policy for BuzzFeed News.

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Steven Zeitchik covers the business of entertainment for The Washington Post, examining the industry’s trends, challenges, issues and ideas. Before joining The Post, he covered entertainment for the Los Angeles Times for eight years. He also did reporting tours for The Times in places including Ukraine, Egypt, Germany and the Bill Cosby trial.

Source: As Internet frenzy drives its stock price, AMC warns investors about the dangers of buying in – The Washington Post

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