Tag Archives: Should

New Research Proves That You Should Really Only Focus on Your Own Work (and Not What Others Are Doing)
November 28, 2018 12:00 pm|Comments (0)

And the advice rings true. When we focus too much on others, we can lose sight of ourselves and our own progress. Now researchers are figuring out why.

A team led by Steven Buzinksi at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has investigated how the judgments and decisions of students can be guided by their perceptions of how others like them behave. This idea was explored previously — another study, concerned with how students overestimate how much their peers drink alcohol, found that this “widespread overestimation” actually influences students to drink more themselves.

However, this Chapel Hill team wanted to see if study habits and behaviors were affected in similar ways by inaccurate perceptions.

In studying hundreds of social psychology undergraduates, researchers found that exam scores could actually take a hit when students miscalculated how much their peers studied.

Overall, students had a tendency to underestimate how much time peers spent studying for upcoming exams. Even further, how much a student studied correlated with what they perceived was a normal amount of time to study, according to what they perceived about everyone else.

However, Buzinski and his team found that students’ misconceptions about the study time of their peers were not always positive influences for actual exam performance. One would normally assume that underestimating typical study time would lead to choosing to study less, and receiving poor test grades.

But, in fact, researchers surprisingly found that those students who overestimated, not underestimated, their peers’ study time actually performed worse in the subsequent test.

The reason? Buzinski’s team speculate that anxiety and self-doubt arrived when a student felt as if his or her peers were hitting the books too hard (even though it is likely that this perception was inaccurate).

Future research will be needed “to confirm the robustness of these findings,” and it may be necessary to “directly observe how correcting misconceptions affects students’ study behavior and their confidence.”

Ultimately, it may benefit you to apply these findings to your own working life — to think about how hard others may be working may actually cause you stress and anxiety, damaging your performance. Plus, you may be wrong about how hard your peers are working — so yes, make sure to focus on you.

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Who Should Sit on Facebook’s Supreme Court? Here Are 5 Top Candidates
November 19, 2018 12:00 am|Comments (0)

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said this week the company will create an oversight board to help with content moderation. The move is a belated acknowledgement Zuckerberg is out of its depth when it comes to ethics and policy, and comes six months after he first floated the idea of “a Supreme Court … made up of independent folks who don’t work for Facebook.”

The idea is a good one. If carried out properly, a “Supreme Court” could help Facebook begin fixing the toxic stew of propaganda, racism, and hate that is poisoning so much of our political and cultural discourse.

But how would a Facebook Supreme Court actually work? Zuckerberg has offered few details beyond saying it will function something like an appeals court, and may publish some of its decisions. Meanwhile, legal scholars in the New York Times have suggested it must be be open, independent and representative of society.

As for who should sit on it, it’s easy to imagine a few essential attributes for the job: The right person should be tech savvy, familiar with law and policy, and sensitive to diversity. Based on those attributes, here are five people that Facebook should select if it is serious about creating an independent Supreme Court.

Zeynep Tufekci

A Turkish sociologist and computer programmer, Tufekci was one of the first to raise the alarm about the moral and political dangers of social media platforms. She is a public intellectual of the internet age, using forums like the New York Times and Harvard’s Berkman Center to denounce Silicon Valley’s failure to be accountable for the discord it’s fostered. Tufecki has also taken aim at Facebook’s repeated use of “the community“—a term that is meaningless to describe 2 billion users—to defend its policies.

Peter Thiel

An iconoclast who has built several public companies, Thiel is also a lawyer who started the venture capital firm Founders Fund. A gay conservative and a supporter of Donald Trump, Thiel is deeply unpopular with Silicon Valley’s liberal elites—which is why his appointment would ensure ideological diversity on Facebook’s Supreme Court. Thiel is an early investor in Facebook and a longtime board member, which gives him a deep knowledge of the company. He would have to give up these positions to preserve the body’s independence.

Judge Lucy Koh

Koh has presided over numerous high-profile technology trials and is highly regarded in Silicon Valley. Her work as a federal judge includes the long-running patent trial between Apple and Samsung, as well as a case involving an antitrust conspiracy between Google, Adobe, and other firms. Her work on the bench and inspiring personal biography made her the subject of a flattering 2015 Bloomberg profile. Koh’s familiarity with the political and legal strategies of tech giants would provide invaluable expertise for Facebook’s Supreme Court (provided federal ethics rules permitted her to do so).

Tim Berners Lee

Sir Berners Lee is a computer science professor at Oxford University and MIT, who is best known as the inventor of the World Wide Web. Highly regarded in tech circles for his humility and vast knowledge, Berners Lee in recent years has become a vocal critic of the advertiser-based business models of the Silicon Valley tech giants. Appointing him to Facebook’s Supreme Court would show the company is serious about fixing its systemic problems with privacy.

Bozoma Saint John

Saint John, who was raised in Ghana, became a familiar name in tech circles when she became Apple’s head of music marketing after the company acquired her former employer Beats. She also worked at Uber before moving to the talent agency Endeavour. Saint John’s outspoken views on Silicon Valley’s white male culture would help inform Facebook’s Supreme Court in tackling hard issues of diversity.

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Germany says EU should revise, delay digital tax plan
November 6, 2018 12:00 pm|Comments (0)

FILE PHOTO: German Finance Minister and vice-chancellor Olaf Scholz attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Berlin, Germany August 1, 2018. REUTERS/Joachim Herrmann//File Photo

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Germany’s Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said on Tuesday the European Commission should revise its plan for a EU-wide tax on large digital companies and stressed the new levy should be applied only if there is no global deal by the summer of 2020.

Speaking to EU finance ministers at a streamed meeting in Brussels, Scholz also said that a revised proposal should reduce the scope of the tax and exclude the sale of data and the internet of things – sectors that if included could result in the taxation of German carmakers.

Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg

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How health care should take advantage of the cloud
August 7, 2018 12:00 pm|Comments (0)

The cloud has come to the health care sector, and it’s having an impact by saving some money. However, that’s not the real value of cloud computing for this sector, a sector that affects us personally at some point in our lives.

Black Book Research found that 93 percent of hospital CIOs are actively acquiring the staff to configure, manage, and support a HIPAA-compliant cloud infrastructure. Also, 91 percent of CIOs in the Black Book survey report that cloud computing provides more agility and better patient care with the proliferation of health care data.

But there is a huge innovation gap when it comes to health care and cloud computing between what’s possible versus what is actually being done. Take patient data, for example. Most health care organizations, providers, and payers don’t make many moves toward better and more proactive management of patient data unless regulations move them along.

This isn’t about operational and billing data, or electronic health records (EHRs). If health care systems abstracted information in certain ways, both the doctor and patient would have better insights into the patients’ health, preventive care, and treatment.

The cloud services that support these innovative functions are now dirt-cheap. As hospitals become cloud-enabled, it’s time to start moving faster toward the complete automation of care, treatments, and analyses of patient health. Let’s move from a system that’s largely reactive to a system that’s completely proactive.

Of course, there are islands of innovation in the health care sector. But it’s still mostly on the R&D side of things and has yet to trickle down to direct patient care. The potential here is greater than in any other sector I’ve seen. Just consider the telemetry information gathered from smart watches and cellphones and the ability to funnel all data though deep learning-enabled systems that cost pennies an hour to run on the cloud.

Now that we have the tools, there is little excuse not to innovate beyond what’s been done already. We’re better than this. 

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Should We Be Concerned About The Yield Curve?
July 21, 2018 12:00 pm|Comments (0)

On the latest edition of Market Week in Review, Senior Quantitative Investment Strategy Analyst Kara Ng and Sam Templeton, manager, global communications, discuss why we should pay attention to the US yield curve, President Trump’s tariff talk, and the latest corporate earnings reports.

US yield curve getting close to inverting

The slope of the US yield curve has fallen to just 24 basis points and getting close to inverting. Ng says “we should pay attention because an inverted yield curve is historically one of the best predictors of a downturn.” She notes over the last 5 economic cycles, an initial inversion preceded an economic recession between 9 and 18 months, while equity markets tend to peak about 6 months before a recession. This means there’s a large negative impact in being defensive in your portfolio too late, but also a cost in being defensive too early, and missing out on the late-cycle gains. Ng says savvy and timely investment strategy is everything. And while the slope of the yield isn’t inverted yet, it has uncomfortably flattened. She is currently expecting a recession in late-2019 or 2020, so believes it’s still too early to go completely defensive.

Should the Federal Reserve be more concerned about the yield curve?

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell testified before the Senate Banking Committee in Washington this week and didn’t express a lot of concern about the flattening yield curve. Ng says Powell was upbeat about the economy and affirmed that gradual rate hikes are appropriate; for now it’s the neutral rate he’s more focused on than the shape of the yield curve. The neutral rate isn’t something you can observe, but is the theoretical rate where interest rates neither hurt nor help the economy. Ng is concerned that the Fed hasn’t paid enough attention to the slope of the yield curve historically and has argued “this time is different” too often. She explained it contains lots of information. For example, when the 10-year rate falls lower than the current short-term rate, it may be that the market expects lower short-term rates in the future, possibly because of a future growth slowdown resulting in the Fed cutting rates to stimulate the economy. Meanwhile, she says the shorter end of the curve is heavily influenced by the current Fed policy. If the Fed raises interest rates too far above sustainable fundamentals, then the restrictive monetary policy might start a recession. Ng says not to ignore the yield curve.

Trump threatens more tariffs on China

Ng says a month ago it looked like a US trade war with China was a risk, but not our central scenario. Now, she says the odds of a full-blown trade war are closer to 50/50. Ng says the tariff announcements are probably a “maximum pressure” negotiation strategy, because the US wouldn’t benefit from closed trade. She notes a lot of the tariff goods are intermediate, not final goods. That means that those goods are an input to some final product that could be made in the US. In the short run, US companies would have trouble finding substitutes for those intermediate parts, which would hurt US businesses. Ng says to keep an eye on how consumer and CEO confidence develops given potential disruptions to global supply chains.

Second-quarter earnings

It’s still early days in the reporting season, but so far Ng says the Q2 earnings season is surprisingly strong. Only 17% of US companies have reported so far, so Ng isn’t extrapolating too much from the small sample size, but of those companies, about 95% have beat expectations. She says that’s high, especially since earnings expectations were optimistic to begin with. However, market response has been relatively muted. Ng expects the Q2 earnings season will be strong, but not as strong as the Q1 season. Some of the macro tailwinds that previously helped Q1 earnings are fading – global growth is moderating and the US dollar strengthened, which impacts US multinational companies’ earnings.

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Retirement: Should You Prepare For The Next Downturn Now?
July 7, 2018 6:37 pm|Comments (0)

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The Supreme Court’s Mobile Privacy Stand Should Prompt Further Changes
June 25, 2018 6:17 pm|Comments (0)

This article first appeared in Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily newsletter on the top tech news. To get it delivered daily to your in-box, sign up here.

There was an important, close, widely watched Supreme Court decision last week that could have big implications for parts of the tech industry for decades to come. No, not the 5-4 ruling allowing states to require sales tax collection from e-commerce sites in the South Dakota v. Wayfair case. (Though if that’s your bag, The Economist had a good analysis.)

Instead, it’s the 5-4 decision in Carpenter v. United States that’s also worth examining deeply.

Carpenter in this case is “Little Tim” Carpenter, who was convicted as the alleged organizer of a crime spree where a gang of crooks stole bags of brand new smartphones at gunpoint from more than half a dozen Radio Shack and T-Mobile stores in and around Detroit. In 2011, Carpenter was nabbed, in part, because the police had subpoenaed records from his cellphone provider that included somewhat crude but voluminous realtime location data covering 127 days. And Carpenter was around the robbed stores at the times of the robberies, the records showed.

Typically, the Supreme Court has allowed police to collect almost any kind of information generated by third parties, such as bank records or a list of phone numbers called, with just a subpoena. It’s known as the third party doctrine. You knew the bank or the phone company was collecting that data, so you had no “reasonable expectation” of privacy. Something more like papers you kept in a locked drawer in your desk required a full search warrant, with a showing of probable cause that evidence of a crime might be found.

Maybe you can see where Chief Justice John Roberts took this analysis in Carpenter’s case. The level and amount of detail that companies are collecting about us has exploded. Where once the phone could simply tell the police who you called and for how long, now they have a precise and comprehensive map of everyplace you’ve been, not to mention every web site you visited. “This case is not about ‘using a phone’ or a person’s movement at a particular time,” Roberts wrote. “It is about a detailed chronicle of a person’s physical presence compiled every day, every moment, over several years.”

A bevy of tech companies, ranging from big players like Apple (aapl), Google (googl), and Microsoft (msft), to smaller cloud-related outfits such as Dropbox (dbx), Evernote, and Airbnb, had written a brief for the court arguing that the rules of the third party doctrine “make little sense” when applied to the new kinds of digital online data now being collected. Urging the court to rethink its view of when people have a reasonable expectation of privacy, they noted digital devices and apps unavoidably generate deeply personal data:

Short of forgoing all use of digital technologies, they are unavoidable. And this transmission of data will only grow as digital technologies continue to develop and become more integrated into our lives. Because the data that is transmitted can reveal a wealth of detail about people’s personal lives, however, users of digital technologies reasonably expect to retain significant privacy in that data, notwithstanding that technology companies may use or share the data in various ways to provide and improve their services for their customers.

That made sense to Roberts and a majority of the court. New Justice Neil Gorsuch dissented, but only because he thought the majority should go even further and practically dump the whole third party doctrine. Expect more knotty conflicts over digital data privacy, not just among Supreme Court justices, but with lawmakers, regulators and law enforcers across the country.

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A Discounted Backdoor Into An 18% Yield – Buyout Should Close Very Soon
June 23, 2018 6:13 pm|Comments (0)

Due to a generous 8.7% discount to its post-buyout price/unit, we just increased our holdings of Southcross Energy Partners (SXE), a smaller midstream LP, which is being bought by American Midstream Partners LP (AMID).

The deal is supposed to close by the end of Q2 2018, and it has already been approved by SXE and AMID unitholders, and has received final state approval.

Deal highlights – Among many other positive attributes, AMID’s mgt. sees this deal as being immediately accretive to its Distributable Cash Flow. This makes sense – SXE used to pay $ .40/unit quarterly, but eliminated its payout in February 2016. However, SXE generated $ 25.36M, and AMID generated $ 89.88M in DCF over the past four quarters.

(Source: AMID site)

The new entity will also have a simpler structure, with four segments: Gas G&P, Natgas Transportation, Liquid Pipelines, and Offshore Pipelines, with the offshore segment being its largest, contributing 57% of gross margins:

(Source: AMID site)

AMID Assets

AMID has significant offshore assets in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, an area which is projected to see 32% production growth over the next 3 years. Technological advances should also reduce production costs for Gulf oil.

AMID’s CEO detailed this growth on the Q1 ’18 earnings call:

“In February of this year, the Gulf of Mexico produced 1.7 million barrels per day of crude oil and 2.6 Bcf a day of natural gas. To put this in perspective, the Gulf of Mexico is the second largest crude oil producing base in The United States behind only the Permian Basin. It is producing roughly 30% more oil than either the Bakken or the Eagle Ford basins and 3 times more than the Anadarko basin, home of the SCOOP.”

“In Q1 ’18, AMID’s Okeanos pipeline had volume increases of over 10% vs. Q1 ’17, and were up 6% vs. Q4 ’18, due to additional volumes from dedicated wells tied into the system.”

AMID’s Delta House asset has been under maintenance, which has reduced its output. On the Q1 call, management pointed out that “current production is just under half of pre-maintained levels or about 55,000 to 60,000 barrels a day equivalent. However, by July, we anticipate the crude oil and natural gas volume should increase from current levels by 64% and 155%, respectively”.

In addition, AMID is receiving support from ArcLight Partners’ affiliate, Magnolia Infrastructure Holdings, LLC, “to provide additional capital and corporate overhead support to us during the first three quarters of 2018 in connection with temporary curtailment of production flows at Delta House. Pursuant to the agreement, Magnolia has agreed to provide support to us in an amount to be agreed, up to the difference between the actual cash distribution received by us on account of our interest in Delta House and the quarterly cash distribution expected to be received had the production flows to Delta House not been curtailed. Subsequent to the balance sheet date of March 31, 2018, we have received $ 9.4 million for such support”. (Source: AMID Q1 ’18 10-Q)

(Source: AMID site)

AMID has over 1,565 miles of natural gas and crude oil gathering systems, 8 processing plants with ~325 MMcf/d of capacity, 4 fractionation facilities, a fleet of 75 crude oil transportation trucks and 95 trailers, and ~20 NGL transportation trucks. Its onshore assets are located in some of the most prolific production areas, including the Permian and Eagle Ford basins:

(Source: AMID site)

(Source: AMID site)

AMID’s natural gas transmission segment has significant firm, take or pay contracted volumes in Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, with a balanced customer mix.

Management commented upon the uptick in volume on the Q1 ’18 earnings call:

“AMID’s Southeast Natural Gas Transportation assets performed very well, establishing a new throughput record of over 835 million cubic feet a day. This segment experienced 75% growth in gross margin over 2017, as a result of the acquisition of the Trans-Union pipeline in the fourth quarter of 2017 and strong demand as a result of exceptionally cold weather across the Southeast US.”

A Backdoor Discount

SXE continues to sell at a discount to its post-buyout price, which is equivalent to .16 units per AMID unit. With AMID at $ 10.00 on 6/21/18, SXE should have been trading at $ 1.60, but it closed at $ 1.46.

Distributions

SXE doesn’t currently pay a distribution, but after the buyout, the converted SXE units will receive the same $ .4125 quarterly payout as current AMID unitholders.

At $ 1.46, SXE is trading at a post-buyout equivalent of $ 9.13, which translates into an 18.08% yield. AMID’s next ex-dividend date should be ~8/3/18, with a pay date of ~ 8/14/18:

Deal Terms

“AMID has agreed to acquire equity interests in certain Southcross Holdings’ subsidiaries that directly or indirectly own 100% of the limited liability company interests of the general partner of SXE and approximately 55% of the SXE common units by issuing 3.4 million AMID common units, 4.5 million new Series E convertible preferred units (the ‘Preferred Units’), options to acquire 4.5 million AMID common units (the ‘Options’) and the repayment of $ 139 million of estimated net debt. The Preferred Units will be issued at a price of $ 15.00 per unit and may be paid-in-kind at the AMID common unit distribution rate at AMID’s option for two years. AMID will have the right to convert the Preferred Units to AMID common units if the AMID 20-day volume weighted average price exceeds $ 22.50. The Options are American-style call options with an $ 18.50 strike price that expire in 2022.” (Source: AMID site)

There shouldn’t be any immediate threat of the Series E convertible preferreds converting into more AMID common units since they can’t convert unless AMID’s common price goes higher than $ 22.50, which is over twice its current price level.

Here’s the breakdown of pre- and post-buyout units, which will total ~63.22M after the deal goes through:

We calculated what the post-buyout distribution coverage should look like, using the combined trailing Distributable Cash Flow/Unit of both companies as of 3/31/18 vs. AMID’s current $ 1.65/year payout.

The initial post-deal coverage should work out to about 1.10X, which is what AMID’s press release listed:

“AMID expects the transaction to be single-digit accretive to DCF/unit in 2018 and 2019, approaching double-digit accretion in 2020. AMID expects to maintain a pro forma distribution coverage of 1.1 to 1.3 times”. (Source: AMID site)

Trailing Earnings

Judging by AMID’s and SXE’s trailing figures, this deal should be just what the Dr. ordered – both companies should emerge stronger as one entity.

Due to non-core divestitures, AMID has had declining DCF and distribution coverage, with coverage falling to 1.04X. EBITDA has been down slightly over the past four quarters as of 3/31/18.

SXE’s EBITDA has been just about flat, but its DCF fell -17.82% over the past four quarters.

In addition to its divestitures, AMID’s management has made a series of acquisitions in order to transform the company into a more stable cash flow model. AMID hasn’t gone to the equity markets to fund these acquisitions.

(Source: AMID site)

Valuations

The market has pressured SXE’s price/unit to an extreme point – it’s currently selling for just 15% of Book Value and .11X Price/Sales. SXE’s Price/DCF of just 2.81X is also the lowest valuation we’ve seen in many moons.

Debt

Another part of the rationale for this buyout is for the combined company to emerge with lower debt leverage. Since AMID hasn’t funded its growth via issuing more units, its debt leverage has increased:

“In conjunction with the transaction, AMID will continue executing against its stated capital optimization strategy to deliver a strong pro forma balance sheet with substantial liquidity. AMID is targeting an additional $ 400 to $ 500 million of non-core asset sales primarily related to its terminaling services segment.”

“These proceeds, incremental debt financing and modest equity will allow the combined entity to target closing pro forma trailing debt to EBITDA of near 4.5 times with a 12- to 18-month goal of near 3.5 times and target pro forma liquidity of $ 300 to $ 400 million.” (Source: AMID site)

In February, AMID announced a definitive agreement for the sale of its refined products terminaling business to DKGP Energy Terminals LLC, a joint venture between Delek Logistics Partners LP (DKL) and Green Plains Partners LP (GPP), for approximately $ 138.5 million in cash, subject to working capital adjustments. The transaction is expected to close in the first half of 2018.

AMID’s management just announced on 6/18/18 that it has “entered into a definitive agreement for the sale of its marine products terminaling business to institutional investors advised by J.P. Morgan Asset Management, for approximately $ 210 million in cash, subject to working capital adjustments. The transaction is expected to close in the third quarter of 2018.” (Source: AMID site)

We assembled this table to get an idea of how the proposed debt leverage is working out. As of 3/31/18, AMID had Net Debt/EBITDA leverage of 6.63X, its leverage was 8.03X, and the combined leverage was 7X.

In this table, we used AMID management’s Net Debt/EBITDA targets in tandem with its asset sales to see if the targets are realistic. Management is targeting annual post-deal EBITDA of $ 300M and a 12-month goal of ~4.5X leverage.

With the sale to DKL of $ 138.5M, and the $ 139M paydown of SXE’s debt, the initial Net Debt/EBITDA may be ~5.88X, which is much better than the Q1 ’18 figure of 7X.

Moving forward to Q3 ’18, with the JPMorgan $ 210M sale, the debt could reach $ 1,250.99M, with a Net Debt/EBITDA ratio of 5.04X. This is assuming a devil’s advocate scenario in which trailing EBITDA merely stays flat, at $ 248.52M, which may be too conservative seeing that mgt. is targeting $ 300M annually.

Management addressed post-deal debt and DCF on the Q1 ’18 call, asserting that it should generate $ 300M in EBITDA and hit $ 140M in DCF, which is much higher than the combined $ 115M AMID and SXE generated in the most recent four quarters:

“Following the closing of the Southcross acquisition and combined with a positive impact of recent growth initiatives, we remain on track to generate pro forma annualized EBITDA in excess of $ 300 million and approximately $ 140 million in distributable cash flow.”

It looks like the combined companies could hit that 12-month leverage target of 4.5X if they’re able to increase their EBITDA:

Risks

Debt Leverage: AMID’s 2018 Q1 10-Q states that, as of 3/31/17, its total leverage ratio was 5.23X. However, we came up with a higher figure of 6.6X. One of the distinctions that management makes is not counting non-recourse debt in its presentations – it refers to “compliance leverage”:

(Source: AMID 2018 Q1 10-Q)

Moody’s downgraded AMID on May 4, 2018, but note the reference to the financial support from ArcLight Partners:

“Speculative Grade Liquidity (SGL) Rating to SGL-4 from SGL-3. Other ratings remain on review for downgrade. The downgrade of the liquidity rating to SGL-4 reflects deterioration in liquidity and Moody’s expectation that AMID will have weak liquidity over the next 12 months as the partnership continues to rely heavily on its revolver while executing on aggressive growth strategies and repositioning of its asset base”.

“The SGL-4 liquidity rating reflects Moody’s expectation that AMID will have weak liquidity over the next 12 months. At year-end 2017, the partnership had $ 9 million of cash and only $ 48 million available under its $ 900 million revolver. Financial covenants limit access to less than the full revolver which expires in September 2019. ArcLight intends to support the partnership through April 2019 to comply with its financial covenants, if necessary. Also supporting the partnership’s liquidity is its ability to monetize assets. Moody’s notes that the partnership anticipates it will close on the sale of its refined products terminals during the second quarter of 2018 for $ 138.5 million (subject to working capital adjustments).” (Source: Moody’s)

Deal Execution – There’s always a chance that the buyout won’t go through. However, it has been approved by both boards, by the unitholders of both AMID and SXE, and 4/10/18 they received the final state-level regulatory approval for the merger. On the Q1 ’18 call, management said that “at this time, we expect to close this transaction during the second quarter.”

Summary

We increased our holdings of SXE, based upon the current post-buyout price discount, and the very attractive 18% post-buyout yield. Another plus is that a very supportive, veteran energy investing firm, ArcLight Capital Partners, owns ~27% of AMID’s units.

(Source: AMID site)

All tables furnished by DoubleDividendStocks, unless otherwise noted.

Disclaimer: This article was written for informational purposes only, and is not intended as personal investment advice. Please practice due diligence before investing in any investment vehicle mentioned in this article.

Disclosure: I am/we are long SXE, DKL.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

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Three Important Things Non-Programmers Should Know About Programming
June 12, 2018 6:04 pm|Comments (0)

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What are the three most important things non-programmers should know about programming? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Ken Mazaika, CTO & Co-founder at thefirehoseproject.com, on Quora:

Early in my web development career I realized that there were three things that were critical for every non-programmer to know before interacting with programmers in a professional setting.

My experience building a single feature with a non-technical product manager taught me these lessons almost immediately.

Let me explain…

I was working with Colin, a non-technical product manager who was responsible for driving the direction of the product and working with my team, the development team, to implement features for our product.

As a developer, Colin was great to work with. The feature requests he created were always really well thought out. He always had all the edge cases accounted for and he drew detailed wireframes, diagrams of what the expected behavior of the feature should look like.

But then, all of a sudden, Colin had a feature request for our team that caused a major problem for our entire development team!

Colin gave our team a wireframe diagram of our application that had an additional checkbox that would allow a user to store their credit card information on the platform.

The feature request seemed simple enough, but because of laws and regulations about credit card information (specifically PCI compliance laws), storage of credit card information is something that is highly complex and regulated.

Despite seeming simple, supporting this one feature in our application would require a complete rewrite of our code.

I brought this issue up to Colin and at first he didn’t get it. “All I’m asking for is a simple checkbox, it can’t be that difficult to add”, he said. I explained that adding the checkbox would be super easy, but making the checkbox do what it claimed would be the difficult part.

Colin then did something that proved that he was the type of product manager who got things done.He explained, “Let me explain why I wanted to include the ability to allow a user to save their payment information…” and then Colin explained that after making a certain type of purchase, it was very common for users to make a related purchase shortly after.

Together we realized there was a solution where we could prompt the user to purchase both items at the same time, instead of worrying about storing the payment information. This was a solution that would give Colin everything he wanted and be ten times easier to implement for our team.

Together with Colin, we implemented this solution. This experience taught me that there are only three things that non-programmers need to focus on when working together with other developers.

They’re also easy lessons to learn…

1. Communicate the technical details to developers quickly and efficiently.

There is no more effective way to explain functionality of an application than showing a developer wireframes of proposed changes.

2. Things can appear to be easier to implement than they actually are.

Be open to the idea that things that seem like they should be really easy can be much more difficult to implement in practice.

3. Provide context about why you think things are important.

Explain the why behind the thoughts you have in situations where you’re getting pushback from developers — if you do this you’ll find yourself working together with them to solve problems.

Remember that you are have the same end goal as the developers you’re working with — to provide the best experience possible or the application you’re building.

Follow these steps and the developers you’re working with can focus their energy on being the best developer they can be. And if you’re a developer you can focus on the 29 Behaviors That Will Make You An Unstoppable Programmer.

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The Untold Truth About Referral Hiring and Why You Should Rethink Using It
May 24, 2018 6:01 pm|Comments (0)

I know what you’re thinking. I must be crazy right? What can be wrong with taking advantage of employee connections to find your next hire? After all, studies have found that referral hiring saves money, takes less time, lowers employee turnover rates, and is rising in popularity.

While none of these things are untrue, referral hiring isn’t just this perfect strategy with no strings attached. In fact, a lot can go wrong with using referrals, and it can often lead to terribly regrettable hiring decisions. Here’s how:

1. It encourages laziness.

Referral hiring can potentially make it so easy to hire a candidate that companies become complacent. In other words: too much of a good thing is actually a bad thing.

Part of what makes referral hiring so appealing is that it gives companies the ability to outright skip parts of the recruitment process. Once you get a good number of potential referrals, you simply identify which among them will be your best bets. There’s no longer the need to go through thousands of resumes and job applications to find the perfect candidate. No need to go to job fairs or to advertise on social media. Perhaps you also skip the phone interview stage and jump straight to on-site interviews.

The result? You save time and you save money, just like what studies claim. But as a consequence, your talent pool is significantly smaller and your screening process isn’t as comprehensive as what it should have been.

2. It forces biased decision-making.

Alright, so maybe it doesn’t necessarily force you to be biased about your hiring decisions, but it’s definitely a very real concern and something that’s very difficult to avoid. In fact, companies don’t avoid biased decision-making. They embrace it. This is why referral hiring is so popular to begin with and why referral candidates have their applications placed right on top of the pile. What else would explain why referred candidates are so much more likely to be hired than your average applicant. It’s why business connections are so important in the first place.

Ask yourself this though. Does having a pre-established connection with someone make this someone a better fit for the job? Are they somehow smarter, harder working, more creative, more driven, or more likely to do a better job than the next guy? 

From what I can tell, the answer is “no,” and that’s what makes referral hiring so dangerous. Referred candidates have a way, way higher chance at getting the job, yet when you look at their actual credentials and work experience, they’re often no more qualified than everyone else applying.

3. It doesn’t find you the best talent.

Isn’t the whole point of the hiring process to find top talent? I’m not talking about good talent or good cultural fit. I’m talking about the very best of the best. The elite. The cream of the crop. Now what are the chances this person just so happens to be someone your employees already know? Not very likely from my guess. The point is, finding the best person for the job should be a lot harder than simply going through a list of your employees’ existing connections.

Look. I’m not advocating for you to eradicate referral hiring from your arsenal of hiring strategies. I’d be lying to you if I said I don’t use referral hiring myself. However, it’s important to consider some of the possible ramifications when using it.

While referral hiring does have its merits, it also has its fair share of issues as well. It can shrink your talent pool and cause you to make suboptimal hiring decisions.

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