Business site - Finance, Personal finances & Commerse

ValueActs Ubben disinvesting because of high valuations


´╗┐Jeffrey Ubben, the chief executive officer of activist investor ValueAct Capital, told Reuters on Wednesday that his firm had been taking money out of the capital markets as valuations have become overextended, leaving it with $3 billion in cash. "I really feel that the large-cap activist plays are very treacherous with high PEs (price-to-earnings) and not a lot of growth," Ubben said, speaking at the Reuters "Future of Shareholder Activism" event in New York. Ubben said that he was not focusing on any particular sector but instead looking for bets on idiosyncratic, mid-sized companies such as spin-offs and "weird" corporate structures. ValueAct, based in San Francisco, manages around $16 billion. The fund's largest holding is a $2.4 billion stake in Microsoft Corp, the software company where ValueAct partner Mason Morfit is also a board director.

Ubben also weighed in on the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump, saying "everything about Trump I think is inflationary" while citing policies like a potential border tax. But he added that the looming increase in interest rates were more of a concern as a board member. Ubben said he got "super lucky" with the Trump administration's proposed financial deregulation measures, which caused bank shares - including current ValueAct holding Morgan Stanley - to spike. He said he sold some shares in Morgan Stanley following its price increase. On the coming initial public offering of Snap Inc, Ubben said that he has no problem with shares that do not initially have voting rights as long as they eventually allow for shareholders to have their say.

"I understand it," he said. "If that's what it takes to get growth companies public and let the public participate in high-growth companies." Ubben was a fund manager at Fidelity and a managing partner at private equity firm Blum Capital before founding ValueAct in 2000.

Ubben is a long-time advocate of giving CEO's more stock-based compensation tied to the company's total shareholder return. In an opinion article he published in 2012, he said the TSR model can bring a healthy appetite for risk to boardrooms and encourage growth. ValueAct disclosed earlier this month a 7.1 percent stake in pharmaceutical company Bioverativ Inc. The fund also has a $1 billion-plus stake in media company Twenty-First Century Fox Inc.

Vodafone brings africas m pesa mobile money to europe


´╗┐* Launch targets 7 mln in Romania who mainly use cash* M-Pesa has 16.8 mln active customers in emerging markets* Mobile payments expected to grow rapidly in coming yearsBy Kate HoltonLONDON, March 31 Vodafone brought the mobile money service that has revolutionised banking in Africa to Romania on Monday, offering M-Pesa text-message transactions to millions of customers in its first push into Europe. Vodafone said it had chosen Romania to target the seven million people there who still mainly use cash rather than cards, and others with bank accounts who could still benefit from transferring money by text. Customers can use M-Pesa to pay for goods, pay bills, make deposits and withdraw cash from authorised agents. Users will be able to transfer as little as one new Romanian leu or up to 30,000 lei ($9,200) per day."The majority of people in Romania have at least one mobile device, but more than one third of the population do not have access to conventional banking," said Vodafone's director of mobile money, Michael Josep.

Services such as M-Pesa have helped Vodafone, the world's second largest mobile operator by customer numbers, to support revenues and grow customer loyalty at a time of falling prices for basic telecoms services such as calls. The British group launched M-Pesa in Kenya in 2007 through its Safaricom operations. Since then the service has spread rapidly and in the last 12 months it has rolled the service out to its operations in Egypt, India, Lesotho and Mozambique. About 16.8 million customers were actively using the service by the end of last year, making more than $1.2 billion worth of transactions per month. Vodafone had 8.3 million customers in Romania at the end of last year.

PIECE OF PIE "Vodafone believes that mobile money could reach around 10 percent of service revenues across its emerging markets businesses over time," analysts at Espirito Santo said, of the company's ongoing revenue stream that strips out one-off costs."The move in to Eastern Europe therefore is encouraging, though we do not expect any meaningful contribution from Western Europe at this time."

While slow to take off in all parts of the world, global mobile payments are predicted to grow rapidly over the next few years, with telecoms groups, retailers and banks all trying to secure a piece of the pie. While the focus in emerging markets has been on text-based transactions, the focus in mature markets is on developing contactless payment systems to allow consumers to pay for goods by swiping their phones on a terminal in a store. The use of smartphones has already enabled consumers in mature markets to transfer money and check their balance via banking software on their handsets. In Europe Vodafone is likely to focus its mobile money service on east or central Europe. It also has operations in Hungary and Czech Republic and a presence through partnerships with other operators in Latvia, Poland and Austria. In Romania, Vodafone customers will be able to transfer money via the text messaging technology once they have activated the service at a Vodafone retail store, participating retail outlets or through authorised agents.($1 = 3.2448 Romanian lei);($1 = 0.7271 euros)