Coffee maker JDE Peet's shares pop 15% after $17 billion virtual IPO

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Shares in coffee maker JDE Peet’s surged 15% in their stock market debut on Friday as investors jumped on the only big European IPO launched during the coronavirus crisis.

Shares in the world’s No. 2 maker of packaged coffee, whose brands include Douwe Egberts, Peet’s Coffee and Jacobs, were priced at 31.50 euros, valuing the firm at 15.6 billion euros ($17.3 billion). They were trading at 36.36 euros by 1231 GMT.

“We are thrilled to price this offer on Euronext Amsterdam during this extraordinary time,” said CEO Casey Keller, who watched the opening via a remote video link.

JDE Peet’s, which competes against larger rival Nestle and to a lesser extent Starbucks, also owns the Pickwick, Senseo, Tassimo, TiOra and L’OR brands. It had revenue of 6.9 billion euros in 2019, with the bulk of its products sold via supermarkets and to businesses.

It also operates several retail chain stores including well-known U.S. brand Peet’s. Net profit in 2019 was 585 million euros.

The company’s decision to seek a stock market listing despite the coronavirus outbreak was striking, but it has proved a winning bet.

According to Refinitiv data, European listings raised $918 million in the first quarter of 2020, but the pipeline came to a halt in March.

JDE argued in its prospectus, published just two days ago,, that demand for coffee has remained resilient. With 76% of its products sold via supermarkets, it forecast sales growth for the first half of 2019.

A person familiar with the company’s IPO process said company executives and bankers skipped physical meetings and spoke to prospective investors via video Q&A sessions.

High demand — including a cornerstone investment from George Soros’s Quantum Partners — meant that the company saw a chance to finish its floatation ahead of the originally scheduled June 3, and took it.

JDE Peet’s raised 700 million euros through the sale of new shares in the IPO, which it plans to use to pay down debt. Existing shareholders Acorn, controlled by German investor JAB Holding, and Mondelez, sold an additional 1.55 billion euros worth of stock, for a total of 2.25 billion euros. That represents a 16.5% stake in the company.

JAB continues to control JDE Peet’s via Acorn, which will have a 62% stake. Mondelez will hold 23.4%. JPMorgan, BNP Paribas, and Goldman Sachs acted as joint global coordinators on the deal.

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Blackstone's EagleClaw Midstream sues Caprock over troubled deal

(Reuters) – Private-equity backed EagleClaw Midstream is suing the former owners of Caprock Midstream, alleging they failed to disclose tens of millions of dollars of liabilities during acquisition talks.

EagleClaw in 2018 acquired natural gas pipeline operator Caprock Midstream Holdings from Energy Spectrum Capital and Caprock Midstream Management for $950 million. After the deal closed, EagleClaw discovered “numerous issues and claims for liabilities” with the pipeline assets, according to a lawsuit filed in a Texas court in Houston.

The largest amount was a $22 million bill presented after the close by Cimarex Energy Co (XEC.N) from an audit of a gas gathering, water handling and electrical services agreements, the suit claimed. EagleClaw is owned by private equity firms Blackstone Capital Partners and I Squared Capital.

EagleClaw would not have completed the deal without obligating Caprock to defend those claims had it been aware of the audit, according to the lawsuit. Representatives for EagleClaw did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Caprock and Energy Spectrum Capital could not immediately be reached for comment.

Blackstone and I Squared did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

A Cimarex spokesman had no immediate comment.

EagleClaw’s suit seeks undisclosed damages for breach of contract and access to $4.75 million held in an escrow account.

The company said it also expects to incur $4 million in costs to fix “severe corrosion” in a gas pipeline it claimed had defective joints, and $600,000 to repair a natural gas processing plant in Texas that suffered shutdowns.

The case is Eagleclaw Midstream Ventures v Caprock Midstream, Harris County District Court, 2020-31025.

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Nurse struggling with COVID-19 trauma found dead in his car

A nurse on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic was found dead in his car in late April after battling trauma related to his work.

William Coddington, 32, became a nurse in 2018 and began seeing COVID-19 patients showing up in his West Palm Beach, Fla., intensive care unit in March.

As someone recovering from an opioid addiction battle since his early 20s, Coddington found it hard to be separated from his 12-step recovery meetings, his mom told Reuters.

Coddington spoke to his friend Robert Marks on April 24, the night before he died.

“Don’t take unnecessary risks, but hang in there,” Marks texted him, Reuters says.

The next morning, the nurse was found dead in his car in a hotel parking lot after his mom geo-tracked his phone to discover he wasn’t at the West Palm Beach hospital where he worked, the Guardian reports.

“He couldn’t meet with his sponsor,” she told the publication. “His friends … nobody wanted to see him because he worked in a hospital, not even to sit six feet apart.”

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His family suspects he succumbed to a drug overdose, but a spokeswoman for the Broward County medical examiner’s office said the case is still pending.

Various text messages from the weeks leading up to his death show just how much Coddington was struggling to reckon with the reality of the virus.

“We are running out of gowns. We are having people make makeshift face shields that end up snapping,” he wrote in one message.

The late nurse is said to have volunteered for the coronavirus unit because he thought he had a better chance of surviving the virus if he got it, given his young age, Reuters says.

On Wednesday, hundreds of his loved ones attended a virtual funeral.

— With files from Reuters

Are you or someone you know struggling with addiction? Here is a list of resources you can use to get help.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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Nexi and SIA merger talks gain traction ahead of valuation review: sources

LONDON/MILAN (Reuters) – Italian payments firms Nexi (NEXII.MI) and SIA are exchanging confidential information as they explore a possible tie-up to create an Italian powerhouse in the sector, three sources familiar with the matter said.

Discussions may accelerate in June when the companies will review SIA’s valuation ahead of a possible deal, one of the sources said.

“This will be a make or break moment,” the source said, cautioning that establishing a fair value for SIA may prove a key hurdle.

Nexi and SIA declined to comment. Nexi’s boss Paolo Bertoluzzo said on May 12 that discussions with SIA were ongoing.

Nexi is working with Bank of America and Mediobanca on the deal, and SIA with JPMorgan and Rothschild, two of the sources said.

Milan-based SIA provides payment services for the banking sector and counts top bank UniCredit (CRDI.MI) among its clients.

SIA’s relationship with UniCredit is weighing on its valuation, as a key contract between the two can be ended after 2021, the first source said.

UniCredit may turn to alternative providers or renegotiate the contract’s terms, another source said earlier this month.

“There needs to be more clarity on what will happen with UniCredit,” the first source said.

SIA may still pursue a stock market listing if the discussions fall through, two of the sources said.

Shares in Nexi closed up 7.7% after Bloomberg first reported the talks.

Jefferies analysts said a tie-up could generate annual cost synergies of more than 100 million euros ($109.5 million).

SIA is controlled by Italian state lender CDP through investment vehicle FSIA Investimenti, which owns a 57.42% stake.

CDP also owns 25.69% of SIA via its holding company CDP Equity and is expected to be a key shareholder in any combined entity, banking sources said.

Nexi is majority owned by buyout funds Bain Capital, Clessidra and Advent through their Mercury UK vehicle.

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COMMENTARY: As classrooms reopen, British Columbia faces a worrisome return to school

Kids in British Columbia are getting set to head back to school, but only on a voluntary, part-time basis.

In a province that has enjoyed considerable success in driving down the infection rate of COVID-19, you can bet other provinces will be watching closely as B.C. classrooms reopen.

Public schools across Canada remain largely shut due to the coronavirus pandemic, with most provinces cancelling the remainder of the school year.

Ontario was the latest to write off the rest of the public school calendar until at least September.

“I’m just not going to risk it,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said this week.

“It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but it was the right decision.”

In Quebec, elementary schools outside Montreal reopened on May 11, though high schools, junior colleges and universities are closed until September.

Schools in other provinces are pretty much shuttered through the fall.

Now, enter British Columbia with the country’s boldest back-to-school plan to date.

B.C. schools are set to reopen on a voluntary, part-time basis on Monday, June 1. But it will be a first day of school like no other.

School start times and instruction breaks will be staggered throughout the day to encourage physical distancing.

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Pupils in elementary schools will attend half-days, while middle schools and high schools will be limited to 20 per cent in-class instruction, or one day per week per student.

Desks will be spread out to keep students apart. Assemblies, sports, recess and other risky activities like music classes will be cancelled. Kids displaying any symptoms of illness will be asked to stay home.

For parents and students, the return to school is strictly voluntary. Any kids who stay home will have the option to continue online learning.

Teachers will be required to show up for work unless they are displaying even the mildest symptoms of illness. And teachers with underlying health conditions that make them more vulnerable to the virus will be able to work from home.

Hygiene will be paramount, and students will be instructed to wash their hands frequently throughout the day. And school surfaces will be cleaned and sanitized frequently as well.

“We would not open our schools if we did not believe it was safe to do so,” B.C. Premier John Horgan said this week.

“These are challenging times, times filled with anxiety. But we’ve tried to reduce that anxiety as much as possible.”

Sounds like a plan. But there’s still a lot of worry out there.

“I have heard from hundreds of teachers who are worried about returning to school,” Matt Westphal, president of the Surrey Teachers Association, told me.

In the fast-growing suburbs of Vancouver, especially Surrey, teachers are asking many questions about how the back-to-school plan is supposed to work, he said.

For example: who is going to do all that frequent “deep cleaning” of school surfaces when some schools don’t even have a full-time janitor?

“Show me how this is going to be safe,” Westphal said.

“Show me how we’re going to be able to meet these really stringent cleanliness standards, which would be difficult even at the best of times before COVID-19.”

He also worries about teachers with underlying health conditions, like diabetes. Or teachers who have family members with compromised immune systems.

He wonders: is it really worth it for just four weeks of part-time classes?

“Teachers worry about whether they are going to be forced to choose between their livelihood and the safety of themselves or people they love,” he told me.

“They wonder sometimes what the educational value will be compared to all these other concerns.”

Some parents are worried, too. An online petition started to keep B.C. schools closed is gaining steam, even though student attendance at schools will be strictly voluntary.

All of which has many people wondering just how many B.C. kids — and how many teachers — will actually show up for class on June 1.

Mike Smyth is host of ‘The Mike Smyth Show’ on Global News Radio 980 CKNW in Vancouver and a commentator for Global News. You can reach him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @MikeSmythNews​.

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‘Scream’ painting fading due to viewers’ breath, says new study

One of the world’s most famous paintings, Edvard Munch’s The Scream, is becoming discoloured, and conservationists have finally figured out why.

The 1910 masterpiece, currently housed at the Munch Museum in Oslo, seems to have dimmed over the years. A research study led by Italy’s National Research Council found, in a paper published in Science Advances on Friday, that human breath is the culprit.

The low-quality paints Munch used have been subject to deterioration over time thanks to the humidity produced by human breath.

“It turned out that rather than use pure cadmium sulphide as he should have done, apparently he also used a dirty version, a not very clean version that contained chlorides,” Koen Janssens, a professor at the University of Antwerp who worked on the study, told the Guardian.

“I don’t think it was an intentional use, I think he just bought a not very high level of paint. This is 1910 and at that point, the chemical industry producing the chemical pigments is there but it doesn’t mean they have the quality control of today.”

The painting was also further damaged when it was stolen in 2004 and recovered in 2006.

During the research, Janssens says they were able to rule out lighting as a cause for the dimming colours.

“You have to start working with the relative humidity in the museum, or isolate the public from the painting, or painting from the public, let’s say, in a way that the public can appreciate it but they are not breathing on the surface of the painting,” he continued.

“When people breathe they produce moisture and they exude chlorides, so in general with paintings, it is not too good to be close too much to the breath of all the passersby.”

As the museum prepares to move locations this year, researchers are trying to figure out the best way to display the painting to protect it from further damage.

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Parents reunite with son kidnapped 30 years ago, thanks to facial recognition technology

They spent more than three decades searching for their abducted son, and have finally found their happy ending.

As a child, Mao Yin was walking home from school with his father when they stopped to get a drink of water. In the moment his dad, Mao Zhenjing, looked away, Yin was taken, the South China Morning Post says.

According to the BBC, he was sold to a couple who didn’t have kids for the equivalent of $840 today. No information has been released so far about the people who bought him, as the investigation is still ongoing.

After Yin’s abduction, his parents spent their lives searching for him, often appearing on TV talk shows. His mother, Li Jingzhi, distributed more than 100,000 flyers, the BBC says.

She spent those three decades helping 29 families reunite with their missing children, before she was able to live the same miracle.

On Monday, the parents were finally reunited with their now-34-year-old son in an emotional police news conference filmed by Chinese state-broadcaster CCTV and posted on Chinese social media site Weibo.

A report by CCTV says that Yin was raised by his adoptive parents as Gu Ningning. He didn’t know his biological parents had been searching for him.

Police in Xian, the family’s home province, received a tip that a man in Sichuan bought a child in the late-1980s, state news agency Xinhua reported.

Using facial recognition technology, police officials were able to analyze an old photo of Yin as a boy, which created a hypothetical image of him as an adult, CNN reports. After comparing photos to a national database, they were able to track him down.

DNA testing proved that Gu was the same person.

“I can’t believe that after helping 29 missing children find their families, I am able to find my own son,” she told Xinhua.

Yin told the news publication that he’d stay with his biological parents for a few days before returning to his home in Sichuan to “deal with some of his own issues.”

“To be honest,” he said, “I’m not quite sure about the future yet.”

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COMMENTARY: He’s serving 25 years for murder, and he’s become a math whiz behind bars

There are many examples of mathematical breakthroughs achieved in prison. Maybe the most famous is from the French mathematician Andre Weil, who came up with his hugely influential conjectures while in a military prison in Rouen, France. Another mathematical giant, Srinivasan Ramanujan, started off with no formal training in mathematics and produced most of his revolutionary results in complete isolation.

In his autobiography, Weil mentions being able to achieve special clarity while in prison. Is there something special about prison and mathematics?

Christopher Havens’ story certainly agrees with this perspective.

A murder conviction

Havens received a 25-year sentence in Washington in 2011 after being convicted for murder. (He was arrested in 2010 and charged in a drug-related shooting.) Havens found his love and gift for mathematics while in solitary confinement a few months after his incarceration. His journey in mathematics and research led to him publishing a first-author paper in an academic mathematics journal in January 2020.

In January 2013, my partner Matthew Cargo, who was, at the time, the production editor for Mathematical Sciences Publishers, was forwarded this letter in an email from a colleague:

“To whom it may concern,
I’m interested in finding more information on a subscription to Annals of Mathematics for personal use. I’m currently serving 25 years in the Washington Department of Correction and I’ve decided to use this time for self-betterment. I’m studying calculus and number theory, as numbers have become my mission. Can you please send me any information on your mathematical journal? Christopher Havens, #349034

PS. I am self-teaching myself and often get hung on problems for long periods of time. Is there anyone who I could correspond with, provided I send self-addressed stamped envelopes? There are no teachers here who can help me so I often spend hundreds on books that may or may not contain the help I need. Thank you.”

Cargo put Havens in contact with my parents, who are both mathematicians.

Productive time

Initially, my father, Umberto Cerruti, a number theorist who was a professor of mathematics at the University of Torino, Italy, agreed to help Havens simply because we asked him. My father thought that Havens was likely one of the many cranks who fall in love with numbers and come up with a flawed theory. To test him, he gave Havens a problem to solve.

In return, my father received a 120 cm long piece of paper in the mail, and on it was a long and complicated formula. My father entered the formula into his computer and to his surprise, the results were correct!

After this, my father invited Havens to work on a problem involving continued fractions he was working on.

Discovered by Euclid in 300 BC, continued fractions allow expressing all numbers through sequences of integer numbers. For example, pi is the ratio between a circle’s circumference and its diameter: 3.14159…. The sequence of numbers after the initial digit continues forever and is totally chaotic. But written as a continued fraction its expression is simple and beautiful:

Continued fractions are an example of the power of number theory, the field that both Weil and Ramanujan mostly contributed to. Number theory has given us breakthroughs in modern cryptography, nowadays crucial in banking, finance and military communications.

Havens’ findings, published in the journal Research in Number Theory in January 2020, showed for the first time some regularities in the approximation of a vast class of numbers. This result can open new fields of research in number theory. Indeed, finding new ways for writing numbers is one of the most important problems for a number theorist, although the results may not have an immediate application. Just as an example, there are supercomputers fully dedicated to computing trillions of pi digits.

Havens worked on this topic using only pen and paper in his prison cell, exchanging ideas with his co-authors in Italy through hard-copy letters mailed across the ocean.

Prison conditions

So how could this happen? In Havens’ words:

“It was less than a year after I came to prison that my behaviour landed me in ‘the hole’ (solitary confinement). It was in the hole that my life would change because there I figured out that I loved mathematics. I spent somewhere around 10 hours a day studying. … I decided to enter the Intensive Transition Program, ITP. This is a one-year program which helps people get their minds right. It’s designed to effectively aid you into ‘taking your head from your backside.’ This was my schedule. Eat, math, remove my head from my backside, brush, rinse, repeat. It was an important time in my life.”

It was after the ITP that Havens sent his inquiry, and the mentorship with my parents started.

My parents sent him loads of books. However, the prison blocked them all as they did not come from an authorized vendor. Havens worked with the prison staff and started the Prison Mathematics Project, where he would explain mathematics to other inmates. In exchange, they were allowed a library and a room to meet biweekly. It worked — the box of books got admitted to the prison.

I spoke with Havens on the phone in three 20-minute chunks (as much as he’s allowed to talk at a time) to write this piece. Havens used the word education frequently in our conversations:

“Education was a hassle to me. I was a high school dropout — a drug addict, held no jobs, no place long enough to call home. … Education is hard to come by in prison. … So I’m looking for an education outside of prison. I try to build bridges and nurture my relations with others outside. Because this is my education. Every opportunity is a learning experience for me because they are so rare.”

Havens also sees math as a way to “pay his debt to society.”

I definitely have plotted out a long-term life plan to accommodate paying a debt that has no price. I know this path is permanent … and there never is a day that it’s finally paid off. But this longevity in debt is not bad. It’s inspiration. Maybe this will sound stupid, but I serve my time in the company of the soul of my victim. I dedicate a lot of my biggest accomplishments to him.0

Math after prison

Indeed, despite the solid evidence that getting a degree while in prison significantly decreases recidivism, post-secondary opportunities in prison are limited. And with no access to the internet, most long-distance degrees are out of the question for inmates.

Havens is currently pursuing an associate of science degree from Adams State University, which offers it through the mail. But he already knows all the math the university requires. So for now, Havens wishes he could have a math mentor to touch base with on a regular basis.

When Havens gets out, he intends to complete a bachelors and a graduate degree, despite the clear difficulties that can result from a criminal history. He plans to start a career in mathematics, and hopes to transform the Prison Mathematics Project into a non-profit organization for inmates with a gift for mathematics.The Conversation

Marta Cerruti, associate professor, Materials Engineering, McGill University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons licence. Read the original article.

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French serial killer expert admits his career is based on lies — and that he made up his wife

Turns out a famous French serial killer expert has been outed as a serial liar.

Stéphane Bourgoin, 67, has led a prestigious career and was considered one of the most knowledgeable experts on serial crime in France, the Independent says.

The true-crime book author claimed to have interviewed more than 70 killers since the 1970s, and alleged that his wife was raped and murdered by a serial killer in Los Angeles during that time.

His more than 75-book career was so revered that he was even involved in lecturing trainees at the French national judiciary police academy, CNN reports, and often toured the country to give talks on the subject.

In January, however, an anonymous collective called 4e Oeil (4th Eye in English) accused Bourgoin of lying in a number of videos shared to Youtube. According to CNN, the videos were removed but remain live on the group’s website.

Members of the collective told CNN that suspicions mounted when they realized certain dates didn’t match up from one book to another.

“His television interviews convinced us that he was truly making it all up,” they said.

Bourgoin has addressed the claims since he was outed, sharing his regret both on his since-deleted Instagram account and in the press.

“I’m ashamed to have lied, to have hidden things,” he told Le Parisien earlier this week. “It is true that when I was in the public eye, I sometimes happened to embellish, to extrapolate, to exaggerate my importance because I always had the deep feeling of not really ‘being loved.’”

He also admitted, per the Guardian, that he never trained with the FBI, never interviewed Charles Manson, was never a professional soccer player and didn’t interview nearly as many killers as he claimed.

And as for his wife, she wasn’t real either.

In fact, the woman who was really killed by serial murderer Gerald Stano was named Susan Bickrest, a woman Bourgain met at a Florida bar before her death, the Guardian says.

“It was bulls—t that I took on,” he told the French publication. “I didn’t want people to know the real identity of someone who was not my partner, but someone who I had met five or six times in Daytona Beach, and who I liked.”

Bourgain told Le Figaro that he’s in need of psychological counselling, adding that his lies were “ridiculous” and his actual work “was enough in itself.”

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Insurance comparison firm SelectQuote looks to raise $342 million in IPO

(Reuters) – SelectQuote Inc said on Friday it was looking to raise about $342 million in an initial public offering that could value the owner of the eponymous insurance policy comparison website at more than $3 billion.

The company will offer about 18 million shares at between $17 and $19 per share, with selling stockholders offering another 7 million shares, taking the overall amount expected to be raised to about $475 million.

Overland Park, Kansas-based SelectQuote allows consumers to compare insurance policies for life, auto and home insurance from providers including American International Group (AIG.N), Prudential Financial Inc (PRU.N) and Liberty Mutual.

While using websites to compare and buy insurance products is commonplace around the world, the U.S. insurance industry has been slower to embrace technology as means of bypassing traditional insurance brokers.

SelectQuote’s IPO filing comes as the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to lower rates for many insurance lines, giving policyholders the opportunity to switch insurers at their next renewal.

For the year 2019, SelectQuote’s net income more than doubled to $72.6 million from a year earlier. In the same period, its revenue jumped 44% to $337.5 million. (bit.ly/360XxwZ)

Credit Suisse, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup Global Markets Inc and Barclays were among the lead underwriters for the offering.

Entities Associated with Brookside Equity Partners owned around 22% of the company before the offering, SelectQuote said in a filing.

SelectQuote was founded in 1985 by Charan Singh, who currently serves as its chairman. Tim Danker has been chief executive officer of SelectQuote since 2017, according to the company’s website.

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