Where finance and media intersect with reality


Spot Markets Live Transcript: 15/08/22


Today’s Spot Markets live session is with Dario Garcia, the Blind Spot’s assistant editor, who formerly worked as a corporate investigator for Kroll.

Comments from Izabella and Dario that address audience questions have been put in bold

Izabella Kaminska 10:59

Hello everyone!

Is there anybody out there?

Sorry I seem to have some weird delay

Dario Garcia Giner 11:02


Izabella Kaminska 11:03

Ok, a refresh has helped.

So we have the rabble coming through on this peak summer august market day.

Hello and welcome back to Spot Markets Live, the real-time markets chat that takes you on a whirlwind tour of the markets.

Those reading this in transcript form, if you fancy a login to help us expand the test over the weeks to come please email [email protected].

Today I’m joined by Blind Spot assistant editor Dario Garcia Giner.

Although I never understand Spanish names

Dario Garcia Giner 11:04

Hello Izzie!

What’s that supposed to mean

Izabella Kaminska 11:04

It’s the most complex naming procedure in the world

you sometimes use your middle names as your surnames, but not if it’s your dad’s name.

Or something

Dario Garcia Giner 11:04

Works very well to conceal holding companies in weird parts of the world, though

Izabella Kaminska 11:04

and then go by “just garcia”

A reminder that before joining me at the Blind Spot, Dario was a corporate investigator at Kroll. But he has given up on that world for the much less glamorous world of start-up journalism.

Some brief housekeeping.

I am afraid that next week there will be no SML because I will be on my way to the Alpbach forum in Austria. Which is like an Austrian summer-based World Economic Forum thing.

This one is the brainchild of former Erste Bank boss Andreas Treichl

I’m on a crypto forum there with some interesting institutional names. There are some other very interesting sessions featuring all the usual global elites. So I should pick up some good insights (I would think).

The week after that is BANK HOLIDAY – so we will be off again. But the good news is…

Anjuli Davies, former Telegraph senior city correspondent and before that a senior financial correspondent with some time as an M&A reporter at Reuters will be joining us for sessions from September. Will let you know key dates in the newsletter. And do keep an eye on the Blind Spot Discord.


Anjuli and I go way back to CNBC days. She’s stellar.

Dario Garcia Giner 11:07


Izabella Kaminska 11:08

and Neil Collins will be back in moonlighting fashion again too I trust.

A long time in finance will also be back in a week or so.

But I hope we get more community feedback soon!

Dario you’ve been looking at the markets?

Dario Garcia Giner 11:09

Lots of things moving today

Astrazeneca is leading the FTSE gainers today

Also up are the LSE, kingfisher, admiral group, GVC and Ocado.

AZ is up on news that its breast cancer drug Enhertu works.

Which, btw, weird name for a drug no?

After a bad July in which Ocado shares slid following reports of a broader retail sales slide in the e-commerce delivery market, Ocado opened today up around 1.4 per cent.

(Or a seance, R.)

Though specific news regarding this correction is sparse, share price forums imply that continued lockdowns in China mean shareholders have some hope that re-imposed restrictions or some form of lockdowns occurring again this winter may reform favourable market conditions for the e-commerce sector.

Considering Izzie’s analysis of the inefficiencies inherent in the e-commerce system, such a return to favourable market conditions is likely to only be a temporary reprieve from this sector’s wider woes.

Izabella Kaminska 11:12

Well, we will see.

But this had passed me by I must confess…

City lawyer could face prison in Ocado espionage case

Whoa what!?

Dario Garcia Giner 11:13

Who would have thought city lawyers could be dodgy

Izabella Kaminska 11:13

A senior City lawyer who told a client to “burn” chat logs to prevent evidence reaching Ocado could face prison for contempt of court.

Raymond McKeeve, a former partner at Jones Day, was found by a High Court judge to have intentionally destroyed documents to stop data being searched at a company created by Jonathan Faiman, Ocado’s co-founder.

A search order had been issued after Ocado accused Mr Faiman’s company of stealing corporate intelligence.

While Mr Justice Adam Johnson disregarded the prospect that Mr McKeeve may have been part of a conspiracy, he said the lawyer’s actions were a “spontaneous act of colossal stupidity”.

Dario, you’ve looked at this story… can you explain?

Dario Garcia Giner 11:15

Looks like this McKeeve guy allegedly got spooked by an original lawsuit brought by Ocado and instructed a client to burn the chat logs to protect his wife’s reputation

She had been elected as European MP for SE England in 2019 – Belinda de Lucy

Dario Garcia Giner 11:16

the judge is taken by McKeeve’s evident feelings of shame and embarrassment… which I would be too if I were him

Izabella Kaminska 11:16

Anyway, Darren makes a good point. Is Ocado a grocery firm or a tech automation firm? To be fair, I think this has long been the dilemma.

Izabella Kaminska 11:16

Anyway, speaking of other courtroom dramas.

Let’s get to the story of the week, which broke last week actually, but hey, we operate on Mondays.


Dario Garcia Giner 11:17

What happened to Zantac?

Izabella Kaminska 11:17

Also possibly why GSK is the top loser again today.

For those who don’t know: GSK is trailing on the back of the whopper news that its blockbuster drug Zantac – which was discontinued in 2020 on fear it was a carcinogen – is facing an immense US lawsuit.

The affair embroils Pfizer because Zantac falls under GSK’s spun-out consumer goods arm, Haleon (HLN.L) which lost as much as 15% last Thursday. Haleon is a joint venture with Pfizer. Sanofi is also embroiled as it has marketed Zantac in the US since 2017

I don’t get heartburn so I had never heard of Zantac.

Dario Garcia Giner 11:19

Me neither

Izabella Kaminska 11:19

Actually, I lie, this is the same stuff as Ranitidine!

It was launched as a prescription drug by GSK in the 1980s and became one of its biggest sellers. And I did use it, but mainly when I was pregnant which was the only time I ever got heartburn.

The Times has a good piece on it:

The US Food and Drug Administration contacted GSK and Pfizer in 2019 over the detection of N-Nitrosodimethylamine in ranitidine products, a substance that the FDA said then was classified as a “probable human carcinogen”. In 2020 the FDA asked makers of all versions of the treatment to withdraw their products from the market. The drug companies complied with this request.

Suffice to say, this is not the sort of scandal the pharma sector needs right now.  GSK, Pfizer and Sanofi say they are all going to defend themselves rigorously. But the PR damage here is substantial.

And let’s face it there’s already a large community of people who don’t really trust the pharma companies.

Here’s the pharma company side of the story from the Pharma Letter:

“Pfizer has significant defenses to this litigation and there are significant legal and factual issues that remain to be addressed by the courts,” the group said in a statement. “Pfizer also has substantial indemnification claims against others, which have been acknowledged by several manufacturers in their disclosures. As a result, we believe at this time that the outcome of the litigation is not likely to be material to Pfizer.”

GSK stressed that both the US Food and Drug Administration and European Medicines Agency have concluded that there is no evidence of a causal association between ranitidine therapy and the development of cancer, adding that there is substantial scientific evidence to support this conclusion.

“Suggestions to the contrary are therefore inconsistent with the science, and GSK will vigorously defend itself against all meritless claims alleging otherwise,” the London-based firm’s statement adds.

Sanofi remains confident in its legal defense, too, and in the scientific evidence suggesting Zantac’s safety, though there are hints of squabbles between the companies.

But look at this damage mitigation that Sanofi is already doing, due to the fact that since 2017, Zantac is marketed in the U.S. by Sanofi:

A statement from the Paris-based firm states: “Sanofi’s sales of Zantac account for only a very small percentage of the product’s total sales over the 35+ years that prescription and over-the-counter Zantac was available. Potential historical brand liability was not all passed to Sanofi upon its acquisition of Zantac.”

Dario Garcia Giner 11:22

Hm! Sounds like there’s both smoke and fire then, maybe

Izabella Kaminska 11:22

As always, it’s the coverup that sometimes ends up being the mechanism that turns smoke into fire.

Dario Garcia Giner 11:22


Izabella Kaminska11:22

And by coverup

I mean people panicking and deleting emails

here’s an example from the legal docs:

It’s not exactly the sort of stuff that fills you with confidence:

In a new filing from lawyers representing more than 70,000 former patients, Sanofi is accused of “widespread” destruction of employee emails tied to its 2019 recall of the drug, which preceded the FDA’s outright ban in 2020. The company and many others face lawsuits alleging they concealed cancer risks from the drug, and the new filing outlines alleged roadblocks the drugmakers have put up to delay the legal process, the plaintiffs’ lawyers say.

The company’s purported email tampering “has resulted in the delay and/or postponement of many key Sanofi depositions,” the lawyers claim. Now, they’ve asked for more time to prepare for their first trials, which are due to kick off next year. 

Sanofi “did not intentionally destroy any emails related to the Zantac litigation,” a spokeswoman told Fierce Pharma via email. “Any suggestion to the contrary is false.”

“Sanofi has provided hundreds of thousands of pages of relevant discovery to the plaintiffs, including internal emails, test results, safety assessments, and correspondence with regulatory authorities,” she added.

Pfizer’s share price is holding up though.

Dario Garcia Giner 11:25

Perhaps with the right narrative, we could indeed convince WSB to short Sanofi stock, Roger

But then we may need to exert pressure through our discord server, and anonymously line the subreddits with insider tips, much like what we’ve found may have happened to GME

Izabella Kaminska 11:26

Yeah, for those who haven’t seen Dario’s piece do check it out.

The whole email deletion and rigorous defence thing though is now undermined by what I will call the “Wirecard precedent”

Dario Garcia Giner 11:26


Izabella Kaminska 11:26

Speaking of which

Dan’s Netflix documentary is out in September!

How exciting is this!

Yes, I’m going to the premiere.

But also, it’s nice to have been referenced by Dan in the book

even though he dePutinised my name by removing all the Zs

@robert – good point. I haven’t read it.

I mean, the more I read about pharma the more surprised i am that any of us are still living.

But back to Wirecard very quickly

Not to flog a dead horse

I just thought I would share some of the colour about Alphaville from the book.

And the ref to Markets live…


Dario Garcia Giner11:35

Izzie’s having some tech issues all

She’s in France, and, well… you know the french

Izabella Kaminska11:35

Arghh. I’m back now

Anyway, the reason I’m posting this is that obviously ML was discontinued at Alphaville about the time Lionel left.

And obviously, SML is my attempt to revive the greatness of the old ML.

But you know, I’m doing this as a solo op. And to really make things happen we now need scale. So I’m going to put my cult leader hat on now and encourage everyone to go out and recruit members. So much of the success of the original ML was down to the feedback, the regulars, the rabble and of course the bandits. It’s a virtuous circle. Think of it as a counter to WSB.

So thank you all for taking part in this beta trial. And for your patience, while I get things going.

Moving on…

Airtel! Dario, what’s going on?

Dario Garcia Giner 11:40

Airtel stock seems to have been coming down almost 8% since news the company had signed a USD 125 million revolving credit facility with Citi

I read the current stock market slide on the FTSE could have happened because of analysts foreseeing a slowdown in its future earnings growth – but online news coverage regarding the current slowdown is unclear

Indeed, in its Nigerian NGX listing, it has been one of July’s main winners

Rising over 10% in the last month there

Izabella Kaminska 11:43

I’m not sure of the details here but I think it’s something to keep an eye on, as airtel is a big player in the potential mpesa challenger sense.

Ok, other than that. I thought it was worth talking about some CBDC stuff.

(i will create a sharing link and put it in the transcript Darren)

Dario Garcia Giner 11:45

What’s happened on the CBDC side?

Izabella Kaminska 11:46

I was going through the minutes of the BoE’s CBDC forum

And I was struck by the reference to programmability:

It was argued, however, that customers could be willing to pay for a service if it provided increased functionality (e.g. programmability) or if its costs were lower than existing options where customers currently pay for specific services (e.g. cross-border payments).

Dario Garcia Giner 11:47

what does that mean?

Izabella Kaminska 11:48

It’s all very vague, but the idea that programmability as a feature that people are willing to pay for is really bizarre. Because it leads to all that stuff about social credit info and other databases being combined with money info for direct access or (NON ACCESS) to other services from insurance to mortgages and potentially even consumer goods.

There’s also a significant discussion about who is going to pay for all this infrastructure, and the current view seems to be that third parties will happily provide it without any opportunity to charge interest, which again seems odd to me.

The presenter suggested that a model where merchants would pay a fee for accepting payment in CBDC was more likely to be viable for PIPs, but adoption could depend on the costs of setting up the required infrastructure. It was argued that any limits on CBDC holdings or on transactions could influence how much customers used CBDC for day-to-day spending, which could in turn have an impact on how much revenue this model could generate.

The presentation also suggested that data monetisation and cross-selling opportunities were alternative means for PIPs to generate revenue.

So basically if they can’t charge fees for CBDCs, then the only way to make money from it is through cross-selling and data mining. This should give everyone the heebie-jeebies, because being able to data mine your transaction history is a really massive intrusion.

Of course, the argument goes that lots of people simply don’t mind

I myself am simply a bit confounded by why the discussion – at least the one we publicly see — is so matter of fact about the idea that CBDCs are an obvious step forward. And there is really little pushback other than “we have to figure out how the economics and costs are structured”.

I reached out to someone who may have been privy to some of these discussions,… and am slightly reassured that at the backend, there is more ambiguity and uncertainty than is publicly being presented.

The quote was:

“what does it offer that the existing payment rails do not? This is proving to be a tricky question to answer.”

Basically what I’ve said all along.

Dario Garcia Giner 11:53

The cross-selling and data monetisation parts are definitely a little ‘sus’ as they would say online.

Perhaps they offer security?

Or rather, “”security””

Izabella Kaminska 11:54

Well as my source says:

Selling customer data is the obvious answer, but doesn’t sound too plausible to me – the revealed preference of internet users is that they are very relaxed about data retention and sale generally, but there seems to be something special about financial information.

So there you go

Just to wrap up, I think dario has some nuke info to share

Dario Garcia Giner 11:55

big week for nuclear apparently

a California nuclear fusion team has managed to confirm an experiment they conducted during the last year achieved ‘ignition’

This is the energetic reaction you need to start forming the critical temperatures at which the fusion process is set into place, only requiring consistent inputs of hydrogen and releasing helium.

Considering how devoid of actual progress this industry can sometimes be accused of being – we’ve been ’30 years away from fusion’ for ages now – it’s lovely that we’ve recently been seeing so much hope in the sector.

Izabella Kaminska 11:57

Ah well, shame about that helium constraint.

Dario Garcia Giner 11:57

Nono, that will help allegedly!

The nuclear fusion reaction will create helium, apparently

Izabella Kaminska 11:58


Dario Garcia Giner 11:58

(not a scientist)

Izabella Kaminska 11:58

Sorry that’s my physics being crap – but highly useful if helium is a byproduct given we are on the verge of rationing helium balloons due to the global shortage.

Dario Garcia Giner 11:58

Fusion scientists should perhaps be more worried about Annie’s trip to Disneyland than the energy shortage.

Izabella Kaminska 11:59

The mainstream is now onto the importance of the helium shortage.

(That was from four weeks ago, though)

@robert -you’re no doubt right. I have zero idea about the physics here.

Dario Garcia Giner 12:00

Besides, despite this optimistic news, we should remind all that the 70s were replete with such positive and hopeful news about the fusion process – and it went (almost) nowhere

But the huge amounts of capital investment this time round means people are expecting something to happen

Izabella Kaminska 12:01

Speaking of nukes though, I am in France this week, where energy power prices are still going insane.

And now EDF is suing the french government for having to sell electricity at a loss.

This goes into this whole price cap thing. You’d think since it’s now being re-nationalised, this sort of thing is madness.

That was last week FYI

Dario Garcia Giner 12:04

There’s also been regulatory certification granted for a small modular nuclear reactor in the US

the nuclear reactor is developed by a company called NuScale

Small modular reactors have been filled with promise as of late. Not just for being the cuter offshoot of its larger cousins, but for the promise of a quicker wind-up time and hopes that it may help ease energy shortages in the West

But they’ve not been without controversy

Izabella Kaminska 12:06

The latest river levels are also not looking good.

Dario Garcia Giner 12:06

the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis called NuScale’s projects “too late, too expensive, too risky, and too uncertain.

Izabella Kaminska 12:07

(though it is raining this week)

Dario Garcia Giner 12:07

The report released in February sparked outrage at NuScale who claimed the IEEFA’s report is factually inaccurate and with inherent flaws

Izabella Kaminska 12:08

I might do a one-off energy special SML sometime next week to cover all these issues. I will try to rope in a proper expert.

Dario Garcia Giner 12:08

NuScale has attracted a lot of interest – its majority is owned by engineering co Fluor and has a coterie of investors – Doosan Heavy Industries and Construction, Samsung C&T Corp., JGC Holdings Corp., IHI Corp., Enercon Services, Inc., GS Energy, Sarens and Sargent & Lundy.

Izabella Kaminska 12:08

Ok, now we are way over, time-wise. So let’s call it a day.

Closing off, I just thought I would direct people to this Kissinger interview in the WSJ in case they haven’t read it.

It’s from August 12

This quote seems notable

Mr. Kissinger sees today’s world as verging on a dangerous disequilibrium. “We are at the edge of war with Russia and China on issues which we partly created, without any concept of how this is going to end or what it’s supposed to lead to,” he says. Could the U.S. manage the two adversaries by triangulating between them, as during the Nixon years? He offers no simple prescription. “You can’t just now say we’re going to split them off and turn them against each other. All you can do is not to accelerate the tensions and to create options, and for that you have to have some purpose.”

Dangerous Disequilibrium sounds like the title of his potentially last book.

On that note it’s bye from me, and …

Dario Garcia Giner 12:10

and bye from me too!

Izabella Kaminska 12:10

thanks again.


12:10 RF: I think its because you build lots on a single production line and gin all sorts of efficiencies …..so they promise

12:08 RR: I’ve never really got why the tech for SMRs, if it’s so amazing and solves all the problems, can’t just be used for bigger reactors?

12:02 RF: Can’t be long until the riuvers are so low and so warm that they have to shut down the nukes

12:02 RR: Private fusion ventures are far *far* more optimistic about commercial lead times. Some claim by the end of the decade (!) ITER scientists are much less optimistic

12:01 RF: but there is certainly a lot of energy in the fusiin sector right now, just not quite enough to deliver output

11:59 RR: Tritium does look like it’d be a constraint though

11:59 RR: There are too many different fusion approaches to use sweeping statements on what will fix what or be a constraint. I don’t know how significant the volume of helium such processes produce would be

11:58 RF: tritium i think is the constraint

11:58 RR: Would actually be socially useful

11:58 RR: Seems a climate imperative to have Manhattan-style public investment and R&D on fusion

11:43 DS: bye all

11:40 DS: @Izzabella is there a link you would like us to share?

11:35 DS: just like old times

11:34 DS: proud even

11:34 DS: re FT alphaville and markets live pround to have been an early adopter

11:30 RR: https://highline.huffingtonpost.com/miracleindustry/americas-most-admired-lawbreaker

11:30 RR: I’m on the 7th chapter, but it’s proper rage fuel

11:29 RR: Absolutely brutal of J&J

11:29 RR: I’m expecting a big pharma confidence hit once people actually have time to read the very long Huff Post Highline piece on Risperdal

11:28 DS: Does Mr Perring feature in that ?

11:28 DS: if only there was a common denomination betwenn GME and BBBY

11:24 RF: Can we call it a reverse meme stock

11:22 RF: https://www.londonstockexchange.com/news-article/GSK/statement-zantac-ranitidine-litigation/15582286

11:19 DS: if you dont take medication to surpress excess stomach acid you likley end with cancer or a precursor to it

11:19 RF: oops meant GSK not AZN

11:18 RF: ….and HLN was even more emphatic

11:18 RF: Although AZN denied it all pretty throughly

11:17 DS: basis for a sundays night thriller there if the story were worked up a bit no?

11:12 DS: Is Ocado a grocery play anymore or play on Automation ?

11:10 DS: Good Morning all

11:10 RF: I think drugs are named through somesort of random word generator

11:00 GH: Good morning!

11:00 RF: Happy Monday

10:59 JC: Rabblerabble

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