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FINSUM

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Tuesday, 04 June 2024 07:53

ConocoPhillips to Acquire Marathon Oil

M&A activity in the energy sector continues at full speed. The latest deal involves ConocoPhillips buying Marathon Oil for $22.5 billion in an all-stock deal that is expected to close in the fourth quarter. Each Marathon shareholder will receive 0.255 shares of Conoco for every share of Marathon, equating to a 15% premium to its price prior to the deal’s announcement.

Last October, ExxonMobil and Chevron completed similar acquisitions of Occidental Petroleum and Diamondback Energy for $60 billion and $53 billion, respectively. The motive for these deals is identical, as the oil majors are looking to scoop up prime North American energy-rich territory. Further, energy companies have enjoyed years of robust cash flow during the post-pandemic period, which they’ve used to pay off debt, return cash to shareholders, and make acquisitions.

According to Conoco CEO Ryan Lance, the deal will strengthen the company’s portfolio of assets and increase its supply of ‘high-quality, low-cost inventory’. He has also said that consolidation is ‘the right thing to be doing for our industry’. Since the Exxon and Chevron deals, there have been rumors of a competitive bidding process between Devon Energy and Conoco for Marathon. Previously, Conoco had lost out to Diamondback Energy as both were vying for Endeavor Energy Resources, a private producer in the Permian Basin.


 

Finsum: The M&A spree in the energy sector continues with ConocoPhillips buying Marathon Oil for $22.5 billion. 



In the shifting world of financial advice, the imminent retirement of over a third of advisors within the next decade poses a significant challenge. This shift is driven by the aging demographic of current advisors, with nearly 60% of RIA assets managed by those aged 55 and older. 

 

To navigate this transition successfully, firms need to focus on recruitment, targeting younger demographics, and modernizing engagement models to mitigate the impact of a declining advisor pool. Succession planning is vital for retiring advisors to secure their financial future, boost their firm's appeal, and mentor the next generation. Clear guidance and succession planning is key to attracting new talent.

 

Recruiting and retaining young advisors is essential, as they bring fresh perspectives and technological savvy, crucial for engaging younger investor demographics like Millennials and Gen Z. These new advisors can also help bridge the gap between clients and existing advisors as their values can be more aligned. 


Finsum: Its time to start thinking about recruiting and transitioning or succession planning as an opportunity to expand business in addition to providing a pathway to the future. 

The first five months of 2024 have featured above-average volatility for fixed income due to inflation continuing to run hot and increased uncertainty about the Fed’s next move. Despite these headwinds, institutional investors have been increasing their allocations to long-duration Treasuries and high-quality, corporate bonds.

One factor is that there is increasing confidence that inflation and the economy will cool in the second half of the year, following a string of soft data. As a result, allocators seem comfortable adding long-duration bonds to lock in yields at these levels. Many seem intent on front-running the rally in fixed income that would be triggered by the prospect of Fed dovishness. According to Gershon Distenfeld of AllianceBernstein, “History shows pretty consistently that yields rally hard starting three to four months before the Fed actually starts cutting.” 

For investors who believe in this thesis, Vanguard has three long-duration bond ETFs. The Vanguard Long-Term Bond ETF is composed of US government, investment-grade corporate, and investment-grade international bonds with maturities greater than 10 years. For those who prefer sticking solely to bonds, the Vanguard Long-Term Treasury ETF tracks the Bloomberg US Long Treasury Bond Index, which is composed of bonds with maturities greater than 10 years old. 

Many allocators are adding duration exposure via high-quality corporates given higher yields vs. Treasuries. These borrowers would also benefit from rate cuts, which would reduce financing costs and boost margins. The Vanguard Long-Term Corporate Bond ETF tracks the Bloomberg US 10+ Year Corporate Bond Index, which is comprised of US investment-grade, fixed-rate debt issued by industrial, financial, and utilities with maturities greater than 10 years. 


Finsum: Interest is starting to pick up in long-duration bonds following softer than expected economic and inflation data, which is leading to more optimism that the Fed will cut rates later this year.

Value investing has underperformed over the last 15 years. Flows have followed this performance, with allocators favoring growth strategies. As a result, the number of practitioners of pure value investing has dwindled, especially in the US. Further, many are questioning, whether, it’s still a viable strategy.

There was some optimism that a period of higher interest rates and economic growth would revitalize value stocks especially following the speculative surge of many growth stocks in 2021. However, this turned out to be fleeting as the boom in artificial intelligence (AI) in 2023 sent many growth stocks to new, all-time highs, undoing value’s brief period of outperformance. 

However, the story is much different from an international perspective, where value stocks have been outperforming for a meaningful period. This lends credence to the argument that value’s underperformance is more about the US and technological disruptions than a change in how markets operate. Disruptive technologies like cloud computing and artificial intelligence have allowed a handful of companies in the US to grow to unprecedented scale, which has distorted the growth vs. value dynamic. 

History also shows that markets adapt to these technologies quite rapidly. Over time, margins and profits compress. The long-term benefits of the technology will be realized by the companies that are able to successfully implement the technology to operate more efficiently. 


Finsum: Value investing has underperformed by a significant degree over the past couple of decades. Yet, it’s a different story from an international perspective. 

Traditionally, fixed income is where financial advisors look to reduce portfolio risk. This is no longer the case in the post-pandemic period, as the bond market has experienced major volatility, which is becoming the norm in a high-rate, high-inflation regime.

Given these conditions, investors may be better off with fixed index annuities (FIAs). Like bonds, FIAs produce income; however, a key difference is that FIAs guarantee an income stream for life as opposed to a fixed period. Another advantage of FIAs is that they have higher earnings potential than bonds, given that many are designed to earn interest based on the performance of an external index like the S&P 500. In contrast, fixed income has significantly underperformed over the last 5 years and failed to beat inflation.

Over long periods of time, costs matter when it comes to long-term investing. Most bond investments have fees that range between 0.5% and 2%. In contrast, FIAs tend to have much lower fees, on average. 

In terms of risk, FIA offers full protection of the principal investment. This means that it can be more effective than fixed income to hedge equities, especially in the current environment. Overall, FIAs can be more effective than fixed income, especially for investors who are in or nearing retirement. 


Finsum: Advisors should consider fixed indexed annuities (FIAs) as an alternative to fixed income, especially in the current environment. FIAs offer lower costs, more downside protection, and greater potential for appreciation.

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