When AG Hair moved into its new, 70,000-sq.-foot, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Coquitlam, B.C., two years ago, it was part of a plan to supercharge expansion of its hair care product line to salons in international markets. Europe was next on its list. Then COVID-19 hit.
Not only was the European expansion put on hold, but salons in major markets across Canada and the United States were temporarily closed. Very few were purchasing hair products, so manufacturing was halted in mid-March, leaving most of the company’s 82 employees out of work.
AG Hair could have waited out the pandemic but instead decided to lean into its entrepreneurial culture and make a sharp pivot. It began providing hand-sanitizing products for front-line health-care workers, addressing a global shortage.
“We realized there was this massive need for health-care professionals, and we wanted to make a difference and be able to provide them with the products they needed,” says AG Hair CEO Graham Fraser.
AG Hair received Canadian and U.S. approvals a week after applying for the licences needed to make sanitizer, and produced samples to show local authorities within 48 hours.
“That rapid response time, and the fact that we had gone through all of the Health Canada regulatory hurdles, showed [the local health authorities] that we were a partner they could trust and someone they could look to, to deliver the products they needed,” Fraser says.
Within a month, the company started pumping out the products, first for the health-care industry, then for consumers on its own website and on Amazon. About 10 per cent of AG Hair’s hand-sanitizer production also went to people in need, as identified by organizations such as United Way.
Parallel 49 Brewing Company is also using AG Hair’s Coquitlam manufacturing facility to produce its own blend of liquid hand sanitizer for front-line health and emergency workers, in partnership with the B.C. government.
Fraser credits his team for its energy and creativity in making the hand-sanitizer production happen, and helping put AG Hair staff back to work.
“We realized we had an opportunity . . . and then it became this incredible, almost war-room mentality and collaboration with our owners, our executive team and our people to say, ‘How are we going to get through this?’ ” Fraser recalls. “I think our success speaks to the type of people we have and the entrepreneurial spirit of pursuing every avenue we have, understanding how we can produce the products and making it happen.”
AG Hair’s commitment to investing in future growth is a big part of what makes it a Best Managed company, says Nicole Coleman, a partner at Deloitte and co-lead of its Best Managed Program in B.C.
“Capability and innovation come through quite strongly with this company,” says Coleman, who is also AG Hair’s coach at Deloitte. “I don’t think they would be able to pivot as quickly if they weren’t so strategic and had the internal capabilities to do it.”
The manufacturing facility was a big investment, but one Coleman says has already paid dividends.
“They were looking forward with a strategic plan in mind about future growth and how they could expand, rather than just focusing on the day to day,” she says. “Best Managed companies are always pushing the envelope and are conscious about planning for the future.”
AG Hair was founded in Vancouver in 1989 by hairstylist John Davis and graphic artist Lotte Davis. The husband-and-wife team began bottling hair products in their basement and selling them direct to salons from the back of a station wagon.
The company eventually moved its manufacturing off-site, to a third party. One day, John went to watch the operations and was surprised to see salt being poured into the mixture. Although he was told salt is commonly used as a thickener, he didn’t like the potential side effects of dry hair and skin.
It was at that moment John decided the company would oversee its own manufacturing. “Through that experience, John also became an expert in product development,” says Fraser, who came to the company in 2000 as director of sales.
After having worked for more than two decades at PepsiCo and Kraft Foods, Fraser was eager to work at a smaller, more agile company where he felt he could help make a difference.
“It was perfect because I got to bring a lot of structure and process that I learned in those organizations, but I also learned an awful lot about being an entrepreneur from John and Lotte: that sense of urgency, the decision-making process, the need to get things done and drive things forward and pursue opportunities,” he says.
Fraser has helped drive AG Hair’s expansion into the U.S. and internationally, including Australia, Taiwan, and Central and South America. A portion of its sales go to One Girl Can, a charity founded by Lotte that provides schooling, education and mentoring for girls in sub-Saharan Africa.
Fraser also oversees the development of new, trending products, including a new deep-conditioning hair mask made with 98 per cent plant-based and natural ingredients. Hand-sanitizing spray and gel will be the latest addition to the company’s product lineup.
“We don’t see the demand [for hand-sanitizing products] going away,” he says. “As the isolation policies start to get lifted, people are going to need forms of security and protocols as they get back into regular life and work. We see there’s going to be a need for these types of products long-term.”
This article appears in print in the June 2020 issue of Maclean’s magazine with the headline, “Working out the kinks.” Subscribe to the monthly print magazine here.
Gold Pares Weekly Gain After Rally to Record, Silver Retreats
(Bloomberg) — Gold extended its decline from a record, trimming the longest stretch of weekly gains since 2006, as a stronger dollar curbed the metal’s haven appeal. Silver fell after earlier closing in on $30 an ounce.The dollar headed for its first gain in four sessions amid a deepening rift between Washington and Beijing. President Donald Trump signed a pair of executive orders prohibiting U.S. residents from doing business with the Chinese-owned TikTok and WeChat apps beginning 45 days from now. Meanwhile, a high-powered U.S. panel recommended tightening the disclosure requirements for Chinese companies listed on American exchanges.Bullion is still up more than 35% this year, putting it on track for the biggest annual gain in over four decades, as the health crisis, negative real rates, a broadly weaker dollar and geopolitical risks spark a flight to precious metals. Further gains are predicted — Bank of America Corp. reiterated its forecast that gold may reach $3,000 an ounce in 18 months and said it’s “feasible” that silver could hit $35 in 2021.“Gold and silver face stern tests of their character,” said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst, Asia Pacific at Oanda Corp., citing U.S. payroll data due later Friday and the boost to the dollar from Trump’s executive orders.Spot gold declined 0.2% to $2,059.20 an ounce at 11:57 a.m. in London after earlier hitting a record $2,075.47. Prices are up for a ninth week. Holdings in exchange-traded funds backed by the metal are at an all-time high.Spot silver dropped 2.1% to $28.3115 after earlier advancing as much as 3.2% to $29.8591, the highest since 2013.Jobs ReportInvestors will now focus on the monthly employment report from the U.S., which is expected to show a slowdown in job gains last month after a surge in coronavirus cases across the country. Global infections passed 19 million.“There is so much noise in the U.S economic numbers at present, with most of them flattering to deceive, that at present the markets should be looking to the longer term,” said Rhona O’Connell, head of market analysis for EMEA and Asia at StoneX Group Inc. However, if the employment report is “strong then it might extend any correction in gold and silver.”Elsewhere, negotiations on a virus relief package ended with the White House and Democrats making no headway on resolving their biggest difference, bringing the talks to the brink of collapse. With no deal immediately in the offing, Trump said Thursday he is ready to sign orders extending enhanced unemployment benefits for the jobless and imposing a payroll tax holiday for employers and workers.Signs that Europe’s biggest economy is finding its feet again may also be putting pressure on bullion. Germany’s industrial output grew slightly more than forecast in June, following figures released on Thursday that showed factory demand was at 90.7% of the level recorded at the end of last year. European Central Bank Chief Economist Philip Lane has cautioned against any premature optimism though, arguing that the region’s third-quarter performance will be key to determining the strength and sustainability of the recovery.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
A White House proposal to delist Chinese companies could upend this year’s IPO market
Despite the rapidly deteriorating relations between China and the U.S., Chinese companies continue to seek out America’s financial markets as a space for initial public offerings. But a new proposal issued by the White House on Thursday could put a stop to that by requiring hopeful Chinese firms to provide documents that Beijing prohibits them from sharing.
“The United States is the premier jurisdiction in the world for raising capital, and we will not compromise on the core principles that underpin investor confidence in our capital markets,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement Thursday, as the While House released recommendations related to Chinese company listings.
The group’s recommendations build on a bill passed by the Senate in May that’s currently awaiting review by the House. The legislation calls for foreign firms that fail to provide the Security and Exchanges Commission (SEC) with audit documents for three years to be delisted from U.S. stock exchanges. The bill was introduced after more than $300 million in fraudulent sales were uncovered at then Nasdaq-listed Luckin Coffee, prompting the Chinese coffeeshop’s forced delisting.
Thursday’s proposal brings that timeline forward slightly, suggesting that noncompliant firms be delisted as early as 2022. Notably, the proposal also recommends the SEC prohibit new companies from listing at all—even prior to 2022—unless they are already able to turn over audit materials. Many of them won’t be.
“Because of the law in China, companies cannot simply hand out the required information to the U.S. regulator,” Clement Chan, managing director of BDO told Fortune in June, when the Senate passed its legislation. Under Chinese law, it is illegal for companies to submit audit information to foreign governments without Beijing’s consent, which it never gives. Beijing often claims company audits are state secrets that can’t be shared.
The SEC has complained about Beijing’s stance for at least a decade but has taken few definitive actions against it. Chinese companies continue to list on U.S. stock markets—25 in 2019, down from 35 in 2018—and U.S. investors continue to pour in cash. Just last week, Li Auto, a Chinese EV company, made a stellar debut on the Nasdaq, raising $1.1 billion despite the political headwinds.
“U.S. investors want to take part in the growth of China’s new economy,” says Fan Bao, chairman and CEO of China Renaissance, an investment bank. Bao says that Li’s successful Nasdaq offering demonstrated that U.S. investors still welcome “quality Chinese assets.”
Experts argue that the rules proposed by the Senate and the President’s working group might not “protect” Americans who invest in Chinese firms as much as they will prevent U.S. stock markets from earning money off of Chinese listings.
Without Chinese firms, U.S. stock markets would lose a major revenue source. Market operators, like the NYSE, charge companies huge one-off listing fees as well as annual administrative fees and transaction fees on every trade. What’s more, the U.S.-listed Chinese companies covered by the Senate bill have a combined market cap of $1 trillion, equal to 3% of the U.S.’s total equity market cap. On average, they collectively trade around $8 billion per day—6% of total U.S. turnover, according to a China Renaissance report.
“These companies have many alternatives. Capital markets are global and most investors are indifferent to where stocks are listed,” says Bob Bartell, global head of corporate finance at Duff & Phelps. Hong Kong has already emerged as a popular alternative for Chinese stocks seeking an IPO or a secondary listing. Retail and institutional U.S. investors can invest directly in Hong Kong-listed stocks, while there are more hurdles for foreign investors seeking stocks listed in mainland China.
China electric car maker Xpeng has raised $900 million in private fundraising over the past month in preparation for a suspected IPO in the U.S. this year. But, given the White House’s new proposal, the Chinese carmaker might have to change course. Chinese peer-to-peer financing firm Lufax is also preparing a U.S. IPO this year, while China’s WeWork alternative, Ucommune, has bailed on a planned IPO but is still eyeing a backdoor listing in the U.S.
For now, Chinese firms are still welcome to list in the U.S. For the working group’s proposals to go into effect, the SEC needs to release an official draft for a public comment period, which can last up to two months. The entire process might stretch beyond the November election, which could usher in a less hawkish administration.
“We think companies may have to wait for further clarification on the recent proposals of the U.S. administration. And we expect negative news flows around the 2020 U.S. election,” says Bruce Pang, head of macro and strategy research at China Renaissance. “The clouded uncertainties and regulatory risk would put companies to ponder long and deeply.”
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Pag-IBIG Fund earns P22.8 B in H1 2020
Top officials of Pag-IBIG Fund reported on Monday (27 July) earnings of over P22.8 billion in the first half of 2020.
From January to June, Pag-IBIG Fund’s gross income reached P22.82 billion, driven mainly by earnings from its housing loans and Short-Term Loans (STL), otherwise known as cash loans, and trading gains from its investment activities.
The agency’s net income, meanwhile, amounted to P14.14 billion.
“Coming from a record-breaking year in 2019, Pag-IBIG Fund’s performance in the first half of the year remains decent despite the impact of community quarantines implemented to fight the spread of COVID-19. We are sure to endure these extraordinary times and continue to provide social services to more Filipino workers and continue helping the government with the nation’s economic recovery under the lead of President Duterte,” said Secretary Eduardo D. del Rosario of the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) and Chairman of the 11-member Pag-IBIG Fund Board of Trustees.
The agency ended 2019 with its highest ever gross income of P56.90 billion and net income of P34.37 billion. In the first six months of last year, it had already posted P24.59 billion and P16.04 billion in gross and net incomes, respectively. But as the pandemic induced economic slowdown in the first few months of 2020, Pag-IBIG found its gross and net incomes dip by 7 percent and 12 percent, respectively, in the first half of this year compared to the same period last year.
“We had our best year in 2019 and that’s a tough act to follow with the challenge posed by this year. We have been enjoying a string of ‘best-year ever’ and we were poised to achieve another one this year, that is until the pandemic happened,” said Pag-IBIG Fund Chief Executive Officer Acmad Rizaldy P. Moti.
But while the pandemic caused the agency to post lower incomes from housing loans and cash loans this year, he remains hopeful as he pointed out that they are already seeing signs of recovery in the second quarter as quarantines were either eased or lifted. Home loan releases have been on the rise in the last two months. From a low P.88 billion in April, home loan releases increased to P1.2 billion in May and jumped even further to P2.9 billion in June.
“We in Pag-IBIG Fund are confident because our financial position remains stable and strong, even amid these challenging times. A slowdown in business is expected as the pandemic impacted both the availment and payment of our loans, but Pag-IBIG continues to be strong. What is important to us now is being a reliable partner to our members and stakeholders on our shared road to recovery. That is the Lingkod Pag-IBIG way,” Moti added.
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