The $195 billion man
Elon Musk is now the richest person in the world, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, taking the title from Jeff Bezos. To be fair, they’re both worth nearly $200 billion, so who’s counting?
Tesla’s stock price surge is what put Mr. Musk over the top. The electric car maker’s shares have risen more than 700 percent over the past year. They now trade at a price-to-earnings ratio of around 1,600, versus 30 for the S&P 500 and 20 for rival auto companies like G.M.
His unusual pay package was very well timed. Recall that an audacious compensation plan, approved in mid-2018, gives Mr. Musk big chunks of shares tied to “a series of jaw-dropping milestones based on the company’s market value and operations,” as we wrote at the time. Tesla was worth around $60 billion back then, and experts considered the plan’s upper limit, a market cap of $650 billion, “laughably impossible,” since it would have made Tesla one of the five largest companies in the U.S.
You can guess what happened: Tesla just passed Facebook to become the fifth-most-valuable listed company on Wall Street, at more than $770 billion. On what this meant for his net worth, Mr. Musk said yesterday: “How strange.”
In the papers
Some of the academic research that caught our eye this week, summarized in one sentence:
Exclusive: A bid to become the benchmark of climate risk
As companies and regulators increasingly see climate change as a business threat, the data company Gro Intelligence is devising indexes that it says can track climate risks down to specific locations or assets — and could create a new class of financial investments.
The company is offering indexes to measure conditions like drought, floods, temperature and more, according to its co-founder and C.E.O., Sara Menker. Its drought index, for example, aggregates 46 variables that the company’s software transforms into a measure of drought severity on a scale from zero to five. Beyond helping clients like Unilever, which already uses Gro’s data for sustainability planning at its Knorr brand, the indexes could be used to build an array of derivatives, like swaps that companies and investors can use to hedge climate risks, said Ms. Menker, a former Morgan Stanley commodities trader.
Even as the indexes could be used to create and price swaps, catastrophe bonds and even exchange-traded funds, Ms. Menker can’t predict what else could be built on them: “People always ask, what do you do next? I say, I don’t know what we’re going to do next.”
The demand for climate-related financial products is growing, as companies seek more data to gauge the risks to their supply chains and guard against environmental risks. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission recently published a sweeping report declaring climate change a systemic risk and urging development of financial hedges and investments.
Unlike insurance products, which are usually bespoke and limited in what they cover, Gro’s indexes are based on standardized data that allows for comparisons of assets around the world, Ms. Menker said. And unlike many existing indexes, she said, her company’s products can be applied to assess the risks to specific physical assets like individual farms or factories.
Gro has raised $85 million to help fund its efforts, we’re the first to report. The new round — which surpasses the $50 million target the company set last summer — will be announced later today and was led by Intel Capital, a partnership between TPG Growth and EchoVC, and the family offices of Ronald Lauder and Eric Zinterhofer.
Gro also recently signed up a new board member: Gary Cohn, the former Goldman Sachs president and Trump economic adviser, who was initially asked to find weak spots in Gro’s indexes. “As financial institutions and companies are increasingly required to disclose climate risk, universally trusted and transparent data will be very important,” Mr. Cohn said.