There’s been a Kim sighting! No, not Kardashian — it’s Kim Jong Un, the bizarre leader of North Korea, who everyone has been trying to find. Kim is the grandson of the founder and Great Leader of North Korea (Kim Il–sung) and the son of the Dear Leader (Kim Jong-il) who followed. All North Korean leaders have been mysterious, as well as being dangerous to world peace. The latest Kim took over in 2011 after his father died.
To say the least, he has kept up the strange behavior and fashion styles of his predecessors. But for the past month or so, he’s been missing in action, and the rumors have been flowing. However, suddenly, overnight, North Korean state media attempted to quell the rumors, reporting that he has, in fact, resurfaced today, attending an event at the Natural Energy Institute of the State Academy of Sciences.
The reports have not yet been confirmed, and it’s not certain they will end all of the speculation and rumors. Over the past few weeks, talk has centered around a possible coup, with the military taking the 32-year-old Kim out and taking charge itself. Others have said that Kim is ailing with gout, a brain hemorrhage, heart ailments, mental problems, etc.
“Is Kim Jong Un brain dead?” a South Korean lawmaker was quoted by the Associated Press as asking the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during a parliamentary hearing Monday The chief, Adm. Choi Yoon-hee, said no, adding that Kim’s health problems “are not severe enough to disrupt his status as the ruler of the country.”
|The BBC reported that Kim had been out of sight for at least 38 days before today.|
The BBC reported that Kim had been out of sight for at least 38 days, and noted that he missed two key events — the October anniversary of the founding of the Korean Worker’s Party and the Sept. 9 Foundation Day of the North Korean State. Official media in that secretive country has cited personal “discomfort” as the reason for his absence.
The BBC citied a circulating rumor that some of the country’s “elite” citizens had become upset about the increasing damage caused by international sanctions against the rogue nation.
“In particular, senior members of the Pyongyang elite, may, according to this theory, have become increasingly disgruntled as a result of tightening international sanctions that have curtailed their access to privileges in-kind, typically in the form of ever more scarce luxury commodities,” the BBC said.
Whatever the reasons for his lack of visibility and whether or not the latest sighting can be confirmed, the situation bears watching. The country is relatively small and many outsiders have little knowledge about it, but it does have a powerful military likely with nuclear weapons and an unstable government, even at the best of times. Tensions there would only add to the worries about current geopolitical turmoil that has roiled markets. In fact, real trouble on the Korean peninsula could make difficulties in Ukraine and the Ebola epidemic look almost tame in comparison.
Back to this country and welcome back to the market to a familiar name. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles made its debut yesterday on the New York Stock Exchange. Trading under the symbol FCAU, the shares opened at $9, jumped to $9.55, then fell a bit before finishing at $8.92, meaning it was a steady but unspectacular debut in another down market.
Still, after all the problems the auto sector has had, it is good to see the company, albeit in a new form and partnered by Fiat, back on the U.S. stock market. The stock will also trade in Milan, but it wanted a U.S. listing as well to help raise its profile to the important American investment community.
“FCA’s listing marks the hard-won arrival at a destination,” CEO Sergio Marchionne said in a statement. “Today marks the beginning of our journey as one global automaker, one FCA.”
Is it a good investment? That is to be seen, as is the case with the entire car sector. The U.S. auto industry has been hailed as being on the road to recovery over the past couple of years. But worries about Europe have haunted all the automakers. And, as with all new stock offerings, timing is crucial. The shares hit the market just as fears of a global economic slowdown have hit equities hard.
Another recent auto-sector IPO has had a bumpy ride. General Motors went public at $33 a share in November 2010. It quickly fell to $18.72 but then rebounded to $41.85. However, hit by blows to its reputation and cost basis by its massive recalls and by the overall auto-industry worries, it is now under $30, representing about a 11 percent loss.
And while we’re at it, this is a good time to take a look at some recent IPOs. According to Renaissance Capital, Alibaba, which went public Sept. 18 at $68 a share, is now at $85.12; Citizens Financial Group, which went out Sept. 23 at $21.50, is now at $22.35; GoPro, which caused a sensation June 30, when it gained 31 percent on its first day of trading, had an IPO price of $24 and is now at $77.67 (even after a nearly 9 percent decline today).
According to CohnReznick Inc., the U.S. will this year likely have its highest IPO activity since 2000, with 230 initial public offerings happening during the first three quarters. The accounting firm estimated that the final number for this year will be at least 315. It said that if that number is realized, IPOs can be credited with injecting 250,000 new jobs into the U.S. economy.
What’s your view on the above topics? Have any experience on the Korean peninsula? And back home – did you invest in Fiat Chrysler? Will you? Have you invested in the auto sector at all? Click here to add your comments to the discussion.