Merger Will Create First and Only One-Stop-Shop for Employee Health, Wellbeing and Benefits Engagement; Combined Company Will Have More Than 3,300 Customers Across 190 Countries
Providence-based Virgin Pulse and Minneapolis-based RedBrick Health announced today that the industry pioneers will merge, creating the world’s largest, most comprehensive digital health and engagement company. This powerful combination will deliver the industry’s only fully integrated digital platform, with benefits navigation and live coaching to support global clients and members across the entire health, wellbeing and benefits lifecycle – from screening and assessment to activation, behavior change and the adoption of sustainable, healthy habits.
“We are thrilled to join with RedBrick to set a new vision and standard for employee health, wellbeing and engagement,” said David Osborne, Virgin Pulse CEO, who will serve as CEO of the combined company. “Bringing RedBrick’s live and digital coaching and benefits navigation together with Virgin Pulse’s mobile-first, daily engagement platform allows us to deliver the industry’s only global, one-stop-shop for employees and employers. As first-movers in this space, and with substantial investment from our new partner, Marlin Equity Partners, we are well-positioned to execute an aggressive growth strategy and change even more lives around the world for good.”
Virgin Pulse and RedBrick are clear industry leaders in employee health, wellbeing and engagement, with each company delivering highly complementary capabilities to the market. To ensure the best possible experience for all clients, the combined company will continue to support and innovate on both the Virgin Pulse and RedBrick platforms, while making the best-in-class capabilities of each solution available across both client bases.
By the end of this year, Virgin Pulse clients will be able to access RedBrick’s health assessments, expert live and digital coaching, and benefits navigation through Virgin Pulse’s API-based framework, allowing Virgin Pulse to interact more deeply with members to optimize their health and wellbeing. In addition, RedBrick clients will have access to Virgin Pulse’s unparalleled challenge capabilities.
“Virgin Pulse and RedBrick are a logical fit, and it should be no surprise that we are finally coming together,” said Dan Ryan, CEO of RedBrick. “The merger is a win for the entire industry – clients, consumers, partners, consultants – and raises the bar for what employers and employees should expect from their engagement partner. Combining our product portfolios and resources allows us to maximize our investments in R&D and operations, and ensures that our clients and consumers have access to the best, most innovative wellbeing and engagement solutions and services available.”
“Our investment, which brings together two leaders in the health and wellbeing market, underscores our strong belief in the potential to transform this highly fragmented industry,” said Michael Anderson, a managing director at Marlin Equity Partners which also recently acquired RedBrick Health. “This is a multibillion-dollar market that is hungry for innovation, desperate for disruption and ripe for consolidation, and we are committed to doubling down on these two leaders to move this market forward and unlock the value of employee health and wellbeing.”
Virgin Pulse is widely recognized for having the industry’s highest member engagement rates, with daily usage rivaling the most popular consumer applications such as Facebook and Twitter. The company’s flagship SaaS platform, Virgin Pulse Engage(TM), delivers personalized, mobile-first experiences that support employees in improving their health and wellbeing every day. RedBrick Health was an early pioneer in delivering outcomes-focused health and benefits engagement solutions, and is highly regarded for its customizable integration platform, digital and live coaching, health assessments, biometric screening services and award-winning experience. With highly configurable workflows, integration capabilities, strong expertise in custom program design and a successful record of serving complex, distributed organizations, RedBrick has firmly established itself as the partner of choice for large enterprises.
Together, Virgin Pulse and RedBrick have the largest customer base in the industry, with over 3,300 clients including public sector organizations, health plans, universities and more than 20 percent of the Fortune Global 500 companies. The combination of the two companies also creates an extensive and growing network of strategic ecosystem partners spanning mental wellbeing, financial wellbeing, sleep, nutrition, telemedicine, cost transparency, treatment decision support and more.
RedBrick and Virgin Pulse will unite under the Virgin Pulse name but continue to operate as separate brands. The combined organization will be based out of Virgin Pulse’s corporate headquarters in Providence, RI, and will maintain a major office in Minneapolis, MN and a coaching center in Phoenix, AZ. The company also has global centers of excellence in multiple international locations, including Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Bosnia, Brazil and Singapore.
Marlin is acquiring Virgin Pulse from its prior investors, including Insight Venture Partners. The merger is expected to close this month. Financial details of the transaction have not been disclosed. Evercore acted as financial advisor and Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP served as legal advisor to Virgin Pulse. Raymond James & Associates, Inc. acted as financial advisor, and Goodwin Procter LLP served as legal advisor to RedBrick. William Blair & Company, LLC acted as financial advisor and Kirkland & Ellis LLP served as legal advisor to Marlin.
Oil extends losses as Texas prepares to ramp up output
By Devika Krishna Kumar
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Oil prices fell for a second day on Friday, retreating further from recent highs as Texas energy companies began preparations to restart oil and gas fields shuttered by freezing weather.
Brent crude futures were down 33 cents, or 0.5%, at $63.60 a barrel by 11:06 a.m. (1606 GMT) U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures fell 60 cents, or 1%, to $59.92.
This week, both benchmarks had climbed to the highest in more than a year.
“Price pullback thus far appears corrective and is slight within the context of this month’s major upside price acceleration,” said Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch and Associates.
Unusually cold weather in Texas and the Plains states curtailed up to 4 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude production and 21 billion cubic feet of natural gas, analysts estimated.
Texas refiners halted about a fifth of the nation’s oil processing amid power outages and severe cold.
Companies were expected to prepare for production restarts on Friday as electric power and water services slowly resume, sources said.
“While much of the selling relates to a gradual resumption of power in the Gulf coast region ahead of a significant temperature warmup, the magnitude of this week’s loss of supply may require further discounting given much uncertainty regarding the extent and possible duration of lost output,” Ritterbusch said.
Oil fell despite a surprise drop in U.S. crude stockpiles in the week to Feb. 12, before the big freeze. Inventories fell by 7.3 million barrels to 461.8 million barrels, their lowest since March, the Energy Information Administration reported on Thursday. [EIA/S]
The United States on Thursday said it was ready to talk to Iran about returning to a 2015 agreement that aimed to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Still, analysts did not expect near-term reversal of sanctions on Iran that were imposed by the previous U.S. administration.
“This breakthrough increases the probability that we may see Iran returning to the oil market soon, although there is much to be discussed and a new deal will not be a carbon-copy of the 2015 nuclear deal,” said StoneX analyst Kevin Solomon.
(Additional reporting by Ahmad Ghaddar in London and Roslan Khasawneh in Singapore and Sonali Paul in Melbourne; Editing by Jason Neely, David Goodman and David Gregorio)
Analysis: Carmakers wake up to new pecking order as chip crunch intensifies
By Douglas Busvine and Christoph Steitz
BERLIN (Reuters) – The semiconductor crunch that has battered the auto sector leaves carmakers with a stark choice: pay up, stock up or risk getting stuck on the sidelines as chipmakers focus on more lucrative business elsewhere.
Car manufacturers including Volkswagen, Ford and General Motors have cut output as the chip market was swept clean by makers of consumer electronics such as smartphones – the chip industry’s preferred customers because they buy more advanced, higher-margin chips.
The semiconductor shortage – over $800 worth of silicon is packed into a modern electric vehicle – has exposed the disconnect between an auto industry spoilt by decades of just-in-time deliveries and an electronics industry supply chain it can no longer bend to its will.
“The car sector has been used to the fact that the whole supply chain is centred around cars,” said McKinsey partner Ondrej Burkacky. “What has been overlooked is that semiconductor makers actually do have an alternative.”
Automakers are responding to the shortage by lobbying governments to subsidize the construction of more chip-making capacity.
In Germany, Volkswagen has pointed the finger at suppliers, saying it gave them timely warning last April – when much global car production was idled due to the coronavirus pandemic – that it expected demand to recover strongly in the second half of the year.
That complaint by the world’s No.2 volume carmaker cuts little ice with chipmakers, who say the auto industry is both quick to cancel orders in a slump and to demand investment in new production in a recovery.
“Last year we had to furlough staff and bear the cost of carrying idle capacity,” said a source at one European semiconductor maker, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“If the carmakers are asking us to invest in new capacity, can they please tell us who will pay for that idle capacity in the next downturn?”
The auto industry spends around $40 billion a year on chips – about a tenth of the global market. By comparison, Apple spends more on chips just to make its iPhones, Mirabaud tech analyst Neil Campling reckons.
Moreover, the chips used in cars tend to be basic products such as micro controllers made under contract at older foundries – hardly the leading-edge production technology in which chipmakers would be willing to invest.
“The suppliers are saying: ‘If we continue to produce this stuff there is nowhere else for it to go. Sony isn’t going to use it for a Playstation 5 or Apple for its next iPhone’,” said Asif Anwar at Strategy Analytics.
Chipmakers were surprised by the panicked reaction of the German car industry, which persuaded Economy Minister Peter Altmaier to write a letter in January to his counterpart in Taiwan to ask its semiconductor makers to supply more chips.
No extra supplies were forthcoming, with one German industry source joking that the Americans stood a better chance of getting more chips from Taiwan because they could at least park an aircraft carrier off the coast – referring to the ability of the United States to project power in Asia.
Closer to home, a source at another European chipmaker expressed disbelief at the poor understanding at one carmaker of how it operates.
“We got a call from one auto maker that was desperate for supply. They said: Why don’t you run a night shift to increase production?” this person said.
“What they didn’t understand is that we have been running a night shift since the beginning.”
NO QUICK FIX
While Infineon, the leading supplier of chips to the global auto industry, and Robert Bosch, the top ‘Tier 1’ parts supplier, both plan to commission new chip plants this year, there is little chance of supply shortages easing soon.
Specialist chipmakers like Infineon outsource some production of automotive chips to contract manufacturers led by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd (TSMC), but the Asian foundries are currently prioritising high-end electronics makers as they come up against capacity constraints.
Over the longer term, the relationship between chip makers and the car industry will become closer as electric vehicles are more widely adopted and features such as assisted and autonomous driving develop, requiring more advanced chips.
But, in the short term, there is no quick fix for the lack of chip supply: IHS Markit estimates that the time it takes to deliver a microcontroller has doubled to 26 weeks and shortages will only bottom out in March.
That puts the production of 1 million light vehicles at risk in the first quarter, says IHS Markit. European chip industry executives and analysts agree that supply will not catch up with demand until later in the year.
Chip shortages are having a “snowball effect” as auto makers idle some capacity to prioritize building profitable models, said Anwar at Strategy Analytics, who forecasts a drop in car production in Europe and North America of 5%-10% in 2021.
The head of Franco-Italian chipmaker STMicroelectronics, Jean-Marc Chery, forecasts capacity constraints will affect carmakers until mid-year.
“Up to the end of the second quarter, the industry will have to manage at the lean inventory level,” Chery told a recent Goldman Sachs conference.
(Douglas Busvine from Berlin and Christoph Steitz from Frankfurt; Additional reporting by Mathieu Rosemain and Gilles Gillaume in Paris; Editing by Susan Fenton)
Aussie and sterling hit multi-year highs on recovery bets
By Tommy Wilkes
LONDON (Reuters) – The Australian dollar rose to near a three-year high and the British pound scaled $1.40 for the first time since 2018 on optimism about economic rebounds in the two countries and after the U.S. dollar was knocked by disappointing jobs data.
The U.S. currency had been rising in recent days as a jump in Treasury yields on the back of the so-called reflation trade drew investors. But an unexpected increase in U.S. weekly jobless claims soured the economic outlook and sent the dollar lower overnight.
On Friday it traded down 0.3% against a basket of currencies, with the dollar index at 90.309.
The Aussie rose 0.8% to $0.784, its highest since March 2018. The currency, which is closely linked to commodity prices and the outlook for global growth, has been helped by a recent rally in commodity prices.
The New Zealand dollar also gained, and was not far off a more than two-year high, while the Canadian dollar rose too.
Sterling rose to $1.4009 on Friday, an almost three-year high amid Britain’s aggressive vaccination programme.
Given the size of Britain’s vital services sector, analysts say the faster it can reopen the economy, the better for the currency. Sterling was also helped by better-than-expected purchasing managers index flash survey data for February.
The U.S. dollar has been weighed down by a string of soft labour data, even as other indicators have shown resilience, and as President Joe Biden’s pandemic relief efforts take shape, including a proposed $1.9 trillion spending package.
Despite the recent rise in U.S. yields, many analysts think they won’t climb too much higher, limiting the benefit for the dollar.
“Our view remains that the Fed will hold the line and remain very cautious about tapering asset purchases. We think it will keep communicating that tightening is very far off, which should dampen pro-dollar sentiment,” said UBS Global Wealth Management strategist Gaétan Peroux and analyst Tilmann Kolb.
ING analysts said “the rise in rates will be self-regulating, meaning the dollar need not correct too much higher”.
They see the greenback index trading down to the 90.10 to 91.05 range.
The euro rose 0.4% to $1.2134. The single currency showed little reaction to purchasing manager index data, which showed a slowdown in business activity in February. However, factories had their busiest month in three years, buoying sentiment.
The dollar bought 105.39 yen, down 0.3% and a continued retreat from the five-month high of 106.225 reached Wednesday.
(Editing by Hugh Lawson and Pravin Char)
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