These are the top news stories that captured public attention in 2021, a year in which there was no shortage of surprises and twists.
The year 2021 was an eventful one in the worlds of mainstream finance and business. It also saw the emerging crypto industry make inroads into mainstream finance, along with sister sectors, including blockchain, NFT, and Web3.
This year, there were several mergers and acquisitions, executive step-downs and resignations, and revolutionary space explorations. There were also major corporation rebrandings, augmented reality and virtual reality milestones, and breakthroughs in the electric vehicle industry. In addition, some companies teetered on the verge of bankruptcy due to loan defaults, and Elon Musk named Times and Financial Times ‘Person of the Year.’
These are the most notably covered news stories for 2021.
S&P 500 Pips Nasdaq to Clinch the Battle of The Indexes
In 2021, the S&P 500 outperformed the tech-heavy NASDAQ Composite for the first time in five years. On December 28th, the former had registered a 28.42% gain throughout the year, while the latter grew only 22.81%. This posed an unusual case, given how the tech investors are known to drive the NASDAQ usually dominate Wall Street. However, the major decline in tech firms riding high from 2020 due to the Covid pandemic proved to adversely impact the NASDAQ.
A major reason for less dependence on tech-providing companies such as Zoom (NASDAQ: ZM) and Peloton (NASDAQ: PTON) was the advent of the Covid vaccines. This stoked assumptions that the pandemic was ending and normal life would resume, thereby reducing demand for tech solutions.
Monumental Progress in Commercial Space Flights
2021 saw the battle of the billionaires heat up in a race to be the first to commercially conquer space. Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Richard Branson all jockeyed and displayed remarkable proficiency at traveling to space with their respective aeronautics’ companies. On July 11th, Branson, alongside a small space flight contingent, reached space in a Virgin Galactic spacecraft. Branson referred to that moment as a lifelong dream, saying at the time:
“I have dreamt of this moment since I was a kid, and honestly nothing could prepare you for the view of Earth from space”.
With the success of the space expedition, the British business magnate expects to officially launch commercial space travel from next year.
New Apple iPhone & Other Apple Products
Apple Inc (NASDAQ: AAPL) unveiled the iPhone 13 this year, boasting a slew of physical and technological upgrades over its impressive predecessors. These include a much bigger storage capacity, a more sophisticated camera, and a larger screen size. In addition, due to Apple increasing the physical battery size of the iPhone 13, the device can now last substantially longer than the previous models.
Other new gadgets and products unveiled by the tech giant this year are a new Apple Watch Series 7 and iPads.
Facebook Rebrands Name to Meta
Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) rebranded its company name to ‘Meta’ in late 2021. According to the company’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the name change is to keep up with the emerging metaverse sector. The metaverse is a virtual world where people can exist and interact via augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). The metaverse exists parallel to real physical life but enables people to do much more and go further than real life.
Elon Musk: Person of the Year
Outspoken billionaire businessman and CEO of EV company Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA), Elon Musk, netted the prestigious ‘Person of the Year’ awards from Time Magazine and the Financial Times. Musk, who also leads space exploration venture company SpaceX, received the recognition for his revolutionary role in the electric vehicle industry.
As the world advocates for increased efforts in going ‘green,’ part of that focus is now on mainstream acceptance of electric vehicles. It is this global ubiquity of EVs due to less carbon footprint that Musk has been championing for a while now.
Wave of Departures: Jeff Bezos and Jack Dorsey ‘Executive-role’ Abdications
Amazon.com Inc (NASDAQ: AMZN) founder and billionaire businessman Jeff Bezos disclosed plans to step down as company CEO this year. Reports stated that Bezos’ official abdication would take place in the e-commerce giant’s third quarter. Although Bezos was ceding the responsibilities of CEO to his named successor Andy Jassy, he was not completely stepping away from the company. The Amazon founder would instead assume the role of executive chairman of the Amazon board.
Twitter Inc (NYSE: TWTR) co-founder Jack Dorsey also announced that he was leaving his role as CEO of the social media platform. Dorsey, who also leads payment platform Square (now controversially called Block), said that Twitter was ready to move on under new leadership.
Following his resignation, speculations were rife that Dorsey would now have more time on his hands to focus on crypto. The billionaire is a long-avowed devotee of Bitcoin (BTC).
Social news company Reddit Inc confidentially filed for an initial public offering (IPO) with the securities and exchange commission (SEC). The company submitted a draft registration statement but did not reveal any other telling information on the development. Reportedly valued at more than $10 billion as a privately-held firm, Reddit also appointed a new CFO in Andrew Vollero this year.
China Evergrande Crisis
Chinese real estate giant China Evergrande Group (HKG: 3333) struggled under a massive $300 billion pile of debt in the last quarter of 2021. This sent shockwaves throughout most of the capital markets across the world. In addition, the embattled firm was also staring down massive loan defaults on several fronts.
Owing to this, China Evergrande finally received a default rating from S&P Global several days ago. The implication of this ‘selective default rating’ does not augur well for the property developer. However, it seems to be a brutally honest assessment of the current situation. Among other things, the firm is also in the process of restructuring its loan repayment agenda. This also implies that its biggest creditors will get their funds back later, whenever Evergrande can do so.
Grab IPO Underperforms on US Debut
The IPO of Grab, a Southeast Asian tech and ride-hailing platform, slumped 20% on its NASDAQ IPO debut. This followed the heels of a monumental SPAC merger – the largest ever. GRAB closed at $8.75 per share on its debut after initially opening on Thursday at $13.06.
Grab raised $4.5 billion via IPO – after merging with Altimeter Capital’s Altimeter Growth Corp. Furthermore, the IPO initiative also attracted a valuation of about $40 billion.
Alphabet Had a Winningest Year in Tech Stocks
American multinational technology company Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ: GOOGL) recorded the best growth performance across all FAANG stocks. The criterion was on a year-to-date basis and saw the firm conclude Wednesday’s trading session with a 0.36% gain. This translated to an additional $10.36 in share price, which stood at $2,904.31.
So far this year, Alphabet’s stock has rallied by approximately 70% and lifted the company’s market cap to $2 trillion. Apart from being the best Big Tech stock performance, it is also Alphabet’s largest annual gain since 2009.