Oct 29, 2019

Big companies are looking to insulate themselves from recession

Jamie Dimon. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon is considering selling off the company's Manhattan headquarters and cutting or relocating employees to U.S. cities that boast cheaper costs and better tax benefits.

What's happening: It's part of a plan to insulate the company from a looming economic downturn, Bloomberg reported Monday, citing anonymous sources.

  • "JPMorgan is tightening its belt more than in previous years amid a growing number of potential pitfalls for the economy," Bloomberg's Michelle Davis writes.
  • "Cost cuts were the focus of a town-hall meeting with finance employees earlier this year that marked Jennifer Piepszak’s first as chief financial officer, a person with knowledge of the matter said."

Why it matters: JPMorgan is the latest company, and one of the largest, reported to be making serious efforts to roll back spending as fears of a global recession or a large-scale downturn scare more U.S. companies into being prudent.

  • More companies are using excess capital to reduce debt and add to cash reserves, rather than levering up and making risky bets as they have in the past.
  • These moves could help cushion the economy from another damaging recession.

To wit: IAC, the $19 billion company that owns 80% of online dating behemoth Match Group and a slew of other online properties, has increased its cash balances to the highest level in 15 years. CFO Glenn Schiffman tells Axios the company has built up its cash position to $2.7 billion in anticipation of a downturn.

  • "It's incontrovertible that global growth is slowing," Schiffman says, noting that there are a number of indicators that suggest "the economy may be feeling some friction and may be about to turn over."
  • Some of those factors, like slowing M&A activity globally and a tighter market for IPOs, venture capital and private equity, are providing some opportunities for the company when it comes to potential acquisitions, he adds.

The bottom line: The kind of profligate spending that was prominent ahead of the global financial crisis has been pared back significantly in recent months, with companies preparing for the economy to slow, Bernard Baumohl, chief global economist at the Economic Outlook Group, told Axios in August.

Editor's note: This piece reflects IAC's correction of its stated cash balance, which is $2.7 billion.

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