Afternoon Coffee: Payments startup Affirm raises $500 million; Trump team agrees to deal for Oracle, Walmart, TikTok; YoY increase in import volumes in August

Affirm — an alternative payments startup — announced a $500 million investment last week, according to FinLedger. GIC and Durable Capital Partners, among others, led the investment.

Max Levchin, a PayPal co-founder, launched Affirm in 2012 as a replacement for credit cards. The mobile app offers installment loans to consumers at the point of sale. This latest investment brings the company’s total money raised to over $1.3 billion, according to the article.

“We’re excited about this vote of confidence from both new and existing investors as we advance our mission to build honest financial products that improve lives,” Levchin, Affirm's CEO, said in a written statement. “Alongside this new capital, our latest product is another step towards becoming as ubiquitous as credit cards,” he added.

Trump administration agrees to Oracle, Walmart and TikTok deal

President Donald Trump agreed to approve a deal between Oracle, Walmart and TikTok over U.S. operations of the China-based social media video app over the weekend, according to CNBC.

Oracle announced it was chosen for TikTok’s secure cloud provider and will hold a 12.5% stake in the business. TikTok confirmed Oracle’s role while saying it would work with Walmart on a commercial partnership. Walmart tentatively agreed to purchase a 7.5% stake with CEO Doug McMillon serving as one of five board members for the newly created company, the article said.

TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, will own the remaining 80% of the company. Since 40% of ByteDance is owned by U.S. venture capital firms, the Trump administration can claim TikTok Global is majority owned by U.S. money, appeasing its national security concerns. The U.S. Department of Commerce added that it would delay its prohibition of U.S. transactions with TikTok until next Sunday, according to the article.

“I have given the deal my blessing — if they get it done that’s great, if they don’t that’s OK too,” Trump told reporters on the White House South Lawn, the article said. “I approved the deal in concept.”

August sees YoY increase in import volumes at ports across the country

Ports across the U.S. experienced import volumes in August that were higher than the same month last year, indicating retailers are refilling inventory after decreasing procurement in the earliest stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Supply Chain Dive.

The high volume comes as retailers gear up for the holiday season. Overall, August volume at U.S. ports was up 5.9% year-over-year (YoY) while setting an all-time record for U.S. port volume by surpassing 2.7 million TEUs, the article said. Import volume at certain ports was extremely high — 18% YoY at the Port of Los Angeles, 13% YoY at Long Beach, almost 9% YoY in Oakland and less than 1% at the Port of Virginia.

"With all of this, a word of caution," Port of Los Angeles​ Executive Director Gene Seroka said in a press conference last week. "One month or even one quarter does not make a trend. Despite this import surge that we're seeing, the U.S. economy and global trade face significant challenges. Cargo volume remains down nearly 12% year on year through August; the trade imbalance has deepened with American exports continuing to struggle. In my view, our economy remains in a very precarious position."

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