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Greenville Business Magazine

The Business Narrative: Threat to Suspend Business

Sep 26, 2022 09:04AM ● By David Dykes

SC Treasurer Stands With Israel, Threatens to Suspend Business With Morningstar

State Treasurer Curtis Loftis recently informed Morningstar that his office would not participate in the annual review and rating process for the state's 529 plan due to concerning reports that the firm's subsidiary, Sustainalytics, is negatively rating companies connected to Israel.

"Our state does not support businesses that are involved in the boycott, divestment, or sanctions of Israel. As such, we are unwilling to do business with Morningstar until we can be assured their decisions are based on sound financial data and investment policies, and not a radical agenda that has nothing to do with my fiduciary responsibility to maximize returns at a prudent level of risk for the benefit of our citizens," Loftis said. 

Last month, Treasurer Loftis joined 17 state treasurers and auditors in asking that Morningstar take corrective action to terminate all research and ratings products that treat Israel-connected companies differently than other firms operating in a free democracy.

Additionally, 19 state attorneys general also expressed concerns regarding Sustainalytics and asked Morningstar for a response to the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) issues raised in their Aug. 23 letter.

If Morningstar fails to provide proof that their business follows the South Carolina law that prohibits a business from "the boycott of a person or an entity based in or doing business with a jurisdiction with who South Carolina can enjoy open trade," the Treasurer's Office said it will terminate use of Morningstar products and services.

"The state constitution and code of laws make it clear that my responsibility is to the citizens of South Carolina, not to politically and financially motivated special interests. Elected officials from many states and both parties feel the same way, and it is time we begin a national conversation about resisting the powerful influences arrayed against the interests of our citizens," Loftis said.

South Carolina's 529 plan is sponsored by the state and administered by the State Treasurer's Office.

During Treasurer Loftis' term, the plan's diverse leadership team has grown assets to more than $5.2 billion with 214,000 accountholders.

The Jewish News Syndicate reported Morningstar has said repeatedly through statements that it “does not support the anti-Israel BDS campaign” and hired an outside law firm to review its practices under pressure from the Illinois Investment Policy Board.

The independent review commissioned by Morningstar “found neither pervasive nor systemic bias against Israel” by Sustainalytics, though it did make 40 recommendations to eliminate the potential for anti-Israel bias at the company, JNS reported.

SpareBox Storage Strengthens Balance Sheet With $462 Million Refinance with Bank of America

SpareBox Storage, the unmanned operator in the self-storage industry, said it successfully strengthened its balance sheet with a $462.5 million refinancing with Bank of America.

SpareBox is one of the fastest growing self-storage companies participating in the consolidation of the fragmented sector, and in just over two years, has acquired 7.4 million square feet of storage assets across nine states and 21 markets.

The company is a joint venture between investment funds advised by Davidson Kempner Capital Management LP and Rizk Ventures. 

SpareBox’s 108-store portfolio is comprised of stores in fast growing markets across nine states: Texas, Michigan, Ohio, Arkansas, Oklahoma, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida and Georgia.

SpareBox leverages a proprietary platform for contactless rentals and 24/7 customer service availability. 

According to the company, self-storage demand is growing faster than population or job growth, driven by two durable demographic trends: (1) the accumulation of wealth and the growth of families among millennials and (2) the residential downsizing of the baby boomers.

Agape Care Appoints Alex Ferguson as Senior Vice President of Mergers, Acquisitions

Agape Care Group, a portfolio company of Ridgemont Equity Partners and a leading hospice and palliative care provider in the Southeast, said Alex Ferguson will become the senior vice president of mergers and acquisitions.

In the post, Ferguson will assess and prioritize M&A opportunities to match the company’s growth trajectory and vision for expansion.

Company officials said his 14 years of experience leading business development and knowledge of how to successfully integrate organizations will add great value to Agape Care’s strategic growth plan.

Since 2004, Ferguson has built his career in corporate development with a focus supporting founders and entrepreneurs to create, grow, and realize value for their businesses.

He previously led corporate development and strategic initiatives for Guardian Pharmacy, a leading long-term care pharmacy provider, and adds experience in venture capital from his time with CHMG Capital.

He graduated with honors from the University of Georgia with a bachelor’s degree in science in microbiology before earning an MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua College of Business.

Agape Care Group serves 3,600 patients across South Carolina, Georgia and North Carolina.

Breezeline Employees Plant Trees in Eight States in Support of Environment, Local Communities

More than 200 Breezeline employees, family members and community partners volunteered their time to plant more than 100 trees at 15 locations in eight states, including South Carolina, where Breezeline provides internet, TV and phone services.

Inspired by the theme "Planting Roots in Our Communities," Breezeline employees planted trees at multiple locations in Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Virginia.

Company officials said the tree planting activities further the company’s commitment to the environment, while helping to beautify local communities with all of the benefits trees provide.

Breezeline partnered with Aiken Parks, Recreation and Tourism for plantings at Virginia Acres Park, Aiken, S.C.

Trees were sourced from local nurseries, with species selected for adaptability with local climates, including Adams Nursery (Aiken, S.C.).

The company has set science-based emissions reduction targets to limit the impacts of climate change.

The commitment includes emissions from direct operations through fleet electrification and a commitment to reduce emissions from employee commuting. It also includes investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects across the company’s fiber-broadband network.

Cogeco US, operating as Breezeline, a subsidiary of Cogeco Communications Inc. (TSX: CCA), is the eighth-largest cable operator in the United States. 

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