Top international headlines: Billionaires in the spotlight this week

Bill Gates divorce, Jeff Bezos selling Amazon shares and more making international headlines.

Pharmaceutical and tech saw profit surge thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, while space-aged wine is expected to fetch an eye-watering amount on auction. Meanwhile, the world watched a billionaire divorce with interest and kept an eye on the offloading of Amazon shares.

When billionaires divorce
Billionaire couple Bill and Melinda Gates have announced that they will be divorcing. The couple, who have been married for 27 years, have three children and an estimated worth of $146 billion (R2091.04 billion), according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Bill is the 65-year-old co-founder of Microsoft and is ranked as the world’s fourth richest person, while Melinda is known for her philanthropic work through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has distributed more than $50 billion (R716.11 billion).

The Gates’ portfolio comprises business and real estate holdings and extends to global health, climate change policy and social issues, including equality for women.

Pharma profits
American multinational Pfizer has raised its financial forecast for 2021, on the back of strong first quarter earnings, following a massive jump in Covid-19 vaccine sales and solid performance across most of the company.

They reported $3.46 billion (R49.55 billion) in first-quarter sales and now expect to rake in roughly $26 billion (R372.38 billion) over the year, up from their prior forecast of about $15 billion (R214.83 billion), reports AP.

A further boost to earnings lies in the expected US and EU approval of the vaccine to be given to 12- through 15-year-olds and continued testing in other patient groups, including pregnant women and children from six months to 11 years old.

Costly tipple
A bottle of French wine that has spent more than a year in orbit aboard the International Space Station is expected, by auction house Christie’s, to fetch as much as $1 million (R14.32 million).

According to AP, the Pétrus 2000 is one of 12 bottles sent into space in November 2019 by researchers exploring the potential for extra-terrestrial agriculture. The space-aged wine was “matured in a unique environment” of near zero-gravity aboard the space station for 14 months.

The earthly cost of the bottle of wine, prior to its space trip, was $10,000 (R143,322) a bottle.

Online payments rocket
American online payments system company PayPal reported its strongest first quarter on record, beating profit estimates, on the back of a pandemic-driven shift to online shopping and digital transactions.

PayPal processed a total of $285 billion (R4081.83 billion) in payments in the first quarter, up 50 percent from a year earlier, and added 14.5 million net new active customers, reports Reuters.

Bezos offloads Amazon shares
Billionaire Jeff Bezos sold about $2.5 billion (R35.81 billion) of Amazon.com stock, his first big disposal this year after offloading more than $10 billion (R142.5 billion) worth of shares in 2020, according to Bloomberg.

The American internet entrepreneur, industrialist, media proprietor, and investor sold around 739,000 shares this week under a pre-arranged trading plan, according to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

Bezos, who holds more than 10 percent of Amazon.com, plans to sell as many as two million shares, according to a separate filing.