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In recent weeks Verizon has raised a HuffPost sale with potential acquirers, according to two people familiar with the discussions. The attempt to sell the progressive news site is a sign of how Verizon is continuing to slim down the family of dotcom businesses it amassed with the costly acquisition of Yahoo and AOL, assets it wrote down by almost $5bn earlier this year.
(Bloomberg) -- Online mattress retailer Casper Sleep Inc. is working with Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. on a U.S. initial public offering, according to people with knowledge of the matter.The New York-based company could go public as soon as this year or the first half of 2020, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private.Casper, which sells and delivers mattresses directly to consumers, reached a $1.1 billion valuation this year in its most recent private funding round. Target Corp., New Enterprise Associates and Dani Reiss, the chief executive officer of Canada Goose Holdings Inc., are among its investors.The company could attain a higher valuation in an IPO, one of the people said.Representatives for Casper, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs declined to comment.Despite poor performances by high-profile listings including Peloton Interactive Inc. and the collapse of WeWork’s IPO plans, many companies are still aiming to go public before end of the year.Casper, which has expanded its products to include bedding, pillows and bed frames, operates in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Germany, Switzerland and Austria. CEO Philip Krim said in March that the company’s next big international market would be Asia.The company also plans to open hundreds of physical stores. Part of its motive for going public is to raise capital for that expansion, one of the people said.(Updates with Casper’s response in fifth paragraph)To contact the reporters on this story: Crystal Tse in New York at firstname.lastname@example.org;Alistair Barr in San Francisco at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Liana Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org, ;Jillian Ward at email@example.com, Michael Hytha, Matthew MonksFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
On Thursday, Morgan Stanley released its Q3 results, its highest Q3 results in the last decade. Its stock reacted positively and opened at $44.39.
(Bloomberg) -- Johnson & Johnson is recalling one lot of its Johnson’s Baby Powder after tiny amounts of asbestos contamination were found in samples from a single bottle purchased online.J&J is voluntarily recalling the lot, 22318RB, which consists of 33,000 bottles, and is encouraging people who bought the product to discontinue use. The company said that it is working with the Food and Drug Administration, which tested the bottle, and has started an investigation into how and when the product was contaminated.FDA spokeswoman Gloria Sanchez-Contreras said the contaminated bottle contained chrysotile fibers, a type of asbestos. The FDA recommended that consumers stop using the lot immediately and contact J&J for a refund. Another lot of Johnson’s Baby Powder the FDA tested was negative for asbestos, the agency said in a statement.J&J shares fell 6.2% to $127.70 at the close in New York, the biggest drop since December 2018. The stock has been under pressure as investors try to ascertain the company’s potential liabilities in a series of lawsuits related to talc and other products.“Thousands of tests over the past 40 years repeatedly confirm that our consumer talc products do not contain asbestos,” J&J said in a statement on Friday.J&J is looking into whether cross-contamination of the sample caused a false positive, whether the product was appropriately sealed and maintained in a controlled environment, and whether the product was a counterfeit. Sanchez-Contreras said the FDA “stands by the quality of its testing and results and is not aware of any adverse events relating to exposure to the lot of affected products.” The FDA has tested about 50 cosmetic products for asbestos since 2018 and plans to release the full results by the end of this year, the agency said.During a brief call with investors on Friday, J&J global supply chain and women’s health executives said they had received the product’s test results the previous day and acted promptly to inform the public. The investigation could take 30 days or more, they said. The executives didn’t take questions from participants on the call.Legal ImplicationsChief Financial Officer Joseph Wolk said on a Tuesday conference call with investors that the company wouldn’t set aside any legal reserves for the more than 100,000 lawsuits it faces across its portfolio of drugs, consumer products and medical devices, saying it expects to fight and win many of the claims.“The management team here will look at what a reasonable outcome could be for all stakeholders involved,” Wolk said. “When products are safe, when they’re effective, we’re going to look to make sure that those products aren’t subject to what’s become unfortunately a big business model for plaintiff’s attorneys.”J&J has already settled some of the lawsuits in which plaintiffs claim they were given cancer by the talc-based personal care products, but 15,500 suits remain, according to a July filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.Company spokesman Ernie Knewitz declined to comment on the contamination beyond the news release and said he wouldn’t speculate on what the development means for the litigation.Baby Powder-related liabilities could eventually cost the company as much as $10 billion, according to Bloomberg Intelligence. Though the product accounts for only a small fraction of J&J’s annual revenue, it’s been a core brand for the company for more than a century.Longstanding ClaimsLawyers for women who blame their cancers on asbestos-tainted talc powder contend internal J&J documents indicated officials knew since the 1970s that powder mined in places such as Vermont and Italy contained trace amounts of asbestos, but failed to alert consumers or regulators. Asbestos is often found intertwined with talc.“Had J&J acted responsibly and removed Johnson’s Baby Powder from the market in the 1970s, they would have saved the lives of thousands of women who have died needlessly of ovarian cancer,” Leigh O’Dell, an Alabama lawyer who is leading the plaintiffs’ cases that have been consolidated before a federal judge in New Jersey for pretrial information exchanges, said on Friday.Mark Lanier, who persuaded a St. Louis jury last year to hit J&J with a $4.7 billion verdict on behalf of more than 20 women who said they developed ovarian cancer through long-term use of the company’s talc-based products, said he doesn’t expect this to be the last time that its talc will be found to contain asbestos.“This confirms thousands of tests” over the years that have uncovered asbestos in J&J’s Baby Powder, he said.Given that J&J’s lawyers made public statements this month that the company’s talc-based products were free of asbestos, the recall couldn’t come at worse time, said Nora Engstrom, a Stanford University law professor. The company has vowed for years that extensive testing showed no traces of asbestos, she noted.“The wisdom of J&J’s broad defense strategy for these talc cases clearly is now in doubt,” Engstrom said.J&J has refuted and, in many cases, appealed verdicts against it, citing conflicting evidence on whether talcum powder can cause cancer. In a statement provided to Time magazine after a new study’s publication, the company maintained that Baby Powder is safe.“We sympathize with anyone suffering from cancer, and we understand patients and their families are seeking answers. The facts are clear — Johnson’s Baby Powder is safe, does not contain asbestos nor does it cause cancer, as reflected in more than 40 years of scientific evidence,” the statement reads.J&J said in February that it had received subpoenas and inquiries related to its iconic baby-powder products from the U.S. Justice Department, the SEC and the top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Knewitz, the J&J spokesman, said at the time the company would cooperate with the inquiries.Bloomberg News reported in July that the Justice Department is pursuing a criminal investigation into whether J&J lied to the public about the possible cancer risks of its talc powder.(Updates with FDA testing in third paragraph)To contact the reporters on this story: Riley Griffin in New York at firstname.lastname@example.org;Jef Feeley in Wilmington, Delaware at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Crayton Harrison at firstname.lastname@example.org, Timothy Annett, Mark SchoifetFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
Analyst Christopher Eberle reiterated a "buy" rating and a price target of $161 on Microsoft stock. He predicts that Azure could grow 61.6% in Q1.
(Bloomberg) -- Mark Hurd, who was chief executive officer of three major technology companies including Oracle Corp., has died. He was 62.Most recently Hurd was co-CEO at Oracle with Safra Catz where he focused on sales, marketing and press and investor relations, while she ran finances and legal matters. Oracle announced on Sept. 11 that Hurd had begun a leave of absence for unspecified health-related reasons and that Catz and Oracle Chairman Larry Ellison would assume his responsibilities during his leave. The company didn’t disclose a cause of death Friday.“It is with a profound sense of sadness and loss that I tell everyone here at Oracle that Mark Hurd passed away early this morning,” Ellison wrote in an online post. “Mark was my close and irreplaceable friend, and trusted colleague. Oracle has lost a brilliant and beloved leader who personally touched the lives of so many of us during his decade at Oracle.”Hurd began his career in 1980 as a salesman for National Cash Register Corp. (now NCR), before rising in the ranks to the CEO post. In 2005, he was hired away as CEO by Hewlett-Packard Co., then the world’s biggest personal-computer maker. Hurd joined Oracle as a co-president in 2010, after resigning from HP following a sexual-harassment probe. While an internal investigation didn’t find a violation of the company’s sexual-harassment policy, it concluded that he violated company standards by filing inaccurate expense reports to conceal a personal relationship with a contractor.During his Oracle tenure, Hurd produced solid revenue and profits as the Redwood City, California-based company’s stock price hit a historic high in 2019. He was also a key driver in Oracle’s turn from an old model of licensing software toward the use of cloud computing, a burgeoning business dominated by rivals Amazon.com Inc. and Microsoft Corp.When he hired Hurd, Ellison said, “There is no executive in the IT world with more relevant experience than Mark.” Ellison described Hurd’s dismissal by HP as the “worst personnel decision since the idiots on the Apple board fired Steve Jobs.”Transformed SalesforceHurd reshaped Oracle’s salesforce. Beginning in 2013, he implemented a “specialist” model that made each member an expert in a single product category. In that year alone, he hired more than 4,000 people to implement his idea.He also created the “Class of” program that was designed to inject a startup feel into Oracle. College graduates were hired for a dedicated program that prepared them to become Oracle’s future sales leaders.In 2014, Hurd and Catz were named co-CEOs, while Ellison continued to serve as chairman of the board, orchestrate management changes and develop products as chief technology officer.Hurd was regarded as the most media-friendly of the trio, frequently serving as the public face of the company to outline its goals. At the time Hurd and Catz were named CEOs, Oracle’s central business was selling software designed to run on gear owned by the customer and charging a license fee. Hurd was among those inside Oracle who saw the company’s future in cloud computing -- which would let customers rent software and run their data on servers owned by vendors such as Oracle. He predicted in 2015 that by 2025 all enterprise data would be stored in the cloud and that 100% of software development and testing would run through it.Today, the company is much less ambitious in its cloud efforts, and has been making smaller promises. In June, Oracle said it would partner with Microsoft, a decades-long rival, to connect the two companies’ cloud services, so customers can use Oracle databases or applications tied to Microsoft’s Azure cloud. While Catz said Microsoft, the world’s largest software maker, wanted an alliance to give clients access to Oracle’s AI-driven databases, the move was a concession—signaling Oracle knew it could no longer go at it alone.It’s now Catz who will have to go it alone, at least for now. Some analysts expect the company will move to appoint a new partner soon. “It’s much more manageable to have two CEOs, so we would be surprised if Oracle goes back to one CEO going forward,” said John Barrett, an analyst at Morningstar Investment Service. “The larger question is how Oracle will go about searching for the co-CEO role and how quickly they can find a successor.”The succession will likely come from within the company’s deep bench. One option is Jeff Henley, Oracle’s vice chairman and former chief financial officer, according to Abby Adlerman, CEO of Boardspan, which provides software and services to address board governance. “I think from a succession planning perspective, they are in a much better place than most companies. They have a lot of options.” Ellison will likely stay close and in the long term, “it’s a matter of if Safra wants to go at it alone. It’s such a big company that there was a reason for the co-CEO role.”Ellison has mentioned Don Johnson, head of Oracle’s cloud infrastructure division, and Steve Miranda, head of Oracle’s applications unit, as possible partners to Catz in the future.Growth StrategyHurd led the charge to make Oracle one of the dominant cloud players, investing heavily in research and development and acquisitions, such as the $9.3 billion purchase of NetSuite Inc., sometimes called the first cloud company, in 2016. Oracle also bought Eloqua Inc., a marketing software company, and Taleo Corp., which makes talent-management.He secured significant deals with AT&T Inc., Bank of America Corp., and Qantas Airlines to transfer their existing databases to the cloud through Oracle. By late 2019, Oracle served more than 420,000 customers in 195 countries and territories, he said.Hurd had gone on a similar acquisition binge at HP, managing about $24 billion in deals, including buying Electronic Data Systems (EDS), as part of a larger plan to diversify the computer maker.He was also a drastic cost cutter who was responsible for firing thousands of workers when he first took over as HP’s CEO and laying off thousands more after the $13.9 billion purchase in 2008 of a struggling EDS, a move many investors disliked.Still, under Hurd’s tenure, HP increased profits for 22 straight quarters, while its revenue rose about 60% and its stock price doubled, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. He also helped HP surpass International Business Machines Corp. as the largest computer maker by sales.There were some dark moments at HP too. In 2006, it was disclosed that Hurd had helped launch an investigation into internal leaks from the company’s board. Outside security consultants conducted surveillance on a journalist and HP board member, and used a subterfuge to acquire phone and fax records for HP employees, board members and journalists. The California attorney general’s office opened a criminal probe into possible privacy violations, and HP’s chairwoman at the time, Patricia Dunn, resigned her post when the scandal broke.For his part, Hurd defended the need to investigate company leakers, but claimed he didn’t know about the investigators’ tawdry tactics because he’d ducked out of a briefing on the investigation and, several months later, ignored a verbal and written summary of the leak probe.After Hurd was ousted following the sexual harassment probe in 2010, HP discontinued making smartphones and its tablet computer. Eventually it split into two companies, one focused on personal computers and printers and the other on software and services.Top CEODespite navigating several scandals, Hurd was lauded by the industry. In 2007, he was named one of Fortune magazine’s 25 most powerful business leaders. In 2008, the San Francisco Chronicle named Hurd CEO of the Year.“Saddened by the loss of Mark Hurd,” wrote Bill McDermott, who stepped down as CEO of SAP SE this month, on Twitter. “He was a self-made success in the industry & presided over mega accomplishments. While we competed vigorously in the market, we enjoyed professional respect. My heartfelt prayers are with Mark’s family on this solemn day.”Mark Vincent Hurd was born on Jan. 1, 1957, in New York and lived on the affluent Upper East Side of Manhattan. His Yale-educated father was a financier who moved the family to Miami while Hurd was in high school. His mother was a debutante.Hurd received a tennis scholarship to Baylor University in Waco, Texas, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1979.He was hired in 1980 as a junior sales person by National Cash Register in San Antonio. He eventually became president, chief operating officer and CEO of the maker of automatic teller machines and cash registers.Based on his NCR record, HP hired him in 2005 as its CEO and added the chairman title the following year.“Mark just blew everybody else out of the water,” said Tom Perkins, a former HP executive who interviewed Hurd for the CEO job.Hurd served on a number of corporate boards and was a Baylor University trustee since 2014.He was married to the former Paula Kalupa in 1990. They had two daughters, Kathryn and Kelly.(Updates with comments from analyst in 12th paragraph)\--With assistance from Nico Grant, Peter Waldman and Candy Cheng.To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Oster in New York at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Jillian Ward at firstname.lastname@example.org, Andrew Pollack, Molly SchuetzFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average Index lost close to 260 points or 0.95% today. Boeing stock (BA) fell 6.73%, the biggest loss in the Dow today.
(Bloomberg) -- Oil posted a weekly loss amid concerns over a slowing global economy and abundant crude supplies.Futures in New York fell 1.7% this week. China reported the slowest pace of economic growth since the early 1990s last quarter, and U.S. government data a day earlier showed American crude inventories expanding.“The oil market continue to be incredibly focused on demand and we continue to see indications of ‘luke warm’ oil at best,” said Leo Mariani, energy analyst at Keybanc Capital Markets in Dallas. “We’ve seen a lot of business investment freeze up and that has impacted oil investments.”U.S. crude inventories rose by 9.3 million barrels in the week through Oct. 11, according to data from the Energy Information Administration, surpassing analyst estimates of a 3 million-barrel increase.“The reality is that crude markets are still struggling with prospect of substantial surplus in next year, which is expected but is very much in line with what growth data is highlighting,” said Daniel Ghali, commodity strategist at TD Bank in Toronto. “There’s starting to be a worry out there on how much OPEC can do to offset it.”WTI for November delivery fell 15 cents to settle at $53.78 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.Brent crude for December settlement lost 49 cents to end the session at $59.42 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe. The global benchmark fell 1.8% this week and was at a premium of $5.55 to WTI for the same month.China’s gross domestic product trailed estimates and added to a deteriorating global demand outlook for crude. With a drop-off in exports to the U.S. expected to continue due to the trade war, the Chinese economy is likely to keep struggling as deflationary pressures hit company profits.“The demand outlook is a question mark since the overnight data out of China wasn’t great,” John Kilduff, partner at hedge fund Again Capital LLC in New York, said in a telephone interview. “The slowness in GDP didn’t help things and the market is still battling that.”To contact the reporter on this story: Jacquelyn Melinek in New York at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: David Marino at firstname.lastname@example.org, Mike Jeffers, Christine BuurmaFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- U.S. lawmakers from both parties slammed Apple Inc. and Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook on Friday for “censorship of apps” at the “behest of the Chinese government.”Senators Ted Cruz, Ron Wyden, Tom Cotton, Marco Rubio and Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Mike Gallagher and Tom Malinowski expressed concern about the removal of an app that let Hong Kong protesters track police movement in the city.“Apple’s decisions last week to accommodate the Chinese government by taking down HKmaps is deeply concerning,” they wrote in a letter to Cook, urging Apple to “reverse course, to demonstrate that Apple puts values above market access, and to stand with the brave men and women fighting for basic rights and dignity in Hong Kong.” Apple didn’t respond to a request for comment on Friday.Apple removed the HKmap.live app from the App Store in China and Hong Hong earlier this month, saying it violated local laws. The company also said it received “credible information” from Hong Kong authorities indicating the software was being used “maliciously” to attack police. The decision, and the reasoning, was questioned widely.Cook, in a recent memo to Apple employees, said that “national and international debates will outlive us all, and, while important, they do not govern the facts.” On Thursday, the CEO met with China’s State Administration for Market Regulation head Xiao Yaqing in Beijing to discuss consumer-rights protection, boosting investment and business development in the country, according to a statement from the Chinese regulator.The Cupertino, California-based company isn’t the only one referenced in Friday’s letter. The lawmakers mentioned recent headlines involving the National Basketball Association and Activision Blizzard Inc., a video game company that suspended a professional game player for supporting the Hong Kong protests.“Cases like these raise real concern about whether Apple and other large U.S. corporate entities will bow to growing Chinese demands rather than lose access to more than a billion Chinese consumers,” the lawmakers wrote.They also slammed Apple for removing other apps, including VPN apps that helped Chinese people get around the government’s online censorship. The letter said Apple has “censored” at least 2,200 apps in China, citing data from non-profit organization GreatFire. Apple says on its website that it removed 634 apps in the second half of last year globally due to legal violations.The letter implied that Apple made the removal decisions to maintain its huge business in China and appease the government. Greater China was Apple’s third-largest region by revenue last year, generating more than $50 billion in revenue.Apple is one of the rare tech companies that operates in China, with rivals like Google and Facebook Inc. hardly operational in the market. China’s importance to Apple means the company has to balance its own values with following local laws.In the past, the company has pulled the Skype and New York Times apps from its App Store in China. More recently, it removed a Taiwanese flag emoji for users in Hong Kong and Macau and was criticized for sending some browsing data to China’s Tencent Holdings Ltd. as part of a privacy feature.To contact the reporters on this story: Mark Gurman in San Francisco at email@example.com;Ben Brody in Washington, D.C. at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tom Giles at email@example.com, Alistair Barr, Robin AjelloFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Mark Hurd was in his element at Indian Wells.The tennis tournament–more formally known as the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, California— provided him with the perfect backdrop to flex his passions: tennis and selling stuff. Hurd turned the event, which Oracle Corp. co-founder Larry Ellison bought in 2009, into a two-week database and software sales extravaganza. He could be seen strolling the grounds or at nearby hotels constantly schmoozing with customers and using his connections with tennis legends like Chris Evert and Rafael Nadal to win people over and help close a deal. Along the way, Hurd, Oracle’s co-CEO, would sneak in a hit–he had a big serve and liked to flaunt it–or check on the American college players he was mentoring and the young pros he was quietly helping with financial aid. For Hurd, business and pleasure were one and the same and almost always intermixed in his life.This is what I’ll remember most about Hurd, who passed away Friday morning after a protracted illness: he was a relentless hustler and loved the art of doing business more than just about any other executive I’ve ever run across. In a statement issued after Hurd’s death, Ellison pointed to his friend’s business acumen. “Oracle has lost a brilliant and beloved leader who personally touched the lives of so many of us during his decade at Oracle,” Ellison said. “All of us will miss Mark’s keen mind and rare ability to analyze, simplify and solve problems quickly.” Hurd arrived at Oracle in 2010 under tumultuous conditions. He’d resigned as CEO of Hewlett-Packard after being investigated by the company’s board for a relationship Hurd had with a marketing contractor. The board argued that Hurd had tried to cover up the relationship and misused his expense account, and Hurd argued that they were wrong and making much ado about nothing. The squabble was acrimonious enough to end Hurd’s time at HP, even though he had revived the company’s fortunes and turned it into a lean, mean maker of corporate technology products, printers and personal computers.At Oracle, Hurd applied his trademark skills at analyzing balance sheets and streamlining operations to try and improve the software maker’s bottom line. He could recite from memory the financial minutiae of every division and be blunt about what was working and what needed to be fixed. During his years at Oracle, the company’s share price more than doubled, and Hurd was a constant presence at the company’s events, sales meetings and customer sites. In many ways, he became the public face of Oracle, enjoying the limelight while Ellison made the occasional appearance and co-CEO Safra Catz preferred to operate in the background.Though Oracle remains the dominant database company, it still has much work to do to catch up in the booming market for cloud-based software and services. Oracle was late to the game modernizing its products. Hurd tried his best to paper over Oracle’s weaknesses through salesmanship and often succeeded. One of the biggest weaknesses throughout his career, though, was favoring bottom line performance over investing in research and development and revolutionary new products. Hurd often seemed to focus on the here and now, rather than plotting for what lay ahead. Oracle’s dual-CEO structure was unusual and not always to Hurd’s liking, as he reveled in controlling a business and overseeing all of its operations. He took on sales, marketing and press and investor relations, and Catz handled finances and legal. Last month Oracle said that Hurd was taking a leave of absence for an unspecified illness and that Ellison and Catz would assume his responsibilities. Ellison has said that Catz will stay in place and that he would like to keep the two-CEO structure. He cited Don Johnson, head of Oracle’s cloud infrastructure division, and Steve Miranda, head of Oracle’s applications unit, as possible partners to Catz in the future.What’s clear is that Hurd will not be easy to replace. On a personal note, he shared a tight bond with Ellison around tennis. The two men have been pumping money into American tournaments and players for years, hoping to spark a revival of U.S. male pros. And, when Hurd was at his lowest moment after the HP fiasco, it was Ellison who came to the rescue, championing Hurd in the press and offering him a high-profile gig at Oracle. These actions–along with massive annual pay packages-made Hurd very loyal to Ellison and left Hurd as eager as ever to prove Ellison right and his critics wrong.Not short on ego, Hurd saw business as a battlefield and perceived himself as a master general. On his worst days, he was short of temper and combative. But, on his best days–of which there seemed to be many–he was a numbers and strategy savant with a rare ability to inspire those under him to work incredibly hard. Hurd himself was a workaholic and considered Oracle’s performance as a reflection on his character. Very few people are as committed to their work or as passionate in their pursuit of it.Vance covered Hurd for 15 years in his roles as CEO of NCR, HP and Oracle and even played tennis with him once. To contact the author of this story: Ashlee Vance in Palo Alto at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Molly Schuetz at email@example.com, Robin AjelloFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
Let's dive into three tech stocks that we found using our Zacks Stock Screener that growth investors might want to consider buying during Q3 2019 earnings season...
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- The New Yorker and the Atlantic have never been known for their business coverage, so when both magazines published long articles about Amazon.com Inc. in their current issues it signaled that something is in the air. That something is antitrust.More precisely, what’s in the air is the question of what the government should do to rein in the tremendous power of the big four tech companies: Facebook Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Apple Inc. and Amazon.Once the province of think tanks and law reviews, this topic has become such a public concern that 48 of the 50 state attorneys general are conducting antitrust investigations, presidential hopefuls are calling for tech giants to be broken up, and general interest magazines like, well, the New Yorker and the Atlantic are asking whether the companies abuse their market power. In this particular case, the magazines are asking it about Amazon.The Atlantic article is by Franklin Foer, who has long raised concerns about Big Tech. Five years ago, for instance, he wrote a cover story for the New Republic titled “Amazon Must Be Stopped.” It focused on Amazon’s dominance over the book business.This time around, he is writing about the unbridled ambition of Amazon’s founder and chief executive officer Jeff Bezos. (The new article is “Jeff Bezos’s Master Plan.”) “Bezos’s ventures are by now so large and varied that it is difficult to truly comprehend the nature of his empire, much less the end point of his ambitions,” Foer writes. He then goes through a list. Bezos wants to conquer space with his company Blue Origin. Bezos’s ownership of the Washington Post makes him a significant media and political figure. Bezos’s brainchild, Amazon, “is the most awe-inspiring creation in the history of American business.” And so on.He also points out that while critics fear Amazon’s monopoly power, the company is loved by consumers. “A 2018 poll sponsored by Georgetown University and the Knight Foundation found that Amazon engendered greater confidence than virtually any other American institution,” he writes. I have no doubt that this is true; Amazon’s obsession with customer service instills tremendous loyalty among consumers. It’s no accident that over 100 million people now pay the company $119 a year to be Amazon Prime members. That loyalty is also one reason taking antitrust actions against Amazon would be much more difficult than going after Facebook or Google. I’ll get to some other reasons shortly.Charles Duhigg’s New Yorker article “Is Amazon Unstoppable?” is both smarter about Amazon and more pointed about its power. Duhigg captures its relentless culture, comparing it to a flywheel that never stops. He described Bezos’s efforts to ensure that Amazon never loses the feel of a scrappy startup. The phrase that came to mind as I was reading Duhigg’s article was Andy Grove’s famous dictum: “Only the paranoid survive.”Duhigg is also interested in what Amazon’s critics have to say. Amazon paid no federal taxes last year. Amazon's work culture can be difficult for women who have children. Amazon’s warehouse workers are sometimes fired after being injured on the job. Amazon doesn't effectively police the sale of counterfeit goods on its site. (In the article, Amazon’s representatives deny these allegations.)Then there’s the fact that Amazon both serves as a platform for companies wanting to sell things and sells things itself. In other words, it competes with the same companies it enables. According to Duhigg, Amazon has been known to track items that do well, and then make its own version of the same item — which it then sells at a discounted price. (Amazon denies this, too.) Margrethe Vestager, the European Union’s commissioner for competition, told Duhigg that the practice “deserves much more scrutiny.”The story’s killer anecdote, at least as it concerns antitrust, is about Birkenstock USA LP’s experience with Amazon. Although Birkenstock sold millions of dollars of shoes using the Amazon platform, it was constantly hearing customer complaints that the shoes were defective. Why? Because, according to Birkenstock, Amazon allowed counterfeits to be sold on the site. Not only would Amazon not take down the counterfeit goods, but it also wouldn’t even tell Birkenstock who was selling them.Amazon also had stocked a year’s worth of Birkenstock inventory, which terrified the company. “What if Amazon decides to start selling the shoes for 99 cents, or to give them away with Prime membership, or do a buy-one-get-one-free,” wondered Birkenstock’s chief executive officer, David Kahan. “We were powerless.”Kahan’s complaints went nowhere. So he pulled Birkenstocks off Amazon. What did Amazon do? It solicited Birkenstock retailers, offering to buy shoes directly from them. Today, if you search for Birkenstocks on Amazon you’ll be deluged with choices even though the company itself refuses to do business with Amazon. I found a pair of Arizona oiled leather sandals — listed on Birkenstock's website for $135 — marked down to $60 on Amazon. Is it the real thing, or is it a counterfeit?The hard question: What do you do about this kind of behavior? On one extreme is the Democratic presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren, who believes the most appropriate solution is to break up Amazon. At the other end of the spectrum, there are still plenty of antitrust economists who believe that if a $135 sandal is being sold for $60, that’s good for consumers. They argue that the government should just stay out of the way.I’m a proponent of breaking up Facebook, mainly because I believe if you force it to disgorge two of its prized platforms, Instagram and WhatsApp, you’ll instantly create serious competitors. That could help raise the bar on privacy, data usage and other concerns. But I’m not sure that would work with Amazon.For instance, if Amazon had to separate its highly profitable cloud service, Amazon Web Services, from its retail business the power dynamic between Amazon and the companies that use its platform would remain.What’s more, it’s harder to make a classic antitrust case against Amazon than it is against Facebook and Google. According to the research firm EMarketer Inc., Amazon is expected to account for 37.7% of all online commerce in 2019. By contrast, Google controls 89% of the search market.Still, for too many retailers, Amazon has the power to control their destiny, for good or ill. As the antitrust activist Lina Khan wrote in her now-famous 2017 article in the Yale Law Journal: “History suggests that allowing a single actor to set the terms of the marketplace, largely unchecked, can pose serious hazards.” I take that assessment to mean that government intervention at Amazon is needed.To my mind, the simplest and most sensible solution is from the economist Hal Singer: Don’t allow platform companies to favor their own products over competitors’ products. Singer calls this a “nondiscrimination regime,” and models it after the Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act, which prevents cable distributors from favoring their own content over content from competitors. In that scenario, a company that felt it was being discriminated against by Amazon could bring a complaint to federal regulators just as cable stations can do now. This regime has worked well for the TV industry. It could work for Amazon, too.Secondly, the government should hold Amazon accountable for counterfeits. Counterfeiting is against the law, and although Amazon told Duhigg that it spends “hundreds of millions of dollars” on anti-counterfeiting efforts it’s no secret that many deceptively labeled goods are still sold on the site. (See, for instance, this recent Wall Street Journal story.) Companies like Birkenstock have a right to expect that a platform selling its products will rigorously police counterfeits — and will identify counterfeiters so manufacturers of authentic goods can take legal action.These are solvable problems. They don’t require extreme measures. What they do require is a government with the will to transform Amazon’s platform from what it is now, a vehicle that squelches competition, to one that lets competition flower.(Corrects paragraph eight to accurately describe the year in which Amazon paid no federal taxes and to more accurately describe the experiences of women with children who work for the company. Also changes language in paragraph eight to more accurately describe how effectively Amazon combats the sale of counterfeit goods on its site. Also corrects paragraphs 12 and 13 to accurately reflect pricing disparities between sandals sold on Birkenstock's website and those sold on Amazon.)To contact the author of this story: Joe Nocera at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Timothy L. O'Brien at email@example.comThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Joe Nocera is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering business. He has written business columns for Esquire, GQ and the New York Times, and is the former editorial director of Fortune. His latest project is the Bloomberg-Wondery podcast "The Shrink Next Door."For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- As WeWork prepares to cut potentially thousands of jobs this month, executives keep heading for the exits. The situation has turned into an exodus, with at least six C-level executives and the vice chairman leaving since last month.Adam Kimmel, WeWork’s chief creative officer, is the latest to submit his resignation, according to two people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified discussing a personnel matter. Kimmel joined the company in 2017 after a long career as a fashion designer and took on projects such as designing the company’s San Francisco offices. WeWork parent We Co. didn’t immediately have a comment on the departure.WeWork attempted to go public last month, but the process quickly went awry after investors raised concerns about its business model and corporate governance. The chief executive officer stepped down; it pulled the initial public offering; and it’s now scrambling for cash to keep going. The company is weighing two potential bailout plans, including a $5 billion debt package led by JPMorgan Chase & Co. and an investment from SoftBank Group Corp. that could value We Co. at less than $8 billion, a dramatic fall from $47 billion in January.WeWork could cut about 2,000 jobs in the coming weeks, though the decisions haven’t been finalized. Meanwhile, the chaos has been heightened by the parade of executive departures, including CEO Adam Neumann and his wife and Chief Brand and Impact Officer Rebekah Neumann last month, followed by the chief product officer, the top spokesman and the head of marketing.To contact the authors of this story: Ellen Huet in San Francisco at firstname.lastname@example.orgGillian Tan in New York at email@example.comTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Milian at firstname.lastname@example.org, Anne VanderMeyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Canada’s dollar is the best-performing major currency this year and the nation’s stocks are going strong. But now isn’t the time for investors to rest on their laurels. The upcoming federal election is the next big event to test the market’s resilience.With less than a week left to the Oct. 21 vote, Liberal Party Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is in a neck-and-neck race with Conservatives leader Andrew Scheer. While the most likely scenario is a government that doesn’t command an absolute majority in its own right, some strategists say that a minority administration led by Scheer could be better for the loonie in the near term than one under Trudeau.“Between a Liberal-led minority and a Conservative-led minority, we expect the first one to be more CAD-negative,” Francesco Pesole, a foreign-exchange strategist at ING Bank, said in an Oct. 17 report. “The balance of risks for the loonie appears tilted to the downside.”The loonie has been in the No. 1 spot among Group-of-10 currencies this year, rising almost 4% against the U.S. dollar amid a sound economy and a low unemployment rate. Canada’s benchmark equity index has rallied 15% in 2019, making it one of the top gainers among developed markets. It was little changed against the greenback Friday.A Conservative minority government would be better for market sentiment than a Liberal minority administration, according to Pesole. He said this is in part because it would likely exclude smaller parties that oppose more oil pipelines, a subject that has been a focus of political debate.A rebound in housing, solid economic growth and one of the strongest job markets in recent times has helped give Trudeau something positive to talk about during his campaign. While major central banks in other parts of the world have been cutting interest rates, the Bank of Canada has been reluctant to do so thus far -- strengthening the Canadian dollar’s position as one of the highest yielders among G-10 currencies.Michael Hsueh, a currency strategist at Deutsche Bank AG, says a Trudeau-led minority government could be negative for the Canadian dollar given the reduced capacity to pass legislation. It could also potentially hinder growth in oil, a key industry for Canada, one of the world’s largest energy exporters.The Oil FactorStewardship of the energy industry has become a central issue of the elections. The Conservative Party has portrayed itself as a champion of the sector and has promised to remove regulations Trudeau implemented. The Liberals, meanwhile, are trying to strike a balance between developing Alberta’s energy resources and making Canada a leader in combating climate change.From Binge to Bust: Canadian Oil Town Lines Up at the Food BankThe loonie, often seen as a petrocurrency, has benefited from the nation’s massive oil exports. Still, bringing more oil reserves to market has divided Canadians -- with two pipelines being scrapped on Trudeau’s watch.Foreign-exchange strategists are concerned that a Trudeau-led government, propped up by other left-leaning parties, could be an obstacle in passing legislation favorable to business leaders and the country’s energy sector.A Liberal minority government is “likely to push for more regulation and rules on capital inflows into Canada,” which could be negative for the Canadian dollar, Mark McCormick, global head of currency strategy at Toronto-based TD Securities, said in an email.Stock MarketWhile Canadian politics rarely play a significant role in the nation’s equity market, a minority government could be positive for stocks, according to Brian Belski, chief investment strategist at BMO Capital Markets.“Although on average the market has posted relatively strong performance post federal elections, there appears to be little to no performance preference around the outcome,” he said in a September report. “The only potentially meaningful outcome appears to be a minority government versus a majority government.”Since 1935, Canadian stocks have returned on average 12% in the 12 months after the election of a minority government, compared with 8% in the year following a majority victory, according to Belski’s research.For others, volatility is the name of the game. Stripping out the global rout in 2008, National Bank Financial’s Warren Lovely said that Canadian stocks had a “mixed/choppy” performance after a minority government was formed from 2004 to 2011.“In terms of capital markets, the formation of a minority government creates greater potential uncertainty – especially if a coalition government is the end result,” Credit Suisse’s equity analyst Andrew Kuske said in an Oct. 8 report.Still, election-related market moves might be short-lived this month with both the Bank of Canada and the Federal Reserve reporting their monetary policy decisions on Oct. 30. Futures traders are pricing in almost no probability of a rate cut at the BOC meeting, while a quarter point reduction from the Fed is seen as likely by the market. Canadian two-year yields on Wednesday climbed above their U.S. equivalents by the most since 2017 -- a good sign for loonie bulls.Trade deals will also have an impact on the Canadian dollar. The U.S. and China are still working to finalize their trade deal, which is likely to boost investors’ appetite for risk, a positive for the currency. And on Thursday, U.S. President Donald Trump’s economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on CNBC that he expects the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement to be approved in Congress before the American Thanksgiving holiday.(Adds loonie trading.)\--With assistance from Divya Balji and Kristine Owram.To contact the reporter on this story: Susanne Barton in New York at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Benjamin Purvis at firstname.lastname@example.org, Divya Balji, Rita NazarethFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- European banks are now collectively worth less than Apple Inc.The 36 lenders in the Bloomberg Europe 500 Banks Index -- with $28 trillion in assets and employing more than 2 million people -- have slipped below the market value of tech giants like Apple and Microsoft Inc. Andreas Treichl, chairman of Austrian lender Erste Group Bank AG, said Friday that the sobering milestone “tells a story” about the lagging fortunes of his industry.European banks have limped along for years since the financial crisis, battling record-low interest rates and losing share to U.S. rivals in global businesses. Treichl chalked up some of the difficulties to European policy makers being unable to come up with common rules that would enable development of debt markets and allow banks to securitize more loans.“Europe will be at a constant disadvantage vis-a-vis the U.S. and other parts of the world that are working on developing their capital markets faster than we do in Europe,” Treichl said Friday on a panel at a conference hosted by the Institute of International Finance in Washington.The firms in the banking index were worth $1 trillion more than Apple as recently as 2014. Treichl noted one area that gives European banks a chance to catch up against international rivals: funding efforts to fight climate change.“Europe still has a great chance to make it – particularly on the field of environment and sustainability,” he said. “My guess is the chance is substantially higher than 50% that we’re gonna screw it up.”To contact the reporter on this story: Michelle F. Davis in New York at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael J. Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org, Steve DicksonFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Software companies fell on Friday, extending recent losses after results from Atlassian Corp. topped analyst forecasts yet failed to provide enough upside to assuage concerns over the group’s valuation.Atlassian shares dropped as much as 11% to their lowest level since May. The stock was on track for its third straight decline, as was Veeva Systems Inc., off 5.4%, and ServiceNow Inc., down 3.8%, which reports its own results next week. Coupa Software Inc. sank 8.4% in its fourth straight drop, a period over which it has shed more than 20% of its valuation. Twilio Inc. was down 4.5%. Alteryx Inc. was down 7.2% and Crowdstrike Holdings Inc. dropped 7.3%, heading for the eighth decline in the past nine sessions.A basket of high-multiple software stocks tracked by Goldman Sachs fell 5.7% in its fifth straight decline, hitting its lowest since March, while the Russell Midcap Technology Growth Index was down 2.2%.“When investors have lost conviction, it usually means the best strategy is to stay conservative until the coast is at least somewhat clear,” wrote Richard Davis, an analyst at Canaccord Genuity. “We are in that time in the cycle.”Davis has a buy rating on Atlassian, writing that it “fits the description of a safe harbor company.” However, he said the stock has a “high-ish valuation” and suggested that multiples could be hard to justify. “In this macro environment,” he wrote, “if anyone expected an over-sized guide up, they haven’t been paying attention.”Recent weakness in the sector included both Workday Inc. and Zoom Video Communications Inc. tumbling in the wake of their respective investor events, which underlined growth concerns.Atlassian’s results included a raised full-year revenue forecast, and Cowen wrote that this could ease broader concerns over the sector.This “was one of the more anticipated prints in software as a result of emerging macro concerns in the space and it being one of the first to report,” analyst J. Derrick Wood wrote. The “solid numbers & outlook, along with constructive commentary on stable demand conditions, should give investors greater comfort in the potential for stability in software spending.”To contact the reporter on this story: Ryan Vlastelica in New York at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Catherine Larkin at firstname.lastname@example.org, Jim SilverFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
Microsoft (MSFT) partners Nuance Communications (NUAN) to deliver robust conversational AI and ambient intelligence technologies to transform doctor-patient interaction.
The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Johnson & Johnson, Boeing, Pfizer, Qualcomm and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial
Oct.18 -- JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon says Libra was a "neat idea" that will never happen. Dimon participates in a panel at an IFF conference in Washington.