(Bloomberg) -- Bloomberg is hosting The Year Ahead Summit in New York, featuring top thinkers in technology, finance and health care, among other industries, for wide-ranging discussions on their vision of what 2020 has in store. Among key speakers were Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook Inc., who said next year’s presidential election in the U.S. will be a “massive test” for the social networking giant. Other participants included Jonathan Nelson, head of Providence Equity Partners, who said he already knows who will win the so-called streaming wars: Netflix Inc. and Walt Disney Co.
For the day’s agenda, see here. Here are the latest comments:
Cannabis Firm Is ‘Lobbying Very Hard’ to Get Pot Fully Legalized (4:15 p.m.)
It will take five years or more for the U.S. federal government to fully legalize cannabis, said Joe Lusardi, chief executive officer of Curaleaf Holdings Inc., the largest U.S. pot company by market value.
“We’re lobbying very hard,” Lusardi said. “The conflict between state and federal law has to be resolved.”
He’s more optimistic about other pieces of pro-cannabis legislation, including the SAFE Banking Act, which recently passed the House and would allow banks to do business with legal cannabis companies.
Lusardi said regulation is essential to prevent problems like the vaping health crisis that’s sickened more than 2,000 and killed 39 in the U.S. Regulators have said the outbreak appears to be linked to the use of black-market products containing THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
“Our biggest competitor is the black market, it’s the drug dealer,” he said. “You have to put it in that context to understand why we’re trying to lead a world where cannabis is accepted, regulated and safe.”
The Future of DNA Testing Is In Making People Healthier (3:55 p.m.)
Today’s consumer DNA tests are mainly a novelty, but in time they will become part of standard health care, Ancestry.com LLC Chief Executive Officer Margo Georgiadis said.
Just last month, the DNA testing giant unveiled its own entry into the growing and potentially lucrative field of genetic health screenings, putting it head-to-head with its biggest competitor, 23andMe, Inc.
But unlike 23andMe, which has received Food and Drug Administration approval for its tests, Ancestry’s tests must be ordered by a doctor.msg4
“We didn’t want to be another lab report provider,” Georgiadis said. “We needed to get people from the lab report to action.”
She said the company has focused on providing genetic testing results only for conditions that have treatments available. Ancestry does not, for example, provide genetic testing results for Alzheimer’s disease as some of its competitors do, since there is currently no way to prevent or cure it.
“What’s really going to advance this industry is how do we help get people to better health outcomes?” she said. “That’s where we are really adding value and solving problems.”
In the future, she said, DNA tests like Ancestry’s may become integrated into a patient’s care, helping them to take preventative steps in order to avoid developing conditions they may be at risk for and lead an overall healthier life.
“We can make this really over time standard of care,” she said.
Susan Rice Says Trump ‘Squandered the Goodwill’ of U.S. Allies (3:15 p.m.)
President Donald Trump’s administration has “squandered the goodwill” of U.S. allies by betraying their trust, even as it cozies up to rivals such as Russia and North Korea, said Susan Rice, former national security adviser to President Barack Obama.America’s ability to bring allies together in global coalitions to tackle challenges from the Ebola outbreak to the Syrian crisis is indispensable, but the Trump administration has effectively abandoned that role, she said.
“There is literally not a problem on the globe that we can tackle effectively purely through unilateral U.S. action,” said Rice. “We have elevated and lionized our adversaries and denigrated the men and women of the national security community in this country.”
Sarah Jessica Parker Said No to Mass-Market for Her Shoe Collection (2:30 p.m.)
Sarah Jessica Parker said she wants to be smart when expanding her shoe business because growth in retail these days is “riddled with fear and risk.” So she’s going to stay cautious.
Parker and George Malkemus, a former Manolo Blahnik executive, own and run shoe label SJP Collection. After her starring role as Carrie Bradshaw in “Sex and the City” forever linked Parker with a love of shoes, she was approached constantly with propositions to start a mass-market, made-in-China shoe line. But she turned everyone down because she wanted to do things differently.
“It felt, on principle, wrong,” said Parker. “My agents were like ‘What part of this is uninteresting to you?’”
Parker said she had no money for marketing, no money for PR and no money to gift people things when she started her shoe business. But what she did have was the ability to sit down with women and help them figure out what they want.
SJP Collection’s shoes are made in Italy and cost more than $300. It has two standalone stores in New York and has entered several international markets. In June, it launched an e-commerce business.
Gathering Data Is Key to Value-Based Pricing in Drug Industry (2:05 p.m.)
The future for Pfizer Inc. is focused on diseases like cancer and rare disease “where we believe we have the capability, both on the scientific and the commercial side, to create impact,” said Angela Hwang, president of the drugmaker’s biopharmaceuticals group.
In the debate over rising drug costs in the U.S., some advocate systems that would link the price of a treatment to its outcome for the patient -- so-called value-based pricing. Moving toward paying for value is important, Hwang said, but it faces challenges, starting with data availability.
“We haven’t collected that data, because that’s not how we pay for it today,” she said. “And maybe we should.”
Pfizer is also looking at using technology in a variety of areas, including diagnosing rare disease. Last month Pfizer and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. announced a partnership with Fitbit to focus on cardiovascular monitoring. Technology can be useful both in research and helping patients “live with their conditions in an easier way, to help them take their medicines in an easier way,” Hwang said.
Bigger Is Better for CVS Health (1:45 p.m.)
It’s been about a year since CVS Health Corp. completed its $68 billion acquisition of health insurer Aetna.
The combined company has a larger and more influential reach, including to address social conditions that have an outsize influence on one’s health, CEO Larry Merlo said. That includes access to fresh foods, transportation and housing, as well as meeting people locally, where they are, he said. That’s an advantage CVS Health has over health insurers, he said.
“We can engage consumers around their health. We can do that as part of their regular routines,” he said. “And when we do that, we know we’re going to reduce overall health care costs.”
Companies With Best AI Win in the Logistics Industry (12:30 p.m.)
XPO Logistics Inc. is using artificial intelligence and predictive analytics to cut e-commerce fulfillment times to less than half and has reduced how long it takes to put returned merchandise back into the supply chain to one day from five, Chief Executive Officer Brad Jacobs said. About a fifth of e-commerce goods are returned and XPO handles about 200 million returns a year for companies including Nike Inc.
“The companies that have the best technology, the best AI are the ones who win in this space,” Jacobs said.
Automation and technology are changing how warehouses operate. The company is partnering with Nestle to build a warehouse in Europe that’s about the size of 10 football fields and will handle 1 million pallets a year while employing only 30 people per shift, the CEO said. A decade ago is would have employed about 1,000, he said.
Blackstone Group Inc. has bought about 1 billion square feet of warehouse space around the world in the last decade as e-commerce has driven demand, said Kathleen McCarthy, global co-head of real estate for the private equity first.
“We see e-commerce as a really powerful driver in the change of how goods are delivered to the ultimate consumer -- whether that’s a human being or business,” McCarthy said. “We have just tried to follow that and lean into that trend as we see that shift happening.”
The challenge is that customers want warehouse space in densely populated areas where consumers live.
Spoiler Alert: Netflix and Disney Already Won the Streaming Wars (12:05 p.m.)
Jonathan Nelson knows a thing or two about streaming. He’s the chief executive officer of Providence Equity Partners, which was an early investor in the streaming service Hulu. As media and tech giants launch new online video channels, Nelson said he already knows who will win the so-called streaming wars: Netflix Inc. and Walt Disney Co.
As Netflix adds subscribers globally, it can afford more shows and movies, he said. “I can’t imagine them not being one of the winners,” Nelson said. Disney has “enormously valuable brands,” he said, adding that “I would put money on them, too.” Traditional media companies will struggle to compete because their new Silicon Valley rivals don’t need to turn a profit on their streaming services. “For Amazon, whatever they do in video could be considered a marketing experiment for Prime.”
Nelson said the big “wild card” in the media landscape will be what happens to the NFL’s broadcast rights when contracts with media companies are up in a few years -- and whether a tech giant like Amazon.com Inc. is able to snatch those rights away. “If you’re trying to figure out where streaming is going, the key point to watch out for is what happens to the NFL rights,” he said. “Where it goes will be very interesting.”
Take On Less Risk Than Normal, Oaktree Capital co-Founder Advises (11:30 a.m.)
Howard Marks, the co-founder and chairman of Oaktree Capital Group LLC, said now is not a time for investors to be aggressive. They should take on less risk than normal given where trends in the credit market have gone.A large amount of capital has flowed into the alternative markets where participants are putting money into risky assets “because they think they have to,” Marks said. The biggest challenge investors face is deciding how to get a “decent return in a low return world” without taking an abnormal amount of risk.
The Los Angeles-based investment giant has thrived most in times of economic stress. The firm is one of the largest distressed-debt investors in the world with about $20 billion committed to troubled issuers. Marks agreed in March to sell a 62% stake in Oaktree to Brookfield Asset Management Inc., but he’ll still run Oaktree’s operations.After over a decade of economic expansion,“you can’t say we’re at the beginning” of the cycle, Marks said. In a low interest-rate environment, investors are pursuing risk assets and alternative assets “aggressively,” he said. Marks doesn’t characterize this phase as a bubble, but rather “advanced stages” of the economic cycle.In the markets, ultra-low interest rates below zero have warped calculations. “It makes sense that companies have taken on more debt because it’s so cheap,” he said. Marks notes that the more debt a company has, the less likely it is to get through a period of economic difficulty. “But in the meantime you’ve seen a lot of levering up.”
Malls are More Resilient Than People Think, Simon Property’s Chief Says (11:05 a.m.)
The situation with Sears is “sad and tragic,” Simon Property Group CEO David Simon said, but his company’s properties will get a boost from being able to use the space.
The company will get to use real estate from old Sears stores to diversify its malls, adding eateries and health and wellness offerings, Simon said. In the Boston area, Simon Property took a former Sears and leased the space to Life Time Fitness and brought in restaurants around it.
About the American Dream Mall, the massive new retail and entertainment property across the river from Manhattan in New Jersey, Simon said his firm passed on a chance to buy the property back in 2007, when a former owner ran into financial trouble.
In general, the mall business is more resilient than most people think, Simon said. Even thought consumers have changed, well-located malls that adapt to changing tastes have done well. The company’s biggest challenge for the year ahead is reclaiming under-performing real estate and using it to improve the mall-going experience.
And the biggest complaint about malls from consumers? Parking, according to Simon.
TPG Is Investing ‘Aggressively‘ in Subscription Businesses (9:40 a.m.)
Jim Coulter, the billionaire co-founder of TPG, said the private equity firm is investing in subscriptions business that drive consumers’ purchases in everything from food to clothing -- despite his view that there will eventually be a backlash to the model.
“We are investing in it very aggressively,” Coulter said.
TPG has invested in music-streaming service Spotify Technology SA and makeup service Ipsy. While Coulter expects the sector’s growth will remain robust, he cautioned that there will be a pushback against subscriptions.
“In a world where four out of every 10 Americans are challenged to come up with $400 for a medical emergency, 61% of people are paying massive amounts more per month for subscriptions than they expect,” he said.
Facebook’s Sandberg Says Election is ‘Highest Priority’ (9:30 a.m.)
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg reiterated the importance of the 2020 election in the U.S., calling it a “massive test” for the social networking giant.
“This is the highest priority for the next year,” Sandberg said.
She emphasized the importance of Facebook’s ad library to provide transparency on who is paying for what advertisements. “That’s basically the Honest Ads Act,” Sandberg said, adding that while she doesn’t think such a legislation will ever pass, “we built it anyway.”
Facebook has been under pressure in the past weeks as Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg defended his company’s policy of not fact-checking ads from politicians, in contrast to Twitter Inc., which decided to ban all political ads from the site. CNN reported Thursday that Facebook is considering making some changes to how it handles political ads, including how they can be targeted, how they are labeled and providing more information about who is paying for the ads.
At the summit, Sandberg addressed other concerns surrounding the company. Breaking up the social networking site, which owns Instagram and WhatsApp, would decrease the apps’s ability to deal with issues like privacy and election security, the executive said. She also drew a contrast between the “American values” of U.S. tech companies and government influence over emerging Chinese competitors. “What comes behind breaking up the U.S. tech companies is not another U.S. tech company,” she said, but a Chinese tech giant.
Sandberg also reiterated Facebook’s commitment to diversity and the importance of mentorship to bring about gender equity in tech and other industries. Noting a study from her Lean In Foundation that showed a majority of men are afraid to meet alone with a women at work, Sandberg said: “Don’t harass us, basic. But don’t ignore us either.” If men feel they cannot have dinner alone with a woman they work with, they shouldn’t dine with a man either, she said.
Tech’s Role in Unlocking Medical Treatment (7:30 a.m ET)
For drug companies, making a new treatment can take a decade or more. As a result, the year ahead -- the focus of the summit -- “can seem like a very short time,” Pfizer Inc. Chief Development Officer Rod MacKenzie said in opening remarks. “But we’re acutely aware that, for many people living with disease, a year can literally be a lifetime.”
Data and algorithms can improve patient care by incorporating considerations from their behavior and environment, like patients with respiratory issues getting a text alert about air quality issues, said Aimee Quirk, chief executive officer of innovationOchsner, a company focused on digital health, analytics and precision medicine out of Ochsner Health System in Louisiana.
InnovationOchsner has done this work in conditions like hypertension and diabetes for about five years and seen both better outcomes and reductions in cost, according to Quirk.
Technology can also make health care more accessible by allowing patients to get treated at home, said Jeff Burbank, chief technology officer of Fresenius Medical Care North America. Fresenius, for example, has been trying to prepare patients for hurricanes by making sure their equipment is ready and they have enough supply, he said.
There are limits to what tech can do to help. When it comes to artificial intelligence technology, “we’re a bit worried it’s overhyped,” said Bobby Green, chief medical officer of Roche Holding AG’s Flatiron Health and a practicing oncologist. “If you do artificial intelligence on a biased data-set, you’re just going to perpetuate disparities. So we worry about that.”
See details on The Year Ahead Summit here.For Bloomberg Businessweek’s The Year Ahead 2020 issue, click here.
(An earlier version corrected Sandberg’s spelling in the first paragraph.)
--With assistance from Katherine Doherty, Sabrina Willmer, Kiley Roache, Patrick Clark, Gerry Smith, Cynthia Koons, Thomas Black, Kim Bhasin and Emma Court.
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