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This week's most important stories include a record-breaking Cyber Monday, Google's co-founders stepping down and a new prediction that Apple's 2021 iPhone will be completely wireless.
Music streaming services have skyrocketed in recent years, but challenges still remain when it comes to artist compensation.
(Bloomberg) -- First there was the financial crisis of 2008. Then years of negative interest rates. Now, banks face what one financial regulator calls the “real game changer.”Jesper Berg, the head of the Financial Supervisory Authority in Denmark, says the next big threat for banks is the rapid spread of big tech into financial services. The competitive tool is personal data and the playing field is far from even, he says.“The banks are constrained in what they can do with data, even using data across business lines, not to mention sharing it,” Berg said in an interview in Copenhagen.The concern is that banks need to comply with strict regulatory requirements to protect client data. But their industry is being infiltrated by competitors that aren’t necessarily subject to the same rules. Berg suggests that political intervention might be the way forward, if banks are to have a fighting chance.“The biggest issue that needs to be decided at a high level of politics is, do we somehow make rules in relation to sharing and use of data similar, or do we keep a difference?” Berg said. “We need to think about whether, and when, we set rules that are different for different types of companies, where the activity is basically the same.”Berg oversees a financial industry that has dealt with negative interest rates longer than any other, after Denmark’s central bank first went below zero in 2012. That’s weakened the finance sector, potentially putting it on the back foot as it tries to strengthen its defenses against new competitors. Lars Rohde, the governor of the Danish central bank, has warned that banks will need to rethink their entire business model to adapt to the new world.The BehemothsBecause of the vast pools of information they collect, tech giants like Google, Amazon and Alibaba already enjoy a competitive advantage over banks, Berg says.According to a February report by the global Financial Stability Board, the proprietary consumer data that big tech extracts from social media, combined with the industry’s access to cheap funding, mean it “could achieve scale very quickly in financial services.”Part of the ascent of tech companies within financial services has to do with PSD2, a European directive designed to open up the payments industry to competition. In practical terms, it means banks need to pass on their data for free to non-banks, provided customers agree.“You could say that we’ve gone to the extreme with PSD2,” Berg said. “Not only can banks not use the data fully internally, but they cannot sell it. They have to give it away.”ChinaThe FSB’s February report makes the point that reducing entry barriers for big tech might ultimately hurt competition in financial services. As an example, the FSB highlights China, where just two big tech firms account for over 90% of the mobile payments market.“Big data lives off selling information about you and me, so that other companies can target us more specifically,” Berg said. “The potential real game changer is big data, depending on what they choose to do.” That’s because “they know more about us than anyone else.”Tech companies that offer loans or take deposits will need to apply for licenses and abide by the same rules as banks, Berg said. But the requirements are far murkier for those that decide to operate as a platform for other financial service providers, and that puts banks at a competitive disadvantage.“The link to customers would essentially be with big tech,” Berg said.“And everyone knows that whoever has the link to the customers” ends up being able to “cream the profit,” he said.To contact the reporter on this story: Frances Schwartzkopff in Copenhagen at email@example.comTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Tasneem Hanfi Brögger at firstname.lastname@example.orgFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders are taking a victory lap after Amazon.com Inc. and other technology giants leased millions of square feet of office space in New York City -- without the billions of dollars in government support that Amazon tried to negotiate earlier this year.Amazon signed a lease on Friday for 335,000 square feet in the Hudson Yards neighborhood, enough space for more than 1,500 workers. The largest U.S. e-commerce company said it wasn’t getting tax benefits or other incentives.A few weeks earlier, Facebook Inc. leased more than 1.5 million square feet in the city, and the social-networking giant is looking for 700,000 more square feet, according to the Wall Street Journal. Google is also in the midst of a major expansion in the city, adding thousands of employees in coming years.The moves suggest that New York’s deep pool of talented workers is still attracting tech companies even after Amazon abandoned a much larger expansion in the area following fierce public criticism of almost $3 billion in tax breaks and subsidies promised to the company.https://t.co/AC64pG0nZI pic.twitter.com/xzCepkX4AV— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) December 6, 2019 Ocasio-Cortez, who represents parts of the Bronx and Queens, was a vocal critic of Amazon’s doomed HQ2 deal, and she tweeted that the company’s recent lease proved she was right.Sanders, who has slammed Amazon for warehouse working conditions and the company’s low federal tax rate, weighed in this weekend, too.Their comments were pilloried by some on Twitter, who said that 1,500 Amazon jobs are a fraction of the company’s earlier plan to bring about 25,000 workers to the area.Ocasio-Cortez responded by arguing that Amazon’s larger jobs pledge was longer-term and would have cost the city more.To contact the reporter on this story: Alistair Barr in San Francisco at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tom Giles at firstname.lastname@example.org, Virginia Van Natta, James LuddenFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
The co-founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, stepped down on Tuesday, but that announcement just cemented the end of the company’s slow transformation from an idealistic search engine to an unfeeling tech monolith.
Sundar Pichai, who recently took over as Alphabet's CEO, will face a host of tricky regulatory, financial and operational challenges in the new year.
(Bloomberg) -- Less than a year after Amazon.com Inc. walked away from a planned headquarters in New York, the e-commerce giant has announced a significant expansion in midtown Manhattan.The company signed a lease for 335,000 square feet in the Hudson Yards neighborhood on the west side. The new office will accommodate more than 1,500 workers and is slated to open in 2021, according to an e-mailed statement.“As we shared earlier this year, we plan to continue to hire and grow organically across our 18 Tech Hubs, including New York City,” the Seattle-based company said.Amazon abandoned plans in February to build an additional headquarters in New York’s Long Island City neighborhood following fierce public criticism of tax breaks promised to the company, and concerns about the impact on housing costs and transportation. The move sent shock waves through New York’s real estate community, which worried that the city was becoming inhospitable to business.But recent months have shown that companies are still attracted to New York and its deep pool of talented workers. Facebook Inc. announced that it was leasing more than 1.5 million square feet at Hudson Yards last month. And Google is also in the midst of a major expansion in the city.Amazon said it is not receiving tax benefits or other incentives for its new office, which will be located in SL Green Realty Corp.’s building on 10th Avenue between 33rd and 34th Streets. The outpost will be roughly the same size as the company’s other corporate offices in New York, where it currently has more than 3,500 employees in its tech hub.Dow Jones reported the lease earlier on Friday.To contact the reporter on this story: Noah Buhayar in Seattle at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Craig Giammona at firstname.lastname@example.org, Linus Chua, Stanley JamesFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
Alphabet’s revenue grew 20% in the latest quarter, but earnings haven’t kept pace. Here’s a road map to boosting profits and the stock.
The stock market rally started the week with losses, but erased losses by Friday. DocuSign, Shopify and Progyny broke out on news while RH soared. Google founders left management roles.
Back in April, Pinterest (NYSE:PINS) came public in a high-profile offering, with the shares jumping 28% on its first day of trading. The stock price would hit a high of $36 by late August. But since then, things have not gone too well. Keep in mind that Pinterest stock is actually below its initial offering price, which was $19. This puts the market cap at about $10.5 billion.Source: tanuha2001 / Shutterstock.com Part of the reason for this has been the rotation away from consumer internet initial public offerings (IPOs). For example, Uber (NYSE:UBER) is off 33% from its IPO while Lyft (NASDAQ:LYFT) is down even more. All in all, investors are looking beyond the top line and instead want to see a pathway to profitability.In a way, this is actually good news for the PINS stock price. Note that -- at least on an adjusted basis -- the company has been able to show modest profitability.InvestorPlace - Stock Market News, Stock Advice & Trading TipsBut unfortunately, it has still not been enough. The latest earnings report was not necessarily encouraging, and yes, this was the main reason that Pinterest stock has taken a dive.Now the company did beat on the bottom line, with adjusted earnings of 1 cent a share. By comparison, the consensus was for a loss of 4 cents a share.The problem? Well, revenues were off a bit. They came in at $279.7 million, while the forecast was for $281 million. No doubt, in today's tough environment, there is little room even for a small miss!Yet, I think this has been an overreaction. * 7 Hot Stocks for 2020's Big Trends Let's face it, Pinterest is still growing at a torrid pace. The quarterly ramp in revenue was 47% year-over-year -- and it is also important to note it is getting tougher to churn out the growth as the revenue base increases.Besides, Pinterest is continuing to invest in bolstering the platform. For example, there is more relevancy and personalization, such as with using algorithms for recommendations. This should not only allow for a more engaging experience, but also improved click-through rates and monetization.Next, Pinterest has revamped the design for its Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS and Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG, NASDAQ:GOOGL) Android apps. Much of this is the result of extensive user feedback. There has also been more of an emphasis on lessening the friction of the user experience.Oh, and Pinterest is broadening the concept of topics for pinning. To this end, there is a collection for well-being activities, such as to deal with stress and anxiety. As seen with the huge success of the Noom app, this approach does have lots of potential. Bottom Line on Pinterest StockWhen it comes to social networks, there needs to be great care with the monetization. As a result, Pinterest has been methodical -- but this does not mean it has been a laggard either. The company has continued to improve the ad features, in terms of bidding, targeting and analytics. There have also been interesting partnerships for shoppable pins, such as with Shopify (NYSE:SHOP).But perhaps the biggest opportunity for PINS stock is the global market. During the latest quarter, worldwide monthly active users (MAUs) increased by 28% to 322 million. There was double-digit growth in nearly all countries. In fact, Pinterest currently sells ads in 28 countries, up from 19 in the second quarter.Something else: the global average revenue per user (ARPU) is 90 cents; That is, there is room for improvement here.Thus, Pinterest should be a solid growth play. The company also provides an immersive user experience, which is critical for today's e-commerce shopper and is unique when compared to other platforms like Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) and eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY). So, with the recent weakness in Pinterest stock, there is an opportunity here for investors.Tom Taulli is the author of the book, Artificial Intelligence Basics: A Non-Technical Introduction. Follow him on Twitter at @ttaulli. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities. More From InvestorPlace * 2 Toxic Pot Stocks You Should Avoid * 7 Hot Stocks for 2020's Big Trends * 7 Lumbering Large-Cap Stocks to Avoid * 5 ETFs for Oodles of Monthly Dividends The post Pinterest Stock: Should You Pin It To Your Portfolio? appeared first on InvestorPlace.
(Bloomberg) -- Peloton Interactive Inc. has been pilloried online and punished on the stock market following the release of a holiday ad for its stationary exercise bike that was deemed culturally insensitive. But the backlash could be a good thing for the company in the long run.The commercial, which features a woman documenting a year in her life with the Peloton bike her male partner gave her, struck some viewers as out of touch -- suggesting the already thin “Grace from Boston” was undergoing a strenuous workout in order to lose weight for the guy. The video, released about a month ago, went viral on social media, eliciting a scathing parody by comedian Eva Victor and prompting Peloton to close comments on the official YouTube video.As the internet buzz seemed to hit a peak earlier this week, Peloton’s stock fell 9%. But some experts say the increased attention could end up boosting sales. The shares were up 3.7% on Friday in New York.“They might benefit more because people are looking it up and learning more about it,” Laura Ries, president of advertising consultancy firm Ries & Ries, said. It’s still a short-term bump for a company that has historically been largely successful with marketing, with a total member base of 1.6 million people including more than 560,000 who have one of the proprietary bikes or treadmills plus a fitness subscription, according to Peloton’s most recent quarterly report. The official Peloton ad on the company’s YouTube channel has been seen by more than 3.6 million people.The controversy comes at a crucial time for the New York-based company, which is new to market scrutiny after listing shares in September, as it seeks to capitalize on the all-important holiday sales season and expand in new markets like the U.K. and Germany. The shares had gained 27% since its initial public offering before the wave of internet commentary dragged it down on Tuesday. The company is also facing increased competition in the booming at-home fitness market, especially among workout apps. Nike Inc., Aaptiv Inc. and apps like Kayla Itsines’s Sweat with Kayla have all gained followings for exercise programs available on a user’s phone.Peloton has been punished by Wall Street for its focus on growth over profitability. The company sells a stationary bike starting at about $2,000 and a treadmill that costs about $4,000, in addition to a basic “connected fitness” subscription plan at $39 a month for those pieces of hardware, and the separate digital apps that don’t require equipment. Its loss narrowed in the three months ended Sept. 30 to $49.8 million.The stock surged almost 10% last Friday after the company was reportedly seeing strong demand on Black Friday. And earlier this month, Peloton lowered the price of its digital subscription app to $12.99 a month from $19.49 in conjunction with the launch of new apps for Amazon’s Fire TV and the Apple Watch, a move that could entice new users. JMP Securities analysts raised their price target on the stock after the subscription reduction, saying it “broadens Peloton’s reach, improves conversion, and reduces purchase friction.” Ronald Josey, a JMP analyst, said there are “a lot of good things going on” at the company and that people will continue to buy the bike and other products despite the controversy.According to the most recent earnings report, Peloton expects its user base to grow to 680,000 or more by the end of its second quarter thanks to holiday sales and New Year’s resolutions.Scott Galloway, a professor of marketing a the NYU Stern School of Business, said the commercial itself is tone deaf and borderline offensive. But “in this attention-driven economy, anything that gets attention is arguably a positive,” he said in an interview. “It’s bringing Peloton into the social discourse on very regular basis, which is what ads are supposed to do.” If Peloton had to do it again, Galloway said, “I’d argue they probably would.”(Updates shares in third paragraph. A previous version of the story corrected a company error in the subscription price.)To contact the reporter on this story: Julie Verhage in New York at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Mark Milian at firstname.lastname@example.org, Molly Schuetz, Anne VanderMeyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
The Communications Workers of America union filed a federal labor charge against Alphabet Inc's Google on Thursday, accusing the company of unlawfully firing four employees to deter workers from engaging in union activities. The complaint, seen by Reuters, will trigger a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) investigation into whether Google violated the four individuals' right to collectively raise concerns about working conditions. Google fired the four named employees "to discourage and chill employees from engaging in protected concerted and union activities," the filing states.
Nostalgia is a powerful force when it comes to consumer trends. You need look no further than the resurgence of turntables and vinyl records at a time when everyone is streaming music on a monthly subscription plan to see this effect. Record sales are seeing double digit growth while CDs and digital download purchases slump.Source: RistoH / Shutterstock.com That same nostalgia is at play in the mobile phone industry. Motorola has resurrected the iconic Razr flip phone as a premium smartphone with a folding OLED display. BlackBerry still offers a handful of smartphones with physical keyboards through a licensing agreement with China's TCL. However, the most successful nostalgic mobile phone reboot belongs to Nokia (NYSE:NOK). * 7 Hot Stocks for 2020's Big Trends Under a 10-year licensing agreement signed in 2016 with HMD Global, the Nokia brand returned to mobile phones after a disastrous deal with Microsoft. Manufacturing is handled by a Foxconn spinoff called FIH Mobile. The partnership quickly bore fruit and the first of the new Nokia Android smartphones launched at Mobile World Congress in 2017. Also released were new versions of the company's iconic and hugely popular feature phones.InvestorPlace - Stock Market News, Stock Advice & Trading Tips Reception to New Nokia PhonesBreaking into the smartphone business is difficult. The players are established, and trying to convince consumers to take a chance on a newcomer instead of buying one of those "it" phones from Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) or Samsung is tough. Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) took a stab at it in 2014 with the Fire Phone and quickly gave up. Alphabet's (NASDAQ:GOOG, NASDAQ:GOOGL) Google has been trying hard with its Pixel smartphones, but after four generations and class-leading camera technology, the Google Pixel has failed to crack the market in a meaningful way.Nokia's new smartphones including the Nokia 6 were eagerly anticipated. By promising a combination of quality, the latest version of Android, and budget-friendly pricing, the new smartphones also appealed to international markets. With a Full HD display, Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) Snapdragon 430 processor and a 16MP camera, the $229.99 Nokia 6 was sold through Best Buy in the U.S., and then released globally. The company also released updates of the classic Nokia 105, 130 and 3310 feature phones.In 2017, it was estimated that 8.7 million Nokia smartphones were sold globally, along with an impressive 59.2 million feature phones. In comparison, roughly 1 million TCL Blackberry smartphones were sold that year.By Q2 2019, HMD (Nokia) was in the top 10 list of global smartphone vendors -- despite an overall 1.2% decline in smartphone sales -- with 4.8 million units shipped that quarter. Cashing in on NostalgiaOn the smartphone front, HMD is depending on the Nokia brand, combined with quality design and affordable pricing. But it's on the feature phone front where the company is really cashing in on consumer nostalgia. The updated Nokia 3310 was infamous for a battery that lasted forever and its virtual indestructibility. Last year, it was a reboot of the 8110 slider "banana phone" made famous by its appearance in The Matrix.A few months ago, the $99 Nokia 2720 flip phone was launched. It's updated with a 2.8-inch color display (plus a 1.3-inch external display for notifications), 27-day battery standby, and support for apps like Twitter (NYSE:TWTR), Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), and Google Maps.Also released in September was the Nokia 9 PureView, its most powerful Android smartphone yet, and one that leverages the company's famed camera capabilities. The new flagship smartphone (which goes for $449.99), features a 60MP and five camera PureView system with ZEISS optics. Does Nokia Actually Make Any Money From Phone Sales?The full financial terms of the licensing deal with HMD Global weren't revealed. However, InvestorPlace's Will Ashworth has been told that Nokia makes between $11 and $23 per smartphone in patent and licensing fees. Several years into the deal with HMD Global, whether the Nokia mobile phone revival will ultimately be a success is still up in the air. Either way, Nokia gets brand recognition from those cool retakes on its classic phones, while finally getting its foot in the door with Android smartphones. And it does so without risking its own money, instead making a small profit off each device sold.As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities. More From InvestorPlace * 2 Toxic Pot Stocks You Should Avoid * 7 Hot Stocks for 2020's Big Trends * 7 Lumbering Large-Cap Stocks to Avoid * 5 ETFs for Oodles of Monthly Dividends The post Those Cool New Nokia Phones Arenat Made by Nokia appeared first on InvestorPlace.
As the newly anointed chief executive of Alphabet Inc., the Google CEO is now in charge of all operations at the $850 billion behemoth that includes a laundry lists of challenges from a federal antitrust investigation to employee backlash over harmful business practices and a slowing core ad business.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Social-media companies insist they’re making progress in fighting the manipulation of their platforms. But two researchers, working on an extremely modest budget, have just shown that their defenses are routinely bypassed by an entire manipulation industry, largely based in Russia.In a report for NATO’s Strategic Communications Center of Excellence, Sebastian Bay and Rolf Fredheim described an experiment they ran between May and August. In the first two months, during and just after the European Parliament election campaign, they hired 11 Russian and five European “manipulation service providers,” who they found simply by searching the web. The companies then delivered 3,530 comments, 25,750 likes, 20,000 views and 5,100 followers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube — all fake.Given how serious the social-media platforms claim to be about purging inauthentic activity, the experiment’s success rate was stunning. Four weeks after they were posted, a vast majority of the fake engagements were still live; even reporting them to the platforms didn’t get most removed.The study reveals a major weakness in the way the social-media giants report their anti-fraud efforts. Facebook has a lot to say about how much content it removes, for instance, but that’s like the mayor of a town reporting that 50% of its roads are now pothole-free: You never know which 50%. The important metric is how much manipulative content gets through. Bay and Fredheim found that, once professionals get involved, most of their work sticks, to the extent that they often deliver more engagements than promised for the money. Defenses only work on the most basic level. The pros are always a step ahead.NATO, of course, is mostly interested in political manipulation, and the researchers found that some of the same accounts that helped carry out their study “had been used to buy engagement on 721 political pages and 52 government pages, including the official accounts of two presidents, the official page of a European political party, and a number of junior and local politicians in Europe and the United States.”An important question is whether such efforts actually work. One recent paper tried to determine what effect the Russian troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency has had on U.S. political attitudes. The IRA, whose employees and owner were indicted in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into meddling in the 2016 election, used some of the same techniques as the NATO Stratcom researchers. But, the paper said, their fake accounts were effectively preaching to the converted. Even for users who directly interacted with the IRA accounts, the researchers found “no substantial effects” on their political opinions, engagement with politics or attitudes toward members of the opposing party.This doesn’t mean social-network manipulation is ineffective for political purposes; much more research would be needed to draw any sweeping conclusions. What’s clear now, though, is that the manipulation industry isn’t primarily geared toward political uses. Bay and Fredheim found that “more than 90% of purchased engagements on social media are used for commercial purposes.” Even though it’s Russian-based, this industry isn’t about evil Kremlin masterminds trying to turn technology against American democracy. Rather, it’s about talented Russian engineers, stuck in the wrong country for launching grand commercial ventures like Facebook or YouTube, trying to make money by milking the existing platforms.What that usually amounts to is helping online “influencers” cheat advertisers. The abysmally low removal rates for fake video views in the Stratcom experiment show the platforms aren’t fighting such abuses hard enough. They don’t have to: They’re still essentially black boxes from an advertising client’s point of view. As a result, perhaps billions of dollars (estimates vary wildly) are lost to such fraud each year.Platforms have spent enough time trying, and failing, to prove that self-regulation can work for them. Governments should act to protect not so much voters as advertisers from the manipulation industry, penalizing social-media companies for their inability to prevent fraud and demanding more transparency. Now, as Bay and Fredheim wrote, “data is becoming scarcer and our opportunities to research this field is constantly shrinking. This effectively transfers the ability to understand what is happening on the platforms to social media companies. Independent and well-resourced oversight is needed.”Policy makers need to realize that the platform-manipulation industry doesn’t thrive because it’s a Kremlin weapon. Political weaponization is only a side effect of a parasitic industry built on the flaws of the social-media business model. It’s the model that needs to be regulated.To contact the author of this story: Leonid Bershidsky at email@example.comTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Timothy Lavin at firstname.lastname@example.orgThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Leonid Bershidsky is Bloomberg Opinion's Europe columnist. He was the founding editor of the Russian business daily Vedomosti and founded the opinion website Slon.ru.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
Peak globalization is one of 10 investing themes Bank of America-Merrill Lynch has highlighted for the next decade. Shifting demographics and automation are two other stories with investment implications.
(Bloomberg) -- As protests jolt Hong Kong business, organizations from Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. to universities are adapting by going digital, switching to video-conferencing app Zoom to conduct online investor briefings and virtual lectures.Zoom Video Communications Inc. joins a number of internet services that have taken off since the unrest began over the summer, from mobile messenger Telegram to work-at-home apps. In a financial hub that thrives on face-to-face deal-making and power lunches, Zoom helps fill a void created by transport disruptions and concerns about personal safety.Hong Kong’s business community leans on the app’s features, which include slide-sharing and support for up to 1,000 call participants, to carry on cross-border communications and with mainland China, where WhatsApp, Telegram and Google alternatives are banned. There’s a local version of Zoom that’s compatible, which is why the app’s downloads in Hong Kong soared 460% in November, after an escalation in protest violence first triggered a spike in September, according to researcher Sensor Tower.Read more: Zoom’s Eric Yuan, the CEO Who Made Videoconferencing Bearable“As schools continue to be in lock-down mode, we’ve had to move our lectures online to minimize disruption,” said Cheung Siu Wai, a professor at Hong Kong Baptist University, adding Skype has been another option.Now valued at $19 billion, Zoom’s shares have almost doubled since listing on the Nasdaq this year. It’s unclear how the spike in downloads may translate into revenue growth for Zoom, founded by Chinese emigrant Eric Yuan, who now resides in California.The company has various pricing tiers and recently added HSBC to a roster of paying clients that includes Uber Technologies Inc. and Zendesk Inc., underpinning 85% growth in revenue to $167 million in the October quarter. Representatives for the company, which is backed by investors including Salesforce.com Inc., Tiger Global and Qualcomm Inc., declined to comment on how the Hong Kong protests have affected its business.”With the periodic traffic disruptions, our colleagues have no choice but to use video-conferencing apps,” said Derek Chan, co-founder of Master Concept, a Hong Kong-based cloud service provider.To contact the reporters on this story: Carol Zhong in Hong Kong at email@example.com;Lulu Yilun Chen in Hong Kong at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Edwin Chan at email@example.com, Vlad SavovFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg Markets) -- They flew in from across the U.S.—venture capitalists and entrepreneurs—to discuss a new way to sell stock to the public and keep more money for themselves. The venue, appropriately, was a landmark hotel nicknamed “The Bonanza Inn.”Not invited: the bankers who’ve long dominated initial public offerings.For much of that September day at San Francisco’s Palace Hotel, investors behind many of Silicon Valley’s biggest unicorns took turns railing against Wall Street. Some fumed over the hefty fees bankers collect for ushering companies onto the stock market. Many criticized IPOs for being priced too low—shortchanging the company owners—so banks could deliver quick profits for big money managers.Such complaints have been around for decades, but now there might be a solution. In 2018 a technique called a direct listing proved that technology can glide a company onto a stock market as smoothly as an expensive fleet of Wall Street underwriters.Two of the dominant U.S. IPO underwriters, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley, are helping to develop the direct listing system in a bet that they can keep a place for themselves in the process. But the San Francisco gathering made it clear that much of Silicon Valley wants to limit the involvement of banks.What a ‘Direct Listing’ Is, and Why Banks Are Nervous: QuickTakeInstead, the Valley crowd is giving a bigger role to Citadel Securities, a Chicago-based firm with little stake in the existing IPO underwriting market, for its market-making technology.Bringing privately held, capital-hungry companies to the exchange for a public offering of stock is one of Wall Street’s oldest and proudest functions. Bankers advise startups on how much they can raise and when to go to market. Once conditions are ripe, the companies embark on a roadshow to drum up investor interest and price the new stock. On the big day, a syndicate of banks—sometimes numbering in the dozens—buys up blocks of stock to parcel out to money manager clients. The typical 7% fee on the money raised in a U.S. IPO has withstood competition for the deals, though some of the most high-profile debuts get discounts. Last year, global IPO fees surpassed $7 billion, with the top three banks each bringing in more than $500 million, according to data compiled by Freeman & Co.Companies have tried alternatives. In 2004, Google Inc. (now Alphabet Inc.) famously opted for a so-called Dutch auction, in which investors submit bids and the final price is the highest at which the entire offering can be sold. Low demand forced the company to cut the offering in half and sell at the bottom of the price range it had sought. But the stock popped on the first day, and then the shares kept climbing. There’s been debate ever since over whether Google could have gotten more money with a traditional IPO.A direct listing moves a company’s stock onto the public market, allowing venture capitalists and employees to cash out, without raising new capital. It does away with the order-building phase, relying on software to match private shares and public demand on the fly. The risk is that supply and demand fall out of whack, leading to violent price swings or even a trading halt, potentially inflicting major damage. Bankers try to keep that from happening by gauging investor interest.In 2018, Stockholm-based music-streaming company Spotify Technology SA became the first high-profile startup to go public through the technique. Its stock swooned as much as 11% from the opening price of $165.90 and remains below that level today. The company paid about $35 million to Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and Allen & Co. By contrast, if Spotify had raised $2.4 billion in a traditional IPO—selling about 10% of the company—it would have paid $75 million even at a discounted 3% fee. For its part of the process, Citadel Securities was paid by the stock exchange.Slack Technologies Inc. followed in 2019. On an overcast morning in June, as a jazz band played in front of the New York Stock Exchange’s massive columns, startups across the country watched to see if the technology would succeed in matching a supply of closely held shares with a flood of investor bids in real time. Everything hummed.The opening stock price valued Slack at more than double its latest private funding round valuation. (It has since fallen, on a depressed outlook for company revenue.) Trading volume at the open was the third-highest for any debut in the U.S., the New York Stock Exchange said. Slack, which paid advisers $22 million, probably reduced its costs by about a third compared with a typical IPO, according to bankers involved in the deal, who said they immediately started talking to other companies interested in direct listings.When venture capitalist John O’Farrell lingered on the trading floor, it wasn’t to see the bankers. Instead, he waited next to a booth occupied by Citadel Securities, the market-maker majority owned by billionaire hedge fund investor Ken Griffin, to introduce himself to a pair of low-key executives steeped in the deal’s wiring. It was their computers that had handled the deluge—and $1 billion of their firm’s own money facilitated 1 out of every 5 trades. Citadel Securities wouldn’t say if it earned profits on those trades.O’Farrell was clearly impressed. His firm, Andreessen Horowitz, an early investor in Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc., among others, wields immense clout in deciding how Silicon Valley stock offerings are carried out. If an era of direct listings is commencing, the starting point may be that afternoon he spent with Joseph Mecane, Citadel Securities’ head of execution services, and Peter Giacchi, head of floor trading, on the floor of the NYSE.“Everything we design in the first couple of days is about smooth performance,” Mecane would say later at a Citadel Securities office near the stock exchange. “We feel like we have our brand and reputation on the line with this business.”Mecane, the former head of electronic equities trading at Barclays Plc, jumped to Citadel Securities in 2017 and has been busy building a team to ensure smooth trading in the more than 1,400 listed entities for which the firm serves as designated market maker. Citadel Securities aims to expand that client set by helping more companies go public. In that sense, the listing business is just an entry point for potential future revenue. Citadel Securities says its goal is to work with banks on listings and not to compete with them.Mecane’s counterpart on the trading floor is Giacchi, who’s been making markets for more than 20 years, watching machines replace the functions of hundreds of people. Direct listings put the emphasis on traders and their role in price discovery, a development Giacchi welcomes.“It’s given the floor a renewed sense of value,” he says. Now, helped by technology, there is “the ability to process information quickly and reinvent yourself on the floor.”Just a few months after O’Farrell’s trip to the trading floor, his firm would help lead the charge in San Francisco to tell the other attendees about the promise of direct listings.In June, famed venture capitalist Bill Gurley at Benchmark Capital encouraged his more than 400,000 Twitter followers to call Citadel Securities and Morgan Stanley and pursue their own direct listings. “Other banks want to position direct listings as ‘exceptional’ or ‘rare,’ ” Gurley wrote.Five more companies may pursue direct listings in 2020, according to Morgan Stanley.Still, it may yet take years for IPOs to give way entirely to direct listings, says M.G. Siegler, a partner at Google Ventures, another major backer of startups. But “I’m not writing it off that it could be the majority of listings moving forward.”Basak covers Wall Street for Bloomberg News, television, and radio in New York.To contact the author of this story: Sonali Basak in New York at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Christine Harper at email@example.com, David ScheerFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- SoftBank Group Corp. founder Masayoshi Son unveiled a $184 million initiative Friday to accelerate artificial intelligence research in Japan, enlisting Alibaba’s Jack Ma to expound on his goal of commercializing the technology.Son’s company announced a partnership with the University of Tokyo that includes spending 20 billion yen ($184 million) over 10 years by mobile arm SoftBank Corp. to establish the Beyond AI Institute. He roped in the Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. co-founder for an on-campus chat, during which the two billionaires discussed their vision for the future of technology.The institute will support 150 researchers from various disciplines and focus on transitioning AI research from the academic to the commercial using joint ventures between universities and companies. Health-care, city and social infrastructure and manufacturing will be the primary areas of focus, SoftBank Corp. said in a statement. That dovetails with its own goals: in November, SoftBank and Korea’s Naver Corp. said they plan to merge Yahoo Japan and Line Corp. into an internet giant under SoftBank’s control, to combine resources on AI and challenge leaders from Google to Tencent Holdings Ltd.Read more: SoftBank to Create Japan Internet Giant to Battle Global RivalsSon has long advocated AI as the most revolutionary new field of technological development. The Beyond AI Institute marks an investment in accelerating that research on his home turf, where he has previously bemoaned the relative under-performance of Japan’s startup scene. At the same time, he’ll be eager to put behind him a tough 2019 thanks to the calamitous implosion at WeWork and the shrinking values of Uber Technologies Inc. and Slack Technologies Inc.Offering a reminder of his most fruitful investment, Son hosted a talk with Ma, whose online retail empire has been the crown jewel in SoftBank’s investment portfolio. The two exchanged compliments and advocated passion, optimism and world-changing visions as essential to successful entrepreneurship.“In the past 20 years, we’ve been friends, partners and like soulmates in changing people’s lives,” said Son. Ma, in turn, said: “He probably has the biggest guts in the world when doing investment.”In a rare expression of contrition, Son recently said “there was a problem with my own judgment” after the WeWork debacle. He has imposed greater financial discipline on startups since then. On Friday, he said his enthusiasm for grand projects was undimmed. “My passion and dream is more than 100 times bigger than what I am right now. I am still only at the first step to my 100 steps.”To contact the reporters on this story: Vlad Savov in Tokyo at firstname.lastname@example.org;Takahiko Hyuga in Tokyo at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Edwin Chan at firstname.lastname@example.org, Vlad Savov, Peter ElstromFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
It is easy to underestimate Sundar Pichai. One person who has worked with him at Google calls him “very cautious”, almost the opposite of the “buccaneering spirit” upon which the company was founded. As chief executive officer of Alphabet, he gains control of the group’s “moonshot” projects to develop driverless cars, delivery drones, and drugs to halt the effects of ageing.
The Communications Workers of America union filed a federal labor charge against Alphabet Inc's Google on Thursday, accusing the company of unlawfully firing four employees to deter workers from engaging in union activities. The complaint, seen by Reuters, will trigger a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) investigation into whether Google violated the four individuals' right to collectively raise concerns about working conditions.
Market MovesStocks closed slightly higher in a trading session that featured slightly more selling than buying. The S&P 500 (SPX) and Nasdaq 100 (NDX) closed with a two-tenths percent increase, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJX) and the Russell 2000 (RUT) managed half that amount.
The Communications Workers of America union filed a federal labour charge against Alphabet Inc's Google on Thursday, accusing the company of unlawfully firing four employees to deter workers from engaging in union activities. The complaint, seen by Reuters, will trigger a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) investigation into whether Google violated the four individuals' right to collectively raise concerns about working conditions. Google fired the four named employees "to discourage and chill employees from engaging in protected concerted and union activities," the filing states.