GOOG Jun 2020 1155.000 call

OPR - OPR Delayed Price. Currency in USD
138.10
0.00 (0.00%)
As of 3:12PM EDT. Market open.
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Previous Close138.10
Open138.10
Bid143.80
Ask145.90
Strike1,155.00
Expire Date2020-06-19
Day's Range138.10 - 138.10
Contract RangeN/A
Volume1
Open Interest9
  • Cloud-based gaming kicks off for Google as Stadia premiers
    Yahoo Finance Video

    Cloud-based gaming kicks off for Google as Stadia premiers

    Google Stadia has officially launched on Monday. The cloud based gaming service has 22 games for its players to stream. But can Stadia and your wifi operate at a usable pace? Yahoo Finance’s Dan Howley shares his review on with Jen Rodgers and Dan Roberts on "The Final Round."

  • Google Stadia launches tomorrow
    Yahoo Finance Video

    Google Stadia launches tomorrow

    Google’s cloud gaming service Stadia will launch tomorrow. It will double the number of games that will be available on launch day. Yahoo Finance’s Dan Roberts, Brian Cheung, Julia La Roche and Dan Howley discuss on YFi-AM.

  • Google increasingly interferes with search results, Wall Street Journal reports
    CBS News Videos

    Google increasingly interferes with search results, Wall Street Journal reports

    A new investigation from the Wall Street Journal found that Google is interfering with its algorithms to alter users' search results. Kirsten Grind, one of the authors of the report, joined CBSN to break down the findings.

  • Behind Lazard's Unique Relationship With Google
    Bloomberg

    Behind Lazard's Unique Relationship With Google

    Nov.18 -- Over the last decade, Lazard Ltd. has quietly become Google’s go-to adviser, bringing it the cachet -- though not big fees -- of working with one of the world’s largest companies. Bloomberg's Liana Baker has more on "Bloomberg Markets: The Close."

  • Google Stadia review: The game streaming service works — but it’s missing key features
    Yahoo Finance

    Google Stadia review: The game streaming service works — but it’s missing key features

    Google's Stadia game streaming service works incredibly well, but it's a work in progress.

  • U.S. Congress seeks answers on patient privacy in Google, Ascension cloud deal
    Reuters

    U.S. Congress seeks answers on patient privacy in Google, Ascension cloud deal

    Four Democratic leaders on the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce committee on Monday wrote Alphabet Inc's Google and Ascension Health demanding briefings by Dec. 6 on how patient data the hospital chain is storing on the cloud is used. Google's cloud computing unit said last week that it has incorporated industry standard security and privacy practices into its deal with Ascension, and that none of the data is being used for advertising purposes.

  • Barrons.com

    Retirement Savers Are Turning to Dividend Stocks for Income. Here’s How to Use Them in Your Portfolio.

    Investors are increasingly turning to equities with cash payouts for their nest eggs. But the strategies carry risk if not done right.

  • Marissa Mayer is back with a new startup focusing on artificial intelligence
    MarketWatch

    Marissa Mayer is back with a new startup focusing on artificial intelligence

    Mayer has been tight-lipped about her new venture, Lumi Labs, which is focused on building A.I. applications for consumers.

  • The Funded: Bill.com rings up $100M IPO, Google buys Santa Clara cloud startup
    American City Business Journals

    The Funded: Bill.com rings up $100M IPO, Google buys Santa Clara cloud startup

    Bay Area startup news at the start of the week included Bill.com's plans to raise $100 million in an IPO and Google's acquisition of a Santa Clara cloud management startup.

  • Mason Hawkins Sells Alphabet, General Electric
    GuruFocus.com

    Mason Hawkins Sells Alphabet, General Electric

    Guru's largest sales of the 3rd quarter Continue reading...

  • Turn yourself into a better investor by learning from hedge-fund star Jim Simons’s successes and failures
    MarketWatch

    Turn yourself into a better investor by learning from hedge-fund star Jim Simons’s successes and failures

    Renaissance’s Jim Simons crushes both the S&P 500 index and successful investors like Warren Buffett and George Soros.

  • Google Makes Another Cloud Acquisition During Antitrust Probe
    Bloomberg

    Google Makes Another Cloud Acquisition During Antitrust Probe

    (Bloomberg) -- Google announced plans to buy enterprise software firm CloudSimple Inc., another sign the search giant isn’t letting a flurry of antitrust investigations interrupt its expansion strategy.CloudSimple will join Google Cloud, a priority business for the Alphabet Inc. unit. The companies didn’t disclose financial terms.The acquisition could help Google get a foothold in a corner of the cloud-computing market where larger rivals, Microsoft Corp. and Amazon.com Inc., have run ahead. CloudSimple builds tools that help companies move information, applications, databases and other systems from in-house data centers to the public cloud.The Santa Clara, California-based startup specializes in VMware virtualization software, which helps businesses run corporate networks and business software more efficiently. VMWare’s large enterprise customer base has made it an attractive partner for the leading public cloud providers, including Google.In a Google blog post announcing the deal, Ajay Patel, a VMware Inc. senior vice president, said his company will continue to work with CloudSimple.In recent months, U.S. regulators and Congress have opened multiple inquiries into Google over competition concerns, including the company’s history of acquisitions. Since those probes began, Google has announced multibillion-dollar takeovers of Looker Data Sciences Inc., a cloud company, and Fitbit Inc., a device-maker.Google has argued that it has a small market share in cloud computing, enterprise software and consumer devices. Antitrust officials cleared Google’s $2.6 billion bid for Looker in early November.To contact the reporters on this story: Mark Bergen in San Francisco at mbergen10@bloomberg.net;Nico Grant in San Francisco at ngrant20@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Jillian Ward at jward56@bloomberg.net, Alistair Barr, Andrew PollackFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • FTC chief says has 'multiple' investigations of tech platforms
    Reuters

    FTC chief says has 'multiple' investigations of tech platforms

    The chairman of the Federal Trade Commission said on Monday that his agency had multiple investigations of tech platforms, in addition to its known probe of Facebook, but did not identify them. Big tech companies like Facebook, Alphabet's Google, Amazon.com and Apple face a slew of antitrust probes by the federal government, state attorneys general and congress. It has previously been reported that the FTC's focus was on Facebook and Amazon.com.

  • Getting a Grip on the Pentagon
    Bloomberg

    Getting a Grip on the Pentagon

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- How do you wrestle an unwieldy, $700 billion behemoth into submission?  That was the challenge facing Ash Carter, former secretary of the Department of Defense and this week's guest on Masters in Business.Carter, who has worked with every president from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama, says his background in theoretical physics and medieval history helped him understand how to maneuver through the labyrinthine systems of the Pentagon bureaucracy. He created processes to improve purchasing efficiency, including incentives and penalties for major weapons manufacturers. He also brought talent from Silicon Valley to the Pentagon to beef up its technological capabilities.Carter describes his role after 9/11 in coordinating U.S. intelligence and why he opposed creating a separate bureaucracy in the Department of Homeland Security. He preferred instead a coordinated intelligence, defense and law-enforcement standing joint operation.He is author of 11 books on military strategy, including most recently, "Inside the Five-Sided Box: Lessons from a Lifetime of Leadership in the Pentagon."His favorite books can be seen here; a transcript of our conversation is here.You can stream/download the full conversation, including the podcast extras on Apple iTunes, Overcast, Spotify, Google, Bloomberg and Stitcher. All of our earlier podcasts on your favorite pod hosts can be found here.Next week, we speak with Ilana Weinstein, founder and chief executive officer of IDW Group, a leading consulting and hiring boutique for hedge funds, private equity and family offices.To contact the author of this story: Barry Ritholtz at britholtz3@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: James Greiff at jgreiff@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Barry Ritholtz is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is chairman and chief investment officer of Ritholtz Wealth Management, and was previously chief market strategist at Maxim Group. He is the author of “Bailout Nation.”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Barrons.com

    JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon Discusses Consumer-Banking Costs

    Dimon spoke with Barron’s Jack Hough about a recent Streetwise column about big tech and banking, and objected to a 2018 study that found consumer banking costs haven’t fallen.

  • Bloomberg

    Justice Department No. 2 Cites ‘Serious’ Tech Competition Issues

    (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Justice Department No. 2 official explained the reasoning behind an investigation of large technology platforms, underscoring the department’s commitment to the probe at the highest levels.Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said in a speech Monday at an American Bar Association antitrust forum in Washington that there are “serious and substantive issues” regarding competition by the largest online platforms. While he noted that top department officials are keeping close tabs on the inquiry, no conclusions have been reached yet about the sector, he said.“Even dynamic industries characterized by rapid technological progress can be monopolized to the detriment of consumers,” Rosen said.The Justice Department is investigating whether Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Facebook Inc. thwart competition laws as part of its broader inquiry into digital marketplaces. Attorney General Bill Barr, who has antitrust experience, authorized the probe and is closely watching it.Federal Trade Commission Chairman Joe Simons, who spoke after Rosen, said his agency is also conducting “multiple” probes of technology companies. Facebook has disclosed it’s also being investigated by the FTC.Rosen compared the technology giants to the film industry, which was the subject of multiple antitrust actions in the 20th century. He also referenced the U.S. case against Microsoft Corp. that began in the late 90s and ended in settlement.He cited an appeals court ruling that the software giant’s “operating system was a monopoly” because it was so broadly used that consumers and developers alike were reluctant to switch to competitors.Some antitrust scholars have said that Google, Facebook and other contemporary tech giants are dominant because they benefit from so-called network effects in which platforms become more valuable the more they are used. The companies say they face robust competition.Rosen also acknowledged there are other concerns about the companies that go beyond antitrust that may need to be addressed.“We do not view antitrust law as a panacea for every problem in the digital world,” Rosen said. “We are keeping in mind other tools in areas such as privacy, consumer protection, and public safety as part of a broader review of online platforms, to whatever extent warranted.”To contact the reporters on this story: Ben Brody in Washington, D.C. at btenerellabr@bloomberg.net;David McLaughlin in Washington at dmclaughlin9@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Sara Forden at sforden@bloomberg.net, Mark NiquetteFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Bloomberg

    Disney+ Could Bring Streaming Peace to the Wild West

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- For much of the past decade, the digital media landscape has largely been defined by disruptive companies such as Facebook, YouTube and Netflix. In the case of Facebook and YouTube, those disruptors are now seen as problematic; both face accusations that their platforms have become venues for privacy invasion, misinformation, malicious foreign actors and domestic political extremism. As the federal government weighs regulating these companies this creates an opening for platforms that are well-policed with the potential to take market share from the incumbent bad actors. That suggests the introduction of Walt Disney Co.'s new Disney+ video-streaming service couldn’t have been better timed.Disruptive platforms grew to enormous size by doing pretty much whatever they could to attract both producers and consumers of content. Restrictions on what kinds of content could be published were barriers to growth while also raising thorny ethical questions about how platforms that claimed to be neutral could moderate content on their networks. Content moderation has a big drawback: It's expensive, whether that means building technology to monitor abuse or hiring humans to do the job. It's not too surprising that companies interested in holding down costs and maximizing profits might try to avoid those costs.And it's hard to untangle and design remedies for these problems because the platforms have gone global, with hundreds of millions if not billions of users. With competing and divergent interests among consumers, content producers, advertisers, politicians and shareholders, any change from the status quo is bound to run into opposition. The result is that change ends up being much slower than many might hope.That's where Disney+ comes in. Disney’s announcement on launch day that it had signed up 10 million subscribers indicates potential demand; it's possible that the platform could gain significant market share in the streaming wars much sooner than many anticipate. It gives young parents -- or anyone else not interested in the fire hose of trash on offer elsewhere -- a trusted platform to install on their kids' or their own smartphones and tablets. Every minute spent on Disney+ is a minute not spent on other digital media platforms, lessening the influence of the latter. As the clout of Disney+ grows at the expense of the competition, it could put pressure on the latter to clean up their collective acts and put in place more safeguards.The parallel to consider here is the evolution of the music industry. Until the launch of peer-to-peer music-file-sharing company Napster in 1999, the vast majority of consumers got their music through traditional channels -- mainly radio and CDs. Then Napster and other illicit services built off the BitTorrent platform made it easier for consumers to download MP3 files at a time when major corporations were reluctant to embrace the new technologies. But downloading MP3s often exposed consumers to other types of illegally-distributed content like video games and software. That made MP3s a sort of gateway drug to other dubious online activity and content.That era didn't last long. First, Apple introduced the iTunes store in 2003, which surged in popularity with the growth of first the iPod and later the iPhone. Then, music streaming services like Spotify followed, attracting tens of millions of users. Napster has since shut down, and though black market file-sharing services still exist, most consumers would find them too much of a nuisance to deal with when it's cheap and easy to buy or stream music legitimately.If we're lucky, Disney+ could mark the point when major tech corporations decide to take control of the media ecospheres they've created. There are now a plethora of streaming services with billions of dollars invested in them, giving consumers, particularly parents, choices without some of the downsides of the large, disruptive platforms. Content creators, major corporate partners and advertisers can focus their resources on platforms that have better reputations and aren't constantly in the news for moderation and data-privacy issues. Thriving in the future may require these disruptors to abandon the Wild West ways that powered their initial rise. And who would be bothered by that?To contact the author of this story: Conor Sen at csen9@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: James Greiff at jgreiff@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Conor Sen is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is a portfolio manager for New River Investments in Atlanta and has been a contributor to the Atlantic and Business Insider.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Benzinga

    How Google's Fitbit Acquisition Is Already Posing Some Problems

    Alphabet's Google unit said in November it will buy Fitbit in a $2.1 billion deal to gain better exposure to the health and wellness space. Concerns related to how Google handles health data is not unfounded and gained some credibility based on recent revelations.

  • Bloomberg

    Inflation Inequality Creates Winners and Losers

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- Do the poor suffer more from inflation than the rich? Recent reports to the contrary, the numbers are not complete enough to answer that question in a simple way. What’s clear is that diverging rates of price inflation are creating distinct winners and losers.Because the U.S. tech sector has advanced so much while many other parts of the economy have been relatively sluggish, the benefits from progress are now quite concentrated, though not in a way directly related to income. Rather, they accrue to people with a taste for a particular kind of novelty.Consider people who love to consume information, or, as I have labeled them, infovores. They can stay at home every night and read Wikipedia, scan Twitter, click on links, browse through Amazon reviews and search YouTube — all for free. Thirty years ago there was nothing comparable.Of course, most people don’t have those tastes. But for the minority who do, it is a new paradise of plenty. These infovores — a group that includes some academics, a lot of internet nerds and many journalists — have experienced radical deflation.Another set of major beneficiaries is people who enjoy writing for fun (as distinct from professional writers). They can write to their friends or groups of friends on WhatsApp and Facebook, all day long, also for free. You might also put “people who love to argue” in this same lucky category, though whether that translates into lasting enjoyment is a question that we could … argue about.Lovers of variety are another big winner. You can use eBay to find that obscure collectible, or browse Amazon’s vast inventory, or watch a lot of different TV programs, ranging from Spanish-language news to curling to cooking shows. In short, it is a wonderful time for those who love to browse and sample. Maybe you discover a favorite category or genre and form a deep aesthetic commitment, or maybe you just want to keep on surfing. Either way, the opportunities are unprecedented.As a side note, I belong to all of those groups: I am an infovore, I write for fun (and for other reasons) and love variety. So I have been a big winner from the last 20 years, in a disproportionate and unrepresentative way — quite apart from any changes to my income.So who might be worse off in this new American world?People who like to spend time with their friends across town are one set of losers. Traffic congestion is much worse, and so driving in Los Angeles or Washington has never been such a big burden. In-person socializing is therefore more costly. On the other hand, the chance that you have remained in touch with your very distant friends is higher, due to email and social media. Those who enjoy less frequent (but perhaps more intense?) visits are on the whole better off for that reason. It is easier than ever to go virtually anywhere in the world and have someone interesting to talk to.Another group of losers — facing super-high inflation rates — are the “cool” people who insist on living in America’s best and most advanced cities. Which might those be? New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco? You can debate that, but they have all grown much more expensive. Many smaller cities, such as Austin, Washington and Boston, are going the same route. Alternatively, if you have more of a taste for isolation or desolation, or a high tolerance for boredom, your pocketbook is not being squeezed so tightly.Medical care is another area that has created big losers and winners. If you suffer from a common malady that simply requires care and attention from the medical establishment, you may well be worse off. The price of medical care is much higher, insurance coverage is by no means guaranteed, and the system has been growing more bureaucratic and arguably more frustrating.If, on the other hand, you have some kind of “frontier” condition, requiring innovative technology or new pharmaceuticals, your chances have never been better.What is the common theme here? It is that those who love or need “the new” are often doing relatively well. Those who value the old standbys — the crosstown friend, the Manhattan brownstone, the uncomplicated visit to the local doctor to have a broken ankle set — are in a more dubious position.As a result, there is an incentive to cultivate a taste for novelty. It’s fun, to be sure, but maybe also a bit confusing and alienating. So when people feel that way, and express it in unexpected ways, perhaps we should not be altogether surprised.To contact the author of this story: Tyler Cowen at tcowen2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Newman at mnewman43@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Tyler Cowen is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is a professor of economics at George Mason University and writes for the blog Marginal Revolution. His books include "Big Business: A Love Letter to an American Anti-Hero."For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Medtech firm Biofourmis doubles valuation with acquisition, Novartis deal
    American City Business Journals

    Medtech firm Biofourmis doubles valuation with acquisition, Novartis deal

    Boston’s Biofourmis Inc. is acquiring longtime partner Biovotion, leveraging its software and data-collection capabilities in a new multi-year partnership with Novartis.

  • Google Finds Its Deal Whisperers at Old-School Bank Lazard
    Bloomberg

    Google Finds Its Deal Whisperers at Old-School Bank Lazard

    (Bloomberg) -- It’s been an up-and-down few years for Lazard Ltd., the storied blue blood investment bank.Its share of deal advisory work worldwide is ranked at its lowest in almost two decades, falling behind rival Evercore Inc., Bloomberg data show. Top Lazard bankers such as Matthieu Pigasse and Antonio Weiss have left and a few offices closed.Yet amid the setbacks, Lazard, founded in the 1800s as a dry goods merchant, can count on a surprising and steady source of business: Google, the quintessential Silicon Valley firm. Over the last decade, Lazard has quietly become Google’s go-to adviser, bringing it the cachet -- though not big fees -- of working with one of the world’s largest companies.Lazard has represented the Alphabet Inc. unit on every takeover where it used an outside adviser -- a total of $22 billion in transactions over that period, from Motorola Mobility for $9.8 billion in 2011 to Fitbit Inc. for $2.1 billion this month. For its many smaller transactions, Google generally uses its in-house banking staff.That kind of relationship, while informal, is rare these days, especially in the cut-throat world of technology investment banking. Companies typically use a variety of banks when doing deals. The Google-Lazard tie-up -- put together almost a decade ago by one of its bankers, Vernon Jordan, the well-connected power broker -- is more reminiscent of the century-old banking relationship between General Electric and what is now JPMorgan Chase & Co. And like that one, it reflects in part personal relationships and a desire for discreetness.“This harkens back to the old line way of banking where corporations would have this kind of relationship with an institution for decades,” said Barbara Byrne, a former vice chairman at Barclays Plc and now a director at CBS Corp.Antitrust ScrutinyThe Google business alone won’t make or break Lazard, to be sure. The New York-based firm’s share of global M&A by deal value is just 4.3% this year, the lowest since 2001, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That share has especially tumbled in recent years as rainmaker bankers such as Ken Moelis, Paul Taubman and Blair Effron founded their own boutique firms that compete on megadeals.Google transactions may have brought Lazard a mere $70 million in fees since 2011, according to an estimate by consultant Freeman & Co. In the third quarter alone, Lazard posted financial advisory revenue of $304 million.And Google’s acquisition activity may slow as antitrust scrutiny grows from federal, state and Congressional investigators looking into whether the company is using its size to hurt competitors.But the relationship with Google serves to burnish the firm’s reputation, and allows its bankers to play up the ties, such as when seeking business with emerging tech companies, a person familiar with the situation said.“There’s no banker in the world who wouldn’t want that relationship,” Byrne said. “They would jump hoops for it.”Google and Lazard declined to comment.On Lazard’s last earnings call, CEO Ken Jacobs said that its financial advisory activity had “gained momentum.” The firm has reshuffled leadership in recent months, promoting several bankers including naming Peter Orszag as the firm’s chief global dealmaker in April. (Orszag is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist.)Jordan’s RoleLazard won its role with Google thanks partly to Jordan, 84, who had been a friend and adviser to former President Bill Clinton. He started working for Lazard in 2000 as the ultimate door opener and now holds the title of senior managing director.His entrée to Google was through David Drummond, who joined the company in 2002 and is now its vice president of corporate development, people familiar with the matter said. Jordan delivered a speech to honor Drummond at a social justice gala last year where he called him a “good friend.”(A former Google employee who had a long-term relationship with Drummond alleged in August that she was forced out of the company after dating him. Drummond has acknowledged the relationship and said he has addressed it with Google.)‘Science Experiments’Google pays Lazard a retainer of more than $200,000 a month for its services, according to people familiar with the situation. While some other banks have retainers with clients, Lazard’s is notable for its duration, going back years.Lazard plays a variety of roles for Google. Often it acts as a consultant, such as a McKinsey would, researching industries and exploring potential takeover targets, according to people familiar with the matter. A former Lazard employee described the work as doing “science experiments” for Google.They sometimes lead to being hired for traditional M&A advice, or coming in only for late-stage negotiations after Google employees handled the earlier talks.In the Fitbit acquisition, Lazard initially prepared a study on the smartwatch market, which laid the groundwork for Google to buy some of watchmaker Fossil Group Inc.’s technology earlier this year. That, in turn, led to Google hiring Lazard for the Fitbit purchase.Deep PocketsGoogle doesn’t typically require the array of services, notably takeover financing, offered by bulge bracket firms like Goldman Sachs or JPMorgan. The company has deep pockets to pay for a transaction itself. That’s why it made sense to turn to a firm that focuses more heavily on M&A.Google also trusts Lazard to keep potential takeovers close to the vest, people familiar with the arrangement said, even viewing some of the Lazard bankers as if they were embedded in the corporate development group.Paul Haigney, the longtime Lazard banker who, with John Gnuse, handles the day-to-day Google relationship, is described by people who know him as an old-school banker, meaning in part that he doesn’t like meeting or gossiping with the press -- a much-prized trait at the typically secretive Google.In the Fitbit acquisition, Lazard’s role was handled in a typical low-profile way. A release announcing it omitted the bank’s name, listing only Fitbit’s financial adviser, Qatalyst.“Banking relationships at the CEO and board level are extremely personal and not institutional,” said Stefan Selig, managing partner at BridgePark Advisors, whose clients include CEOs and wealthy investors. “Those relationships tend to be sticky if the bankers and management teams don’t change and if the client is happy with the service.”To contact the reporters on this story: Liana Baker in New York at lbaker75@bloomberg.net;Gerrit De Vynck in New York at gdevynck@bloomberg.net;Sonali Basak in New York at sbasak7@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Jacqueline Simmons at jackiem@bloomberg.net, Larry Reibstein, Michael HythaFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • SoftBank to Create Japan Internet Giant to Battle Global Rivals
    Bloomberg

    SoftBank to Create Japan Internet Giant to Battle Global Rivals

    (Bloomberg) -- Masayoshi Son, after backing startups around the world, is engineering a complex deal on his home turf to create a national champion that can more effectively compete with global rivals like Google and Amazon.com Inc.Son’s SoftBank Group Corp. plans to combine its Yahoo Japan internet business with Line Corp. in a deal that values the country’s leading messaging service at $11.5 billion. SoftBank and South Korea’s Naver Corp. will take Line private and then fold Line and Yahoo Japan into a new joint venture. The deal requires shareholder approvals and is scheduled to close by October 2020.The two companies said the combination is driven by a sense of crisis that global giants are increasing their grip on the technology industry and countries like Japan risk falling behind. Together, Line and Yahoo Japan, which now operates as Z Holdings Corp., will be able to share engineering resources, access broader sets of data and invest more in areas like artificial intelligence, the chief executive officers said in a Tokyo press conference.“The internet industry often operates on the winner-takes-all principle and the strong only get stronger,” said Line co-CEO Takeshi Idezawa. “Even combined, our market capital, business scale and R&D expenditures are dwarfed by the global tech giants.”At the event, the CEOs gave unusual emphasis to their corporate vulnerabilities and the incumbent risks for Japanese consumers, perhaps in an attempt to preempt government scrutiny of a deal that will combine two of the country’s largest internet companies. The chiefs said they need to join forces to mount a serious challenge to much larger rivals from the U.S. and China.“We want to become an AI tech company that leads the world from Japan,” said Kentaro Kawabe, CEO of Z Holdings. Kawabe wore a bright green tie, Line’s trademark hue, while Idezawa donned one in Yahoo Japan red.Under the proposed transaction, Z Holdings and Naver will buy out Line’s public shareholders in a tender offer at a projected 5,200 yen per share, a 13% premium to Line’s share price before news of the talks. Each company plans to spend 170 billion yen ($1.56 billion) on the bid. Naver already owns 73% of Line, while SoftBank Corp., the domestic telecom arm of Son’s business empire, holds a roughly 44% stake in Z Holdings.The companies have been in talks about a possible alliance since June and settled on the idea of a merger in August, according to the statement. After taking Line private, SoftBank and Naver will undertake a reorganization that will eventually result in a 50-50 ownership of the new company. The combined entity will hold stock in Z Holdings, which will remain public with Yahoo Japan and Line as wholly-owned subsidiaries.SoftBank and Line have increasingly competed in fields such as digital payments, and an alliance may allow them to save money on expenses like subsidies. Both companies have also been investing in artificial intelligence to improve their services. While the announcement didn’t say how the mobile payment rivalry will be resolved, it said the resulting company aims to spend 100 billion yen annually on development of AI-powered products.“Big data is key for the future of both companies,” said Koji Hirai, the head of M&A advisory firm Kachitas Corp. “The merger will enable them to create a massive repository of client data.”Idezawa and Kawabe said there are potential synergies in a number of services areas spanning media content, fintech, advertising, communications and commerce, but didn’t give further details. The combined company will also have about 20,000 employees, a major benefit in an industry where competition for talent intensifies year after year, they said.Steps to the planned merger:Step 1 - Final signing of the deal planned for DecemberStep 2 - Naver and SoftBank to buy out Line’s public shareholders and create a new 50-50 joint ventureStep 3 - SoftBank moves its stake in Z Holdings to the JV, while Z Holdings issues 2.8 billion new shares to the JVStep 4 - Line and Yahoo Japan become fully owned subsidiaries of Z Holdings, which will be owned by the JV. The companies plan to complete the deal by October 2020Silicon Valley giants like Google, Amazon and Facebook Inc. and Chinese startups have taken the lead in both pushing AI development and turning the research into commercial products. That has left most other companies scrambling to attract scarce talent and collect the data necessary to conduct research in fields like deep learning.Line and Yahoo Japan are betting they can leverage local knowledge to stay in the race in their home country and markets where their services are popular, including South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia. Line and Z Holdings shares rose on the deal.Yahoo Japan was once the country’s leading search engine, web portal and major e-commerce player, but has lost ground as users migrated from PCs to smartphones. The company’s online shopping offering has been squeezed by Amazon and Rakuten Inc., while smartphone-native newcomer Mercari Inc. lured customers from its auction service. Yahoo Japan counts some 48 million daily active users across its portfolio of more than 100 mobile phone apps.Line’s origins date back to the turn of the century, when Naver dispatched Shin Jung-ho to Japan to promote its search engine technology. Shin led the company through its first decade in relative obscurity, distributing online games and dabbling in social networking services. In 2010, Line acquired Livedoor Inc., a once high-flying Japanese web portal that had fallen on hard times after its founder was thrown in jail for accounting fraud. It launched Japan’s dominant messaging service in 2011 and went public in 2016.Shin, who shares the CEO title with Takeshi Idezawa at Line, will become the newly created entity’s chief product officer. The post will give him control over the 100 billion yen AI budget and oversight of service development for both Line and Yahoo Japan.Line has 82 million monthly active users in Japan and is also the dominant messenger in Taiwan and Thailand, where it has 21 million and 45 million customers respectively. The company has been expanding into financial services by partnering with Nomura Holdings Inc. and Mizuho Financial Group Inc. It has also been developing a lineup of AI-powered hardware products, including speakers and earphones. Outlays on the new businesses have led to losses in four out of five past quarters.In the Tokyo press conference, the CEOs repeatedly spoke about getting outgunned by GAFA, or Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple Inc. They said they wouldn’t want see Japan lose out on world-leading services like search and e-commerce, but they want to create a local alternative that can address domestic needs and tastes.“GAFA’s biggest threat is the kind of loyalty they command from their users,” said Kawabe. “We want to give users a domestic AI option. By focusing on Japan’s unique challenges, we can offer services others cannot.”(Updates with the deal strategy from first paragraph.)To contact the reporters on this story: Pavel Alpeyev in Tokyo at palpeyev@bloomberg.net;Takahiko Hyuga in Tokyo at thyuga@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Elstrom at pelstrom@bloomberg.netFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.