AMZN - Amazon.com, Inc.

NasdaqGS - NasdaqGS Real Time Price. Currency in USD
1,739.49
-15.11 (-0.86%)
At close: 4:00PM EST

1,742.00 +2.51 (0.14%)
Pre-Market: 7:08AM EST

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Previous Close1,754.60
Open1,760.05
Bid1,741.39 x 1300
Ask1,742.98 x 800
Day's Range1,732.86 - 1,761.68
52 Week Range1,307.00 - 2,035.80
Volume3,931,141
Avg. Volume2,941,343
Market Cap862.434B
Beta (3Y Monthly)1.57
PE Ratio (TTM)77.08
EPS (TTM)22.57
Earnings DateJan. 29, 2020 - Feb. 3, 2020
Forward Dividend & YieldN/A (N/A)
Ex-Dividend DateN/A
1y Target Est2,183.86
  • Amazon and Apple have different but effective work cultures, venture capitalist says
    Yahoo Finance

    Amazon and Apple have different but effective work cultures, venture capitalist says

    When tech giants create differing company cultures that match their respective business strategies, both can be effective, says a top venture capitalist in a newly released interview.

  • Market Exclusive

    Market Morning: Chinese Army in Hong Kong, Boeing Walks Back Comments, Kraft Heinz Cheese Problems

    China Edges Into Hong Kong to “Clean Up Streets” The Chinese have invaded Hong Kong. So far it’s just to clean up the streets, but their presence on the island is raising some eyebrows as to what Beijing’s real intentions are in bringing Chinese soldiers in to participate in the situation. The soldiers, part of […]The post Market Morning: Chinese Army in Hong Kong, Boeing Walks Back Comments, Kraft Heinz Cheese Problems appeared first on Market Exclusive.

  • 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.

  • Black Friday: how can you tell the good deals from the bad?
    The Guardian

    Black Friday: how can you tell the good deals from the bad?

    Black Friday: how can you tell the good deals from the bad?Amazon will slash Fire 7s, Google will discount the Home Mini – but don’t be bounced into buyingAmazon Fire 7 tablet: likely to be a good deal on Black Friday Photograph: Amazon

  • Macy's Q3 Earnings Preview: Is the Department Store's Decline Set to Continue?
    Zacks

    Macy's Q3 Earnings Preview: Is the Department Store's Decline Set to Continue?

    Macy's and other department stores have not been able to find success or inspire much Wall Street confidence. Can it turn things around in Q3?

  • Bill Gates Tops Jeff Bezos as World’s Richest Person With Amazon Slide
    Bloomberg

    Bill Gates Tops Jeff Bezos as World’s Richest Person With Amazon Slide

    (Bloomberg) -- This time it’s official.Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates overtook Amazon.com Inc.’s Jeff Bezos as the world’s richest person on Friday, reclaiming the top ranking for the first time in more than two years.Gates may have been helped in part by the Pentagon’s surprise decision announced Oct. 25 to award a $10 billion cloud-computing contract to Microsoft over Amazon. Shares of Microsoft have since climbed 4%, giving Gates a $110 billion fortune, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Amazon’s stock is down about 2% since the announcement, putting Bezos’s net worth at $108.7 billion.Gates, 64, had briefly topped Bezos, 55, on an intraday basis last month after Amazon posted its first profit drop in two years, but shares of the world’s biggest online retailer pared the decline. The index, which tracks the wealth of the richest 500 people, is updated each trading day after U.S. markets close. Europe’s richest person, Bernard Arnault, is third with $102.7 billion.Read more: Microsoft Shares Surge After Controversial Pentagon Contract WinMicrosoft has surged 48% this year, boosting the value of Gates’s 1% stake. The rest of his wealth is derived from share sales and investments made over the years by his family office, Cascade.Bezos would be far richer if he and MacKenzie Bezos hadn’t divorced. The pair announced their split in January, with MacKenzie, 49, receiving a quarter of their Amazon holdings in July. Her net worth dipped to $35 billion on Friday. Gates, on the other hand, may have never relinquished the top spot were it not for his philanthropy. He has donated more than $35 billion to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation since 1994.Gates recently shared his thoughts on the wealth tax that’s been proposed by some Democratic presidential candidates, including Elizabeth Warren, saying he’s already paid more than $10 billion in taxes."If I’d had to pay $20 billion, it’s fine," he said. But "when you say I should pay $100 billion, then I’m starting to do a little math about what I have left over.”As of today, that would be $10 billion.(Updates with Gates comments on wealth tax starting in seventh paragraph.)\--With assistance from Sophie Alexander.To contact the reporter on this story: Tom Metcalf in London at tmetcalf7@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Pierre Paulden at ppaulden@bloomberg.net, Peter Eichenbaum, Steven CrabillFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Bloomberg

    Amazon Antitrust Complaint Lodged in U.S. Gets Attention in EU

    (Bloomberg) -- Amazon.com Inc.’s big push into logistics is getting scrutiny from European Union antitrust regulators who asked the U.S. to share an online merchant’s complaint against the retail giant, according to documents reviewed by Bloomberg and two people familiar with the matter.The merchant accused Amazon of rewarding those who pay for the company’s warehousing, packing and delivery services with better visibility on Amazon’s e-commerce website.The European Commission, which is already investigating Amazon’s double role as store and host to other retailers, asked a U.S. Congressional committee looking into big tech companies’ abuse of power to hand over a 62-page document from the long-time Amazon merchant made public by Bloomberg News last week. The paper is based on an analysis of thousands of Amazon transactions and accuses Amazon of “tying” its marketplace and logistics service together.The EU’s request could add a new strand to the antitrust probe it opened in July that’s looking into how Amazon’s retail arm uses data gathered on marketplace merchants to gain an advantage. The EU’s concerns focus on how Amazon might use rivals’ data to beat the “buy box” that prompts shoppers to pick a store to buy a product. While the buy box winner is chosen by an algorithm, understanding how to beat it allows retailers to mop up most transactions for a particular product.The merchant’s complaint suggests that using Amazon’s logistics service, Fulfillment by Amazon, might help a retailer win the algorithm. The merchant says he can’t pursue an antitrust case himself because he agreed to binding arbitration when he began selling products on Amazon. The person, who said he has paid Amazon tens of millions of dollars in fees in recent years, requested anonymity out of fear of losing business. The merchant alleged Amazon forced him and other online sellers to buy its logistics services even when more reliable and affordable options were available, which caused him to raise prices on shoppers.The allegations are gaining further attention in the U.S., as well. During a House Committee on Small Business hearing earlier this week, Representative Jared Golden, a Maine Democrat, said he heard similar concerns from a company in his state that sells home-heating efficiency products. The Maine business, which sells products on the site but doesn’t use the company’s logistics services, is losing sales to competitors who pay Amazon extra fees for shipping services, Golden said.Amazon Vice President Dharmesh Mehta responded by saying the company doesn’t design its search algorithms “to favor sellers or products based on who’s selling them or the fulfillment channel. We design them to prioritize what we think customers want most.”An Amazon spokesman Friday said the company “will cooperate fully with the European Commission and continue working hard to support businesses of all sizes and help them grow.”In an emailed statement last week, the company disputed many of the merchants’ allegations, saying Amazon’s logistics prices are competitive and its sellers aren’t penalized for using other delivery options. “Amazon has invested tens of billions of dollars in developing a world-class fulfillment network and we offer that network to sellers at highly competitive fees when compared to other options available to sellers. In fact, our research shows other comparable options available to sellers are approximately 50-80% more expensive” than Amazon services, the company said.The European Commission and the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel declined to comment.Tying extra services to Amazon sales isn’t the initial focus of the EU case, which is currently still gathering information that could allow regulators build up a charge sheet, called a “statement of objections.” The EU usually needs to have formed clear arguments before it sends those objections, which can eventually lead to fines and a finding that a company violated antitrust rules.Amazon this year managed to allay German antitrust worries that delivery programs could allow Amazon access to rivals’ inventories in logistics centers. The German Federal Cartel Office said in July that it dropped its concerns when the company explained “how it actually implemented the schemes and how sellers benefited from this.”To contact the reporters on this story: Spencer Soper in Seattle at ssoper@bloomberg.net;Aoife White in Brussels at awhite62@bloomberg.net;Ben Brody in Washington, D.C. at btenerellabr@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Giles Turner at gturner35@bloomberg.net, Molly Schuetz, Andrew PollackFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • 3 Semiconductor Stocks to Buy After Strong Earnings on 2020 Chip Growth
    Zacks

    3 Semiconductor Stocks to Buy After Strong Earnings on 2020 Chip Growth

    We searched for semiconductor stocks utilizing our Zacks Stock Screener that investors might want to consider buying ahead of what could be a strong year for chip companies in 2020...

  • Why Amazon is fighting the Pentagon over a controversial $10 billion contract awarded to Microsoft
    Yahoo Finance

    Why Amazon is fighting the Pentagon over a controversial $10 billion contract awarded to Microsoft

    Amazon is protesting the Pentagon's decision to award Microsoft a $10 billion DoD contract.

  • Amazon's stock is not looking too hot ahead of Black Friday
    Yahoo Finance

    Amazon's stock is not looking too hot ahead of Black Friday

    Amazon’s stock price hints it may not be a supremely merry holiday season for the internet beast.

  • TIMELINE-Amazon challenges Pentagon awarding $10 bln cloud deal to Microsoft
    Reuters

    TIMELINE-Amazon challenges Pentagon awarding $10 bln cloud deal to Microsoft

    Amazon.com Inc said on Thursday it is contesting the Pentagon's award of an up to $10 billion cloud computing deal to Microsoft Corp, expressing concern that politics got in the way of a fair contracting process. Last month, Microsoft beat favorite Amazon for the contract, called the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure Cloud, or JEDI, which is part of a broad modernization of the Pentagon's information technology systems.

  • The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Alphabet, Apple, Amazon, PayPal and Facebook
    Zacks

    The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Alphabet, Apple, Amazon, PayPal and Facebook

    The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Alphabet, Apple, Amazon, PayPal and Facebook

  • The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Disney, Netflix, Apple, Roku and Amazon
    Zacks

    The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Disney, Netflix, Apple, Roku and Amazon

    The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Disney, Netflix, Apple, Roku and Amazon

  • Kroger, Ocado to Open Sixth Fulfillment Center in Wisconsin
    Zacks

    Kroger, Ocado to Open Sixth Fulfillment Center in Wisconsin

    Kroger (KR) partners with Ocado for the second time to open another CFC in Wisconsin. The move will facilitate faster grocery delivery and enhance omnichannel strategies.

  • The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Apple, Facebook, Alphabet and Amazon
    Zacks

    The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Apple, Facebook, Alphabet and Amazon

    The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Apple, Facebook, Alphabet and Amazon

  • Warren Buffett Finds Wrong Elephant
    Bloomberg

    Warren Buffett Finds Wrong Elephant

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. has $128 billion of cash. There is almost no purchase too large for the company — in fact, large is exactly what investors are waiting for. And yet, the only stock Berkshire bought last quarter was a dinky retailer, RH.Berkshire disclosed in a regulatory filing Thursday that it took a $212 million stake in RH, a California-based home-furnishings chain valued at $3.3 billion. Buffett could even buy the entire company and it’d still be a puny deal for him. But it was a big deal for RH, because the shares surged 9% in after-hours trading and held near that level early Friday morning.I admit I didn’t even recognize the retailer’s name at first. RH used to be called Restoration Hardware, a place that sells $6,000 linen sofas and elongated wooden dining tables with “forthright silhouettes.” The company shrank its name and supersized its stores, an effort to target a more upscale clientele. It’s even installed some on-site restaurants, a little nourishment to help one ponder a new addition to the ski house. That’s partly what makes RH such a funny investment for Buffett. Not only is the billionaire known for his down-to-earth lifestyle — he’s lived in the same fairly modest house for more than 60 years — but he’s also usually drawn to businesses that mirror the America he sees from his unassuming Omaha office: railroads, truck stops, Dairy Queens, the Nebraska Furniture Mart. Furthermore, Berkshire tends not to waste time on minority stakes in small, specialty chains; its only other retail holdings are Amazon.com Inc. and Costco Wholesale Corp., companies valued at $870 billion and $134 billion, respectively. RH was the only new position Berkshire took in the latest quarter, aside from buying common shares of Occidental Petroleum Corp., in which it already purchased $10 billion of preferred equity (part of a financing deal to assist the oil and gas explorer in its takeover of Anadarko Petroleum Corp.). All in all, it was another dull period for Berkshire, whose last splashy stock pick was Amazon earlier in the year. With U.S. equities still on the rise, Buffett, 89, and his investing deputies are struggling to find cheap candidates. Whoever made the call on RH — Todd Combs, Ted Weschler or the Oracle himself — he may have had prescient timing. At the end of May, RH’s price-to-earnings ratio hit a low, and the shares have doubled since then, taking a big leg up in September. That said, RH’s overnight gains drove the shares above analysts’ average target level, which is $181 apiece. “The business remains tough to predict and we believe expectations may now be somewhat elevated,” Bobby Griffin, an analyst for Raymond James & Associates who has the equivalent of a “hold” rating on RH, wrote in a Sept. 11 report, citing the China tariffs and a slowdown in high-end U.S. housing. Similarly, Gordon Haskett Research Advisors wrote to clients Sept. 10 that the firm finds other retailers such as Wayfair Inc., Williams-Sonoma Inc. and At Home Group Inc. more attractive. At the end of the day, though, no matter how RH performs, it won’t have much of an impact on Berkshire’s portfolio. Another quarter has passed without a major acquisition by Berkshire, its cash pile hitting a record yet again. RH may sell a $449 wool felt elephant, but it isn’t the kind of elephant Buffett is after. The wait continues.To contact the author of this story: Tara Lachapelle at tlachapelle@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Beth Williams at bewilliams@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Tara Lachapelle is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering the business of entertainment and telecommunications, as well as broader deals. She previously wrote an M&A column for Bloomberg News.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • MLB Commissioner on Astros scandal: We will find out 'how far up in the organization it went'
    Yahoo Finance

    MLB Commissioner on Astros scandal: We will find out 'how far up in the organization it went'

    MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred says the league is taking the Astros cheating scandal "very seriously."

  • J.C. Penney reports earnings — here is why investors are cheering
    Yahoo Finance

    J.C. Penney reports earnings — here is why investors are cheering

    What you need to know about J.C. Penney's latest challenging quarter.

  • Jeremy Corbyn Wants to Nationalize the Internet
    Bloomberg

    Jeremy Corbyn Wants to Nationalize the Internet

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party is behind in the polls for the U.K. election so it’s unsurprising that he’s chucking out more giveaways to voters. The policy to nationalize BT Group Plc’s fixed-telecoms networks business and provide free fiber broadband to every British household is a humdinger nonetheless.Of course, the chances of this becoming reality are slim given that Corbyn’s best hope of becoming prime minister is a coalition with more moderate political parties. Yet the idea has stimulated even more debate than Labour’s previous plans to re-nationalize the railways and the energy utilities, so it’s at least worth thinking about. Taking it at face value, the policy would be a huge mistake that would achieve the opposite of its stated aim of accelerating Britain’s sluggish rollout of fiber broadband.First, there’s the cost. A Labour government would add 15 billion pounds ($19 billion) to an existing 5 billion pound broadband spending pot, according to Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell. Even assuming that would cover the required capital expenditure — a big assumption — it would cost at least the same again to nationalize Openreach, BT’s networks division.McDonnell says the state would pay for the acquisition by giving BT’s shareholders government bonds as compensation. Yet why would investors, especially those outside the U.K. protected by treaties against asset expropriation, exchange an 8.1% annual dividend yield from their BT stock for the less than 1% returns from U.K. gilts? The network spending itself would be funded by an increased tax on the likes of Facebook Inc., Alphabet Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. But the G-20 will probably adopt new international tax standards next year to try to curb Big Tech’s avoidance tactics. So a Labour government might not even be able to whomp up these levies without breaching the new guidelines.Then there’s the speed of rolling out the networks. While the U.K. is well behind the pace on high-speed broadband rollout (it’s 10th in the European Union’s 2019 connectivity rankings), a tortured nationalization process isn’t the answer. BT would have no incentive to keep investing during that period.The same’s true for private competitors such as John Malone’s Virgin Media, Vodafone Group Plc and Comcast Corp.’s Sky. Increased competition has at least accelerated the pace of the rollout: The proportion of homes with fiber access has doubled in two years.Infrastructure investors have also been attracted by the returns promised by fiber, prompting a flurry of investment from KKR & Co., Macquarie’s infrastructure fund and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. McDonnell’s comments have certainly caused some consternation. TalkTalk Telecom Group Plc. said it had paused talks to sell a fiber project, for which Goldman-backed CityFibre Ltd. was the lead bidder. Should Labour ever get the chance to offer free broadband to everyone through a state-owned provider, tens of thousands of private sector jobs would be jeopardized. How would other companies be able to compete?And full-fiber broadband might not even really be necessary. The adoption of next-generation 5G mobile networks promises the ability to transmit far more data at far greater speeds. That would make fiber to every home redundant in parts of the country.There are better and more thoughtful ways to get fiber installed sooner: Making it easier to get permits to build the network; permanently reducing business tax rates for new fiber; and making it obligatory for customers to accept fiber upgrades. If McDonnell is willing to hand over 15 billion pounds to BT shareholders to snap up Openreach, why not use the funds to subsidize the rollout directly?To contact the author of this story: Alex Webb at awebb25@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: James Boxell at jboxell@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Alex Webb is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering Europe's technology, media and communications industries. He previously covered Apple and other technology companies for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • U.K. Labour Plans to Nationalize BT’s Broadband Unit
    Bloomberg

    U.K. Labour Plans to Nationalize BT’s Broadband Unit

    (Bloomberg) -- Sign up to our Brexit Bulletin, follow us @Brexit and subscribe to our podcast.Britain’s Labour party pledged to offer all consumers free fiber broadband within a decade by nationalizing phone carrier BT Group Plc’s Openreach unit at a cost of 20 billion pounds ($26 billion).BT shareholders would get newly-issued government bonds in return for their shares, Labour’s shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, said in a speech in Lancaster, England on Friday. Shares of BT fell as much as 3.7%.It’s the biggest new pledge of the election campaign from Labour, which already has plans to nationalize the postal service, the railways and water and energy utilities. The broadband effort would be financed in part with taxes on multinational companies such as Amazon.com Inc., Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google. While the proposals may win over some voters, Labour may not be in a position to implement them. It has an average of 29% support in recent polls, trailing the Conservatives at 40%.“A Labour government will make broadband free for everybody,” party leader Jeremy Corbyn said at the campaign event at Lancaster University. “This is core infrastructure for the 21st century. It’s too important to be left to the corporations.”McDonnell said the new broadband pledge would be funded by asking “tech giants like Google and Facebook to pay a bit more” in proportion to their activities in the U.K. “So if a multinational has 10% of its sales, workforce, and operations in the U.K., they’re asked to pay tax on 10% of their global profits,” McDonnell said.While Labour puts the cost of the plan at about 20 billion pounds, BT’s Chief Executive Officer Philip Jansen said the proposal would cost almost five times that amount.BT shares were down 1.6% as of 12:29 p.m. in London, suggesting shareholders aren’t too worried about the nationalization risk. That gives the company a market value of about 19 billion pounds.“These are very very ambitious ideas,” Jansen said Friday in an interview on BBC Radio 4. “The Conservative Party have their own ambitious ideas for full fiber for everybody by 2025.”“How we do it is not straightforward, it needs funding,” Jansen said, putting the cost of such a roll-out over eight years at “not short of 100 billion pounds.”Lower Value?BT has been working to speed up its own full-fiber build and Jansen said the company’s shares have fallen on the recognition that “we’re going to be investing very very heavily.” Shareholders “are nursing massive losses on their investment” in BT if they’d bought it a few years ago, he said.Investors could get burned, as Openreach’s business would likely be undervalued in an expropriation, New Street analyst James Ratzer said in an email, adding that nationalization “rarely works well for shareholders.” Analysts at Jefferies put Openreach’s value at 13.5 billion pounds, flagging annual costs for operations and to service its high pension deficit.Labour’s McDonnell said the party has taken advice from lawyers to ensure its broadband plan fits within European Union state aid rules in case the U.K. is still in the bloc when the plans are carried out.Britain LaggingCorbyn’s plan is meant to solve a connectivity gap: Britain lags far behind other European nations when it comes to full-fiber coverage, which allows for gigabit-per-second download speeds. About 8% of the country is connected -- just under 2.5 million properties, according to a September report by communications regulator Ofcom. That compares with 63% for Spain and 86% for Portugal.As policymakers and regulators have been creating conditions to spur more competition with BT, rivals including Liberty Global Plc’s Virgin Media and Goldman Sachs Group Inc.-backed CityFibre have been jumping in to commit billions of pounds to infrastructure plans.“Those plans risk being shelved overnight,” Matthew Howett, an analyst at Assembly, said in an email. “This is a spectacularly bad take by the Labour Party.”The Labour announcement caused TalkTalk Telecom Group Plc to pause talks to sell a fiber project as the industry seeks clarity.Analysts are skeptical the government could roll out fiber more effectively than private industry and Howett pointed to delays and budget overruns from a state-led effort in Australia.It’s not the first time radical ideas have been proposed for BT’s Openreach unit, a national network of copper wire and fiber-optic cable that communication providers including BT, Comcast Corp.’s Sky and Vodafone Group Plc tap into to provide home internet to customers.BT was forced to legally separate the division from the rest of the company in recent years over concerns about competition, and that it wasn’t investing fast enough to roll out fiber, and some investors have suggested the company should fully spin it out into an independent, listed business to unlock value.‘Fantasy’ PlanNicky Morgan, the Conservative cabinet minister with responsibility for digital services, dismissed Corbyn’s plan in a statement as a “fantasy” that “would cost hardworking taxpayers tens of billions” of pounds.The Conservative Party’s own proposal for full-fiber broadband across the U.K. by 2025 -- eight years ahead of a previous government goal -- has raised eyebrows across the telecom industry, as some executives and analysts expressed skepticism about whether it’s doable, whether there’s consumer demand for the ultrafast internet service and how companies would make money.‘A Disaster’TechUK, the industry’s main trade body, called Labour’s plan “a disaster” for the telecom sector. “Renationalization would immediately halt the investment being driven not just by BT but the growing number of new and innovative companies that compete with BT,” said Chief Executive Officer Julian David.The announcement will provide more fodder for the arguments by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives that a Labour government risks plunging the country into an economic crisis. Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid over the weekend released analysis estimating Labour would raise spending by 1.2 trillion pounds over five years. McDonnell at the time called it “fake news.”McDonnell said Parliament would set the value of Openreach when it’s taken into public ownership and that shareholders would be compensated with government bonds.Under Labour’s plan, the roll-out would begin in areas with the worst broadband access, including rural communities, followed by towns and then by areas that are currently well-served by fast broadband.According to elections expert John Curtice, Corbyn’s chances of forming a majority government are “as close to zero” as it’s possible to get. The election is still hard to predict, and it is possible that Labour could yet win power, either on its own or with the support of smaller parties.(Updates with Corbyn remarks in fourth paragraph, McDonnell in fifth.)\--With assistance from Jennifer Ryan and Kit Rees.To contact the reporters on this story: Alex Morales in London at amorales2@bloomberg.net;Thomas Seal in London at tseal@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Rebecca Penty at rpenty@bloomberg.net, ;Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Frank ConnellyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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