|Bid||199.63 x 1000|
|Ask||199.69 x 800|
|Day's Range||199.05 - 201.29|
|52 Week Range||123.02 - 208.66|
|Beta (3Y Monthly)||1.06|
|PE Ratio (TTM)||32.13|
|Earnings Date||Jan. 28, 2020 - Feb. 3, 2020|
|Forward Dividend & Yield||N/A (N/A)|
|1y Target Est||238.77|
D.A. Davidson senior research analyst Tom Forte said long-standing Google executive Sundar Pichai was the right choice to take over Alphabet.
Monetising hate: covert enterprise co-opts far-right Facebook pages to churn out anti-Islamic posts. Exclusive: Israel-based group has gained access to at least 21 pages, using them to launch coordinated false stories to their 1 million followers around the world
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- After an international outcry that included a Twitter campaign led by the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum, Amazon has removed Auschwitz-themed Christmas ornaments from its site. Most observers — myself included — were heartened by this decision. Does the world really need these products, or, for that matter, an Auschwitz-themed mouse pad and bottle opener?Still, the question arises: Where should a company such as Amazon.com Inc. draw the line when it comes to selling third-party merchandise? I propose a standard: Focus on whether the merchandise contributes to further understanding, one way or another, rather than whether it might embody evil.(1)This principle runs counter to how the world of social media works, I realize. “Cancel culture” tends to issue decisions based on the worst aspects of a product, writer or public figure, because that is what is endlessly circulated and condemned. But there is another way of thinking about the problem — namely, by focusing on the positive.It is still possible, for example, to buy Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” on Amazon, either through third-party merchants or Amazon itself. That book is more offensive than an Auschwitz bottle opener, as it directly calls for the extermination of the Jews and the conquest of Europe, and it probably still inspires neo-Nazis today. Nonetheless, I hope “Mein Kampf” continues to be for sale.For all of its evil, “Mein Kampf” is an essential document for understanding the rise of Nazism and Hitler. As such, it should be allowed in spite of its potential downside. There is both intrinsic and utilitarian value in maximizing public access to as much knowledge as possible.In contrast, it is hard to argue that an Auschwitz-themed mouse pad has anything positive to offer, whether to our historical knowledge or otherwise. At best, it is an act of obnoxious trolling and thus it was appropriate for Amazon to take it down. (As of this writing, it still appears to be unavailable.) Of course as a separate matter, Amazon should ban unsafe and illegal products as well.This positive-contribution standard can also apply to a social media platform such as Twitter. There will never be hard and fast lines about whether any given individual should be allowed to keep posting or maintain an account, even if the content is widely considered objectionable. Better to focus on whether that person offers substantive contributions, rather than judging them by their very worst or most offensive utterances.Of course that will lead to Twitter, Facebook and the like tolerating some pretty bad material. But if “cancel culture” is not appropriate for Hitler himself — and that seems to be the case — then surely other evil thinkers today should be tolerated as well. Maybe we can learn something from them, even if what we learn is not exactly what they are intending to teach us. The Nazi-sympathizing films of Leni Riefenstahl are not banned, for instance, and indeed are still watched for their aesthetic merits.I once had a Marxist professor (H. Bruce Franklin) who edited a book titled “The Essential Stalin.” I did not necessarily agree with his views, but I did learn a lot about Stalin and Marx along the way. And I am certainly glad that no one stopped him from teaching that class. To this day, I think of him as one of the best professors I ever had.One alternative option is for Amazon to allow everything on its site, in the interests of free speech and the free distribution of products. But Amazon has no obligation — as a private company — to sell offensive material, and Amazon is not outlawing whatever other channels people might have for buying the Auschwitz-themed mouse pads and other objectionable items.Another option would be an Amazon-authorized independent third party to rule on merchandise decisions, much as Facebook appears to be doing for controversial posts. Yet this does not solve the basic dilemma. At times public outcry will demand that Amazon act swiftly, such as with the Auschwitz-themed Christmas ornaments. A third-party adjudicator, presumably, would be bound by bureaucratic procedures, just as a court system is, and furthermore it would face a heavy volume of cases.It may strike you as odd that the standard I propose would allow Amazon to sell one of the most vile books of the 20th century yet prohibit the sale of a few tasteless ceramic ornaments. But Amazon — and its customers — should be grateful for any effort that reduces or eliminates their chances of encountering truly useless junk.(1) To be clear, my conflicts of interest in any Amazon-related column are massive. Not only does Amazon sell my books, but it also receives thousands of dollars of my business each year, it helps shape the future and fiscal future of my place of employment and affects just about every facet of my daily life.To contact the author of this story: Tyler Cowen at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Newman at email@example.comThis 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.
(Bloomberg) -- U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren is drafting a bill that would call on regulators to retroactively review about two decades of “mega mergers” and ban such deals going forward.Warren’s staff recently circulated a proposal for sweeping anti-monopoly legislation, which would deliver on a presidential campaign promise to check the power of Big Tech and other industries. Although the Trump administration is currently exploring their own antitrust probes, the proposal is likely to face resistance from lawmakers.According to a draft of the bill reviewed by Bloomberg, the proposal would expand antitrust law beyond the so-called consumer welfare standard, an approach that has driven antitrust policy since the 1970s. Under the current framework, the federal government evaluates mergers primarily based on potential harm to consumers through higher prices or decreased quality. The new bill would direct the government to also consider the impact on entrepreneurs, innovation, privacy and workers.Warren’s bill, tentatively titled the Anti-Monopoly and Competition Restoration Act, would also ban non-compete and no-poaching agreements for workers and protect the rights of gig economy workers, such as drivers for Uber Technologies Inc., to organize.A draft of Warren’s bill was included in an email Monday from Spencer Waller, the director of the Institute for Consumer Antitrust Studies at Loyola University Chicago. Waller urged fellow academics to sign a petition supporting it. He said Warren was working on the bill with Representative David Cicilline, the most prominent voice on antitrust issues in the House. Waller declined to comment on the email.Representatives for Cicilline and Warren declined to comment. The existence of the bill and Warren’s support of it were reported earlier this week by the technology publication the Information.In Washington, there is some support across the political spectrum for increased antitrust scrutiny of large technology companies. Warren positioned herself as a leader on the issue this year while campaigning on a plan to break up Big Tech. She has repeatedly called for unwinding Facebook Inc.’s acquisitions of WhatsApp and Instagram, along with Google’s purchase of YouTube and advertising platform DoubleClick.Read more: Warren Accuses Michael Bloomberg of ‘Buying the Election’It’s not clear when a bill would be introduced or whether it would move forward in its current form. Cicilline has said he would not introduce antitrust legislation until he concludes an antitrust investigation for the House Judiciary Committee in early 2020.Amy Klobuchar, a Senator from Minnesota who’s also vying for the Democratic nomination, has pushed legislation covering similar ground. Klobuchar plans to introduce additional antitrust legislation soon, according to a person familiar with the matter who wasn’t authorized to discuss the plans and asked not to be identified.Any proposal would face significant hurdles to becoming law, and Warren’s version could be particularly problematic because it promotes the idea that antitrust enforcement is equivalent to being against big business, said Barak Orbach, a law professor at the University of Arizona who received a draft of the bill. “The way I read it is that Elizabeth Warren is trying to make a political statement in the course of her campaign,” Orbach said. “It’s likely to have negative effects on antitrust enforcement, so I just don’t see the upside other than for the campaign.”The bill proposes a ban on mergers where one company has annual revenue of more $40 billion, or where both companies have sales exceeding $15 billion, except under certain exceptions, such as when a company is in immediate danger of insolvency. That would seemingly put a freeze on many acquisitions for Apple Inc., Alphabet Inc., Facebook, Microsoft Corp. and dozens of other companies. The bill would also place new limitations on smaller mergers.Chris Sagers, a law professor at Cleveland State University, said the proposal would serve as an effective check on corporate power. “I don’t think you’ll have new antitrust policy until Congress says the courts have incorrectly interpreted the statutes,” he said. “Someone has to do what Elizabeth Warren is doing.”(Michael Bloomberg is also seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.)To contact the reporters on this story: Eric Newcomer in San Francisco at firstname.lastname@example.org;Joshua Brustein in New York at email@example.comTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Milian at firstname.lastname@example.orgFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Is there anything short of a major external shock — or a polling meltdown — that could knock Boris Johnson’s Conservatives off course for a comfortable U.K. parliamentary majority on Dec. 12?On the face of it, an upset seems unlikely. The Tories are leading by about 10 points in national polls on average. When Johnson warns that the vote is going to be “very, very tight” and that it will “go to the wire,” he’s trying to make sure Conservative voters and Brexit supporters don’t get complacent. Currency traders aren’t buying Johnson’s line that it’s a close contest: The pound climbed to its highest level since 2017 Wednesday in anticipation of his victory.And yet there’s a significant range in the polls, with some showing as little as a six-point lead over the opposition Labour Party (which would bring us into hung-parliament territory) and others as much as 15 points (getting closer to a Tory landslide). There are also plenty of seats that could be decided by vote swings of only 5%. It wouldn’t take a voter tsunami to capsize the Tories; a strong undercurrent that isn’t visible from the surface could do it.That’s where the ground war comes into play. For all the focus on Facebook advertising, TV debates and social media campaigns, U.K. elections are still fought largely by party activists who knock on doors, hand out leaflets and engage voters face-to-face or over the phone. These aren’t just feel-good efforts for local militants; they’re pretty sophisticated operations. Party “agents” (similar to U.S. campaign managers) match information on declared support with key demographic and lifestyle indicators to determine which homes and streets to target, and then coordinate the activists’ work. The aim isn’t to change minds but to mobilize supporters and capture some waverers too. “By and large, the more you campaign, the better you perform electorally,” says Justin Fisher, a professor of political science at Brunel University London. In fact, traditional campaigning has proved more effective than either mail campaigns or online advertising, Fisher says. “In the last election, if Labour had done no real campaigning on the ground, they would have had 27 fewer seats.” Instead, it closed a massive polling gap and made its strongest gains in the postwar era, denying the Tories a majority. “In effect, the national campaign is almost subservient to the local campaign,” Fisher says.In their recent book on British party membership, Tim Bale, Paul Webb and Monica Poletti track how much time members give to campaigns. They found about one-third of members devoted at least 10 hours to the 2015 and 2017 campaigns.Labour has a competitive advantage on this front, with some 485,000 members compared to 160,000 for the Conservatives. While non-members who support the parties are also important, it’s the members who tend to do the heavy lifting. Nearly 44% of Tory members said they spend no time campaigning versus one-third of Labour members.The winner-takes-all electoral system means the U.K. vote is really 650 mini-elections. While most races are already locked up, plenty of “marginal” seats are in play, where a shift of less than 7% of the votes would cause it to change hands.Traditional party loyalties count, but they aren’t absolute. About one in three voters switched their support between the 2015 and 2017 elections. And plenty of voters make up their minds late in the day. What political scientists call “voter hesitancy” has been growing, making it more likely that the final days matter. That explains reported Conservative plans for a last-minute social media blitz, although the Tories are lagging Labour and the Liberal Democrats in online advertising.Still, the Tories have done a better job of consolidating the 2016 Leave vote than Labour has in winning over remainers. And while Tory voters skew older, Johnson seems to have made headway in getting more voters above the age of 30 to shift his way (the tipping point for voting Conservative is now closer to 40, down from 47 in the last election). Given his “get Brexit done” mantra, Johnson will feel confident of holding onto the Leave-voting seats his predecessor Theresa May won in 2017. It will be harder to defend the party’s remain-backing constituencies, largely in London and Scotland. But Johnson has made some headway north of the border by opposing a second Scottish independence referendum.Johnson’s hope for a strong majority rests on pulling many Leave-voting Labour seats to the Conservatives. An analysis by the Daily Telegraph shows the Tories need a swing of just 7.5% to pick up 41 Leave-voting seats; places like Dudley North, which Labour won by only 22 votes in 2017, need a tiny shift. These are the places were Labour’s ground warriors will be fighting hardest. They may make more headway than the polls, which aren’t that granular, are showing us.Yet these activists have a difficult job, from selling Labour’s indecisive Brexit policy to countering charges of anti-Semitism. Labour also suffers from a historically unpopular leader in Jeremy Corbyn. A recent Kantar poll showed 41% of voters name Boris Johnson as their preferred prime minister and only 22% Corbyn (the option “neither” got 27% support). This isn’t a presidential race, but voters do have to be able to visualize the person in Downing Street.Ultimately, the ground campaign can’t entirely make up for weak messaging or an unpopular party, as Fisher’s research also shows. However simplistic or misleading, Johnson’s message may prove too appealing to an electorate that’s tired of Brexit, and wary of what Corbyn is selling. To contact the author of this story: Therese Raphael at email@example.comTo contact the editor responsible for this story: James Boxell at firstname.lastname@example.orgThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Therese Raphael writes editorials on European politics and economics for Bloomberg Opinion. She was editorial page editor of the Wall Street Journal Europe.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
Facebook risks becoming a "one-stop grooming shop" if it presses ahead with plans to encrypt across all its messaging services, the NSPCC has warned. The social networking site is considering end-to-end encryption on Messenger and Instagram Direct - on top of WhatsApp, which is already encrypted. Out of 9,259 instances where police in England and Wales said they know the platform used in child abuse image and online child sexual offences, just over 4,000 were carried out on Facebook, Instagram or WhatsApp.
(Bloomberg) -- U.S. antitrust enforcers have broadened their scrutiny of Amazon.com Inc. beyond its retail operations to include its massive cloud-computing business, according to people familiar with the matter.Investigators at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission have been asking software companies recently about practices around Amazon’s cloud unit, known as Amazon Web Services, said the people, who declined to be named because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly.The outreach by the FTC signals that the agency, which is already looking at Amazon’s conduct in its vast online retail business, is taking a broader look at the company to determine whether it could be violating antitrust laws and harming competition.The FTC and Amazon declined to comment. The agency’s scrutiny won’t necessarily result in an enforcement action against the company.AWS dominates the market for foundational cloud-computing technology that provides the storage and computing power needed to run applications. It is several times bigger than its next largest rival, Microsoft Corp.’s Azure, according to analyst estimates. Gartner Inc. puts AWS’s share at 48% and Microsoft’s at 16%.AWS accounted for 60% of Amazon’s operating income in the most recently reported 12 months. The unit’s profitability in recent years has helped keep investors happy even as the company continues to spend heavily to expand both its retail and cloud-computing businesses.Amazon also sells an array of products that run on top of those basic services, such as databases, machine-learning tools and data-warehousing products. It competes with hundreds of other software companies large and small that offer similar products.One issue the FTC could look at is whether Amazon has an incentive to discriminate against those software companies, which sell their products to clients of AWS, while at the same time competing with Amazon. The fear is that Amazon could punish the companies that work with other cloud providers and favor those that it works with exclusively.The dynamic echos that in Amazon’s retail marketplace, where third-party sellers depend on the platform to reach customers because of its size, but in many cases they also compete with Amazon’s own products. That’s a conflict that threatens competition, according to critics.The FTC’s Amazon inquiry is part of antitrust investigations sweeping across the technology industry. Federal and state authorities are investigating Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Facebook Inc. while the House Judiciary Committee is examining conduct of those companies as well as Amazon and Apple Inc.\--With assistance from Matt Day.To contact the reporters on this story: Dina Bass in Seattle at email@example.com;David McLaughlin in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org;Naomi Nix in Washington at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Sara Forden at firstname.lastname@example.org, ;Jillian Ward at email@example.com, Andrew PollackFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
Facebook Inc's Instagram said it will require birthdates from all new users starting on Wednesday, expanding the audience for ads for alcohol and other age-restricted products while offering new safety measures for younger users. Until now, Instagram except for limited circumstances has required its 1 billion users only to say they are at least 13 years old. Instagram said advertisers were not the driving force for the new requirement.
(Bloomberg) -- LinkedIn’s senior executive in charge of human resources has resigned after breaking “compliance” rules, according to people familiar with the matter.Christina Hall left the Microsoft Corp.-owned company because of an internal “compliance” issue, the people said, asking not to be identified because the details aren’t public. LinkedIn Chief Executive Officer Jeff Weiner announced the move to staff on Tuesday, they said.“Nina McQueen will lead our global talent organization on an interim basis while we conduct an internal and external search for a replacement,” said Ngaire Moyes, spokeswoman for LinkedIn, in an emailed statement on Wednesday, declining to comment further.Hall, who had been at LinkedIn for six years, led the company’s human resources team, and oversaw hiring and benefit programs at the company. A former lawyer, she previously held roles in the compensation departments of Facebook Inc. and Intuit Inc., according to her LinkedIn profile. She’d held her current title since September 2018.She didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.Microsoft acquired LinkedIn in 2016 in an all-cash purchase valued at $26.2 billion.(Updates with details on Hall’s background in fourth paragraph.)To contact the reporters on this story: Giles Turner in London at firstname.lastname@example.org;Amy Thomson in London at email@example.comTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Giles Turner at firstname.lastname@example.orgFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Since Monday, Russians who post links to foreign media content can be branded “foreign agents” and systematically, and legally, harassed by the country’s fearsome bureaucracy and law-enforcement system. The law, quickly passed by parliament and signed by President Vladimir Putin, comes a little more than a month after Maria Butina, the gun advocate convicted in the U.S., returned to Moscow after spending 15 months in a U.S. prison for acting as an unregistered foreign agent.Russia had already had a foreign agent law since 2012. It was used against nongovernmental organizations that received foreign funding. These groups were banned from participating in "political activities” (such as election monitoring), subjected to exhaustive government audits and forced to accompany all their external communications with a humiliating disclosure of their “foreignness.” Many nonprofits have folded under government pressure. Dozens of complaints about the law have been lodged with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, but it is yet to rule on them.A small number of media organizations — for now, just those funded by the U.S. Congress, such as Voice of America and Radio Liberty — have been designated as foreign agents, too.The new law makes it possible to apply the foreign agent label to individuals, specifically to those who spread content from media or other organizations determined to be foreign agents and who receive any kind of funding from a foreign or foreign-financed source. An employee of, say, the human rights group Memorial, or simply the recipient of a relative’s wire transfers from abroad, has only to post on Facebook a link to a Radio Liberty story for the law to apply.That person then will land on a special list of “agents” and will be obliged to register as a company so that his or her funding is transparent to the state. A Russian journalist working for Voice of America also becomes a foreign agent under the law.The Russian Justice Ministry needs only to decide that other foreign media organizations are agents for numerous Russians, who work for them or share their stories, to become officially suspect — and marked as such for the tax bureaucracy, the police and the internet censorship agency that can block websites.Failure to register, open a company or mark one’s stories or posts as coming from a foreign agent will be punishable by a yet-undetermined fine.Andrei Klimov, one of the drafters of the law, recently told the government-owned daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta:Unlike our foreign counterparts, we envisage no criminal liability. We don’t grab people, we don’t toss them into torture chambers, like some other countries that do it for five or fifteen years. We are capable of getting results with administrative measures.It’s clear from his comment that the Russian law is a response to the sudden prominence of foreign-agent registration, a previously obscure requirement best known to professional lobbyists, in the Donald Trump-Russia investigations of special counsel Robert Mueller. He had political operatives Paul Manafort and Rick Gates indicted for violating the Foreign Agent Registration Act of 1938, previously a laxly enforced law.Butina was charged under a different though similar statute, which also requires foreign agents to register with the U.S. government. Even U.S. officials sometimes confuse the regulations, and it’s not easy for a layman to understand what actions make one a foreign agent under them.Butina, for example, was sentenced to 18 months for trying to establish contacts with Republican operatives and National Rifle Association members on behalf of a Russian Central Bank official who may have wanted to set up a back channel between the Kremlin and the Republican elite in the U.S. Putin was annoyed by the Butina case. “They grabbed the girl, put her behind bars, and they had nothing to show for it,” he commented after her sentencing.Now comes the retaliation — and as usual under Putin, mainly against Russians he sees as a Western fifth column rather than against the U.S. as such. Also as usual under Putin, the response is asymmetrical. Though the new law uses the same term as the U.S. statutes, “foreign agent,” it doesn’t have the same meaning.In the U.S., an agent must do things at the behest of a foreign official. In Russia, it’s enough to receive money from any foreign source and to spread undesirable content to be branded an agent — a legal novelty that Russian constitutional lawyer Ilya Shablinsky condemned in his analysis of the new law.To me, however, foreign-agent registration laws make little sense in either form — the U.S. one or the Russian one. Spying is a rather clearly defined crime that, deservedly, carries a heavy punishment the world over.But various forms of “espionage lite” are nebulous enough to be used by overeager officials to make political points and strike tit-for-tat blows. Paranoia in the U.S. sets off Russian vindictiveness. This is not a virtuous cycle.To contact the author of this story: Leonid Bershidsky at email@example.comTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Tobin Harshaw 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.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Google’s parent company took an obvious step on Tuesday to replace its absentee chief executive officer. And while Alphabet Inc.’s leadership change removes a cloud hanging over the company, it also creates potential new ones. Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the founders of Alphabet, wrote that Sundar Pichai will become the CEO of the corporate parent of Google in addition to the post as Google boss that he has held since 2015. This change was long overdue. Page had grown increasingly invisible inside and outside the company, and he was no longer doing the job required of a powerful corporate chieftain in 2019.It’s not that his company necessarily suffered from Page’s reluctance or inability to fulfill his role. Pichai has been running all the functional, important parts of the company such as web search, YouTube, cloud computing and more. Alphabet has done more than fine. But as long as Page was the Alphabet CEO, there was a problem of split authority — or a perception of it — between the figurehead boss and the the functional one. It no longer felt tenable for Page to do only the bits of the CEO job he liked and ignore everything else. That problem is gone. Brin will also step down from his role as president of Alphabet; both he and Page will remain on the board, and they will remain the ultimate authority through their control of the company’s voting stock. Answering the leadership question, however, raises a couple of fresh ones. The first is whether Pichai is up for the horrible, unpleasant task of being the official CEO of a big tech company. It’s an awkward question to ask, in part because no one can possibly be prepared for what has become an even more demanding and personally grueling job as the tech industry becomes more muscular and less unquestionably admired.Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has become extremely practiced at apologizing. Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, had his personal life splashed on the pages of tabloids. Apple Inc.’s Tim Cook is at the White House so often he should have a West Wing frequent visitor card. This is probably not what any of them imagined the job would be.Pichai remains relatively untested at making decisions that will make him enemies no matter what he does — whether it’s dealing with demands from governments around the world or leading a workforce that is increasingly divided about policies and culture. To borrow a line from my Bloomberg News colleague Mark Bergen, what Alphabet needs as much as a capable technologist is a charismatic champion and a good politician.We’ll see how Pichai does in those roles, or if he perhaps leans on Google’s top lawyer or other more political- and policy-minded executives. That is what Page did in much of his time as Google’s CEO with Eric Schmidt as chairman. The second question is whether the Alphabet structure has outlived its usefulness. One original motivation for creating an umbrella structure over Google in 2015 was to give operational independence and a separate budget to nascent projects inside the company such as driverless cars, health-care initiatives and novel approaches to internet services.The company’s shareholders back then were anxious that Google was pouring money into long-shot projects that might never pan out and diluting the earnings potential of Google’s cash-minting businesses. Creating the Alphabet structure let the company put all those projects into a money-draining box — the “here be dragons” portion of the company’s P&L — and spotlight the earnings power of Google’s mostly advertising-focused businesses. The idea was that Page and Brin could focus on the big picture and leave the day-to-day stuff to Pichai and others.But shielding Google from those “other bets” such as driverless cars no longer seems so urgent. Alphabet and other tech titans — particularly those effectively controlled by their founders — have a relatively long leash from investors to invest in both the projects that generate earnings now and on whatever comes next. Amazon, for example, spent $14 billion to buy a niche grocery store chain, and it’s investing in far-flung businesses such as health care and entertainment.Amazon has always received a longer leash to tinker than most other companies, but I think Google’s cash firepower also lets it experiment without creating an artificial structure to shield Google from its less mature corporate cousins. There may be a reason that Alphabet never became a blueprint for other technology companies that wanted to keep up with the times. They could keep up with the times, or not, without the blueprint. It is a credit to Page, Brin, Pichai and many others that Google has outlasted all predictions of its doom. It was a popular Silicon Valley parlor game a decade ago to say that Google would be rendered irrelevant by the smartphone age. No one would need to search in the app age, the thinking went. Google would become the next in the long list of technology companies that couldn’t escape revolutionary technology changes. Google defied the odds and made that leap across the evolutionary gap. The next challenges for the company are technological, political and cultural. They’re just as existential as the last challenge of keeping up with an evolutionary technology shift. And now we’ll see if Pichai, and the structure Page left him, are up to the task. To contact the author of this story: Shira Ovide at email@example.comTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Daniel Niemi at firstname.lastname@example.orgThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Shira Ovide is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering technology. She previously was a reporter for the Wall Street Journal.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- The punitive tariffs on French goods proposed by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative are a disproportionate response to France’s digital services tax. But that’s what French President Emmanuel Macron gets for his impatience to be the first to tax multinational internet platforms without waiting for international organizations to agree on a coordinated solution.The proposed tariffs of up to 100%, which are likely to be imposed sometime next year after a public discussion, cover French cheeses and other dairy products, sparkling wine, cosmetics, handbags and porcelain with a combined trade value of $2.4 billion. Even if imports drop significantly in response to the harsh measure, the U.S. government is likely to collect more from the tariffs than France’s planned revenue from the digital tax of between 400 million euros ($443 million) and 500 million euros this year. The rationale for the U.S. retaliation is that the French tax is aimed disproportionately at U.S. companies. The levy of 3% revenue is imposed on companies with a global revenue of 750 million euros, of which 25 million euros in online sales comes from France, if they provide targeted digital advertising or intermediation services. That’s seemingly geography-agnostic, but French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has repeatedly referred to it as a “GAFA tax,” short for Google, Apple Inc., Facebook Inc. and Amazon.com Inc.Compared with a failed European Commission proposal for a European Union-wide digital tax, the French version appears tailor-made to exclude French companies. For example, the EU version set total revenue thresholds, which would have subjected French advertising group Publicis Groupe SA and retailer Carrefour SA to the proposed tax. Under the French arrangement, the thresholds only concern revenue from digital intermediation and targeted ads, exempting these big French players. Besides, digital tax payments can be offset against the French corporate tax, favoring firms domiciled in France.These U.S. arguments make a certain amount of sense. France, however, doesn’t just expect to collect the tax from U.S. firms. China-based Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., Axel Springer SE and Zalando SE from Germany, Rakuten Inc. in Japan and France’s own Criteo SA are all among the 27 companies hit with the tax, according to the USTR. Sure, almost two-thirds of the affected companies are American, but the presence of European and Asian multinationals on the list makes the proposed U.S. response even more disproportionate than it would have been if France had only targeted U.S. internet giants.It’s unfair, but Macron’s France was asking for it.In December 2018, France agreed with more cautious Germany on a plan for the digital tax — to wait for the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development to work out a multilateral solution to the problem of internet platforms’ failure to pay taxes where they earn revenue. In the meantime, the joint Franco-German declaration urged the EU to agree its own digital tax directive that would go into effect in 2021 failing an OECD-approved solution. But when the EU failed to do that because of objections from Ireland, Denmark, Sweden and Finland, France decided to move unilaterally, promising to change its digital tax law if there’s ever an OECD solution. It was in such a hurry to be first in Europe to impose a digital tax that it made the levy, approved in July, retroactive to January — yet another irritant to the U.S.The rush was unnecessary. The OECD hopes to come up with a final version of its proposal by January 2020. It’s clearly in the final stretch of development; the version published in October is undergoing public consultations. Even if the U.S. rejects it, as Le Maire suspects it might, there is likely to be enough momentum for the EU to agree on a common solution. The main difference of the OECD’s approach from the current French practice is that it would tax profit rather than revenue, creating rules for allocating taxable profit among countries where it’s earned. That’s a far less controversial approach than France has taken.U.S. President Donald Trump says it’s not up to France to tax American companies; but with the OECD solution, the U.S. will get to tax European multinationals like ad-retargeting platform Criteo, too.The USTR has pointed out numerous shortcomings of the French digital tax. Perhaps most bafflingly, services that look identical to the consumer are taxed differently. For example, Amazon has to pay the tax on a sale by a small business using its platform, but not on a sale of its own merchandise. Uber is taxed as a digital intermediary, but a taxi firm with its own app isn’t. When legislation is rushed, it often ends up defying logic. The OECD’s cautious, lengthy process is meant to arrive at a result that won’t be easy for anyone to shoot down.Since the wait for this result is almost over, it makes little sense for individual countries such as Austria, Italy, Spain, Slovakia and a number of nations outside Europe to push out their own solutions. But they’re taking less of a risk than France with the U.S.: Macron just had to be the first to stick his neck out. Le Maire said on Tuesday that the EU would retaliate for any “new U.S. sanctions” — but it’s difficult to expect such a coordinated response when France’s unilateral action is at issue.There’s little doubt that internet giants, U.S.-based and otherwise, eventually will be taxed worldwide, not just where their headquarters are located. Some politicians may feel it’s not happening fast enough, but jumping the gun only creates unnecessary tension and hurts innocent bystanders such as the French makers of fine cheeses and champagne. France will be thankful to the OECD for the opportunity to pull back from its rash action when the organization’s tax proposal is ready next year — hopefully before the U.S. tariffs bite.To contact the author of this story: Leonid Bershidsky at email@example.comTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Melissa Pozsgay 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.
Mondelez International (MDLZ) is benefiting from strong organic sales. The company's solid pricing, focus on innovation, and expansion across geographies and multiple platforms bode well.
(Bloomberg) -- Twitter Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey has picked a questionable time to spend as much as half a year in Africa.Dorsey wrote in a tweet last week that he planned live on the continent for between three and six months in 2020, news that was largely buried thanks to the Thanksgiving holiday. But investors quickly noted the Twitter chief’s plans will coincide with a presidential election year in the U.S., which is likely to be marked with growing debate over election meddling, online hate speech and the role of tech companies in public discourse.“There’s going to be a bright spotlight on Twitter, Facebook and a lot of other tech platforms,” said Dan Ives, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, adding that Dorsey’s absence from the country could provide fodder to Twitter’s critics. “If the CEO does this, any speed bump is over-magnified.”Dorsey made the announcement about his trip after spending most of the month of November in Africa, where he visited with entrepreneurs and completed a 10-day meditation retreat in South Africa. “Sad to be leaving the continent…for now,” he tweeted. “Africa will define the future (especially the bitcoin one!). Not sure where yet, but I’ll be living here for 3-6 months mid 2020. Grateful I was able to experience a small part.”The CEO’s trip, assuming it takes place, will happen as Twitter’s most high-profile user, President Donald Trump, runs a presidential campaign while simultaneously running the country on Dorsey’s platform. Inevitably Twitter will have to make tough, quick decisions, and it’s unclear how easy or efficient that will be with a chief executive halfway around the world for an extended period.Twitter’s corporate structure could also compound that problem. The CEO has no obvious No. 2 inside Twitter, and the chief operating officer role, often viewed as second in command, has been vacant since January 2018.But what’s bad news for Twitter could actually benefit the other publicly traded company that Dorsey leads, payments giant Square Inc. Dorsey, who has been CEO of both for four years, suggested that a trip to Africa would help him learn about cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin -- a personal area of interest for the Dorsey, as well as a potentially big market for Square.Square was one of the first public companies to wade into cryptocurrencies, allowing users to buy and sell Bitcoin on its Cash App in 2017. Dorsey has long been an outspoken proponent of Bitcoin, even hiring a small team at Square to work on cryptocurrency-related projects. The trip could also bring Dorsey closer to Africa’s fast-growing fintech industry, which has been a bright spot for the continent in recent years.Like Twitter, however, Square also has no clear successor to the CEO. Its former CFO Sarah Friar, who had been widely considered to be the company’s No. 2, left to run the neighborhood social network Nextdoor.com Inc. in late 2018.“The key question will be whether Jack installs an interim chief operating officer or president in his absence,” said Lisa Ellis, an analyst at MoffettNathanson. “If he does, I believe the Africa sojourns could be a good thing strategically for Square. If he does not, he is putting the day-to-day operations of Square at risk.” Ellis added that she expects Square’s board will push on this point. Representatives for Square and Twitter declined to comment.The likeliest practical outcome to Dorsey’s globetrotting may be that he simply continues his job from the other side of the world. Inside Twitter, Dorsey and other executives have been promoting the concept of remote work, according to people at the company. Dorsey visited 27 Twitter offices around the world in 2019, and recently referred to remote work as “our future.”Dorsey has long been viewed as a CEO who takes on more projects than most. “Even though he’s kind of been superman as CEO of two public companies, and juggling a lot of balls at the same time, going to Africa for three to six months -- I don’t think that’s something from a shareholder perspective that’s viewed as ideal,” Ives said. Even for Dorsey, the Africa trip would be unusual. Adds Ives: “[In] twenty years covering tech on the street, I’ve never seen a CEO go on a three- to six-month journey to another continent.”To contact the reporters on this story: Kurt Wagner in San Francisco at email@example.com;Julie Verhage in New York at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Jillian Ward at email@example.com, Anne VanderMeyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Terms of Trade is a daily newsletter that untangles a world embroiled in trade wars. Sign up here. France’s government said the European Union would retaliate if the U.S. follows through on a threat to hit about $2.4 billion of French products with tariffs over a dispute concerning how large tech companies are taxed.The decision by the office of the U.S. Trade Representative marks a setback for efforts to stop a conflict over a digital services tax. The levy, which the USTR says “discriminates against U.S. companies,” would hit the revenues of large tech companies including Google, Apple Inc., Facebook Inc. and Amazon.com Inc.The American tariffs in response could target sparkling wine, cheeses, handbags and makeup.“It’s not worthy of an ally, and it’s not the behavior we expect from the U.S. toward one of its main allies, France, and more generally, Europe,” French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Radio Classique on Tuesday.“If there were new U.S. sanctions, the EU would be ready to retaliate.”Speaking in London, President Donald Trump said it’s not for France to tax U.S. businesses.“They’re American companies,” Trump said, referring to Facebook, Google and Twitter. “If they’re going to be taxed, the U.S. will tax them.”Monday’s report concluded a more than four-month-long probe. USTR Robert Lighthizer said the agency is also exploring whether to open investigations into similar digital taxes by Austria, Italy and Turkey. The move came hours after President Donald Trump announced a barrage of other tariffs on steel and aluminum from Argentina and Brazil.LVMH, the maker of Louis Vuitton handbags and Moet & Chandon champagne, fell as much as 2.1% in Paris trading, while makeup company L’Oreal SA lost as much as 1.4% and leather-goods maker Hermes International declined 2.1%.QuickTake: Why Digital Taxes Are the New Trade War FlashpointThe U.S. tariffs and the French tax are likely to be a priority during a meeting between Trump and Macron on the sidelines of a NATO conference in London on Tuesday. They had agreed in August to try to find a compromise, but a 90-day deadline for talks expired last week.Le Maire told reporters in France that the solution isn’t non-stop retaliation and sanctions, because that is “bad for our political relationship and growth and the economic recovery everywhere in the world.”“We are ready to withdraw the French national tax as soon as there is a solution and there is a solution at the OECD level,” he said.Macron argues that moving ahead with a tax on tech companies is necessary because the structure of the global economy has shifted to one based on data, rendering current systems archaic. His government is trying to use the national tax as a bargaining chip in its push for an agreement under the OECD.Global SolutionThe Internet Association, which represents tech companies, said France’s levy is “one of a growing number of concerning unilateral tax regimes around the world,” and advocated for a global solution in response to the announcement.France’s tax, retroactive to January, affects companies with at least 750 million euros ($830 million) in global revenue and digital sales of 25 million euros in France. While most of the roughly 30 businesses affected are American, the list also includes Chinese, German, British and French companies.The French government says it’s urgent to overhaul tax rules because the average tax rate for digital companies in the European Union is only 9.5%, compared with 23.2% for other companies.An attempt to agree on a Europe-wide tax fell through earlier this year when four countries -- Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Ireland -- declined to sign off on it. But Margrethe Vestager, currently the EU’s antitrust chief, said last week the bloc would try to find unity again if there isn’t a global agreement.Other European countries are also planning to levy a digital tax without waiting for the OECD. Italy’s government has said it will implement a tax on digital revenues Jan. 1, and Boris Johnson‘s Conservative Party, which leads the polls for this month’s U.K. general election, has committed to a digital services tax.(Updates with Trump starting in fifth paragraph.)To contact the reporters on this story: William Horobin in Paris at firstname.lastname@example.org;Jenny Leonard in Washington at email@example.com;Laura Davison in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Fergal O'Brien at email@example.com, ;Margaret Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org, Andrew AtkinsonFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- A California college student has sued TikTok, the viral video service run by social media giant ByteDance Inc., for secretly funneling her personal information to China while using her videos to create an online profile for targeted ads.The lawsuit, filed last week in the Northern District of California by full-time university student Misty Hong, alleges TikTok harvested her videos, gathered personally identifiable info, then transferred that information to servers in ByteDance’s home country. TikTok did so without her consent, her lawyers said in a filing that didn’t provide evidence to back up the allegations.ByteDance, the world’s most valuable startup, has come under fire in recent months from American politicians and its mainly teen users alike. U.S. lawmakers have expressed concern about the app’s growing popularity. Officials are reviewing whether ByteDance’s $1 billion acquisition of startup Musical.ly two years ago, which created TikTok, poses a national security risk. And more recently, TikTok ignited a furor for suspending -- then restoring -- the account of New Jersey teenager Feroza Aziz for posting a series of videos that rebuked China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims. The company later blamed a “human moderation error.” A ByteDance representative had no immediate comment on the lawsuit.“TikTok’s lighthearted fun comes at a heavy cost,” the lawyers said in the filing. “TikTok unjustly profits from its secret harvesting of private and personally-identifiable user data by, among other things, using such data to derive vast targeted-advertising revenues and profits.”Read more: TikTok Music-Video App Is Said to Get National Security ReviewTikTok, an app known for everything from teenage twerking to singing gummy bears, has taken off among U.S. teens but become a lightning rod for criticism as tensions rise between the U.S. and China over trade and technology. One of the few Chinese internet services to catch on globally, it’s has been installed by around 564 million users so far this year and about 1.45 billion times since launching. New U.S. users grew 38% to 11.6 million in the third quarter, according to Sensor Tower, up from 8.4 million a year earlier.It’s now a bona fide rival to Facebook and Instagram. Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg sounded the alarm during a speech at Georgetown University in Washington in October, saying that while WhatsApp, the encrypted messaging app his company owns, is used around the world by protesters and others who need free speech protections, TikTok doesn’t offer that.In the lawsuit, Hong accuses the app of violations of privacy, data fraud and unfair competition.“TikTok clandestinely has vacuumed up and transferred to servers in China vast quantities of private and personally-identifiable user data that can be employed to identify, profile and track the location and activities of users in the United States now and in the future,” her lawyers wrote in the filing.Read more: TikTok Revamps Lobbying as Washington Targets Chinese OwnershipTo contact the reporter on this story: Zheping Huang in Hong Kong at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Peter Elstrom at firstname.lastname@example.org, Edwin Chan, Colum MurphyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
The billionaire founder said the discussion centered around "some of the topics that you'd read about in the news around our work", but added that it was a "private dinner" and declined to share further details of the meeting. Zuckerberg had earlier defended the company's policy to run ads from politicians containing false or misleading claims, saying that Facebook did not want to stifle political speech. Trump, who has vocally supported political ads, has openly castigated Facebook repeatedly, accusing it of being biased in favour of Democrats.
Facebook is expanding Crisis Response, its disaster-reporting and communications feature that's been used in 300 crises in more than 80 countries. The company today is announcing several new features, including WhatsApp integration, support for first-hand information sharing and an expansion of its "Data for Good" tools for things like better disaster and displacement maps. Crisis Response originally grew out of a handful of features that help family, friends and communities support one another in the wake of a disaster.
The top four technology companies (and Amazon) appreciated nicely this year despite mounting regulatory, privacy and other concerns; this roundup discusses these concerns.