|Bid||28.05 x 1200|
|Ask||28.06 x 1100|
|Day's Range||27.83 - 28.36|
|52 Week Range||25.58 - 47.08|
|Beta (3Y Monthly)||N/A|
|PE Ratio (TTM)||N/A|
|Forward Dividend & Yield||N/A (N/A)|
|1y Target Est||N/A|
(Bloomberg) -- Want the lowdown on European markets? In your inbox before the open, every day. Sign up here.Amazon.com Inc.’s bid to buy into one of the U.K.’s most successful startups may get caught up in antitrust authorities’ fear that they made mistakes in the past.The Competition and Markets Authority has until Wednesday to decide whether to continue a two-month-old probe that froze Amazon’s bid of around $500 million for a minority stake in food-delivery service Deliveroo.“The CMA is very interested in tech giants extending their tentacles into other markets,” said Alan Davis, a competition lawyer at Pinsent Masons in London. Antitrust regulators “are paranoid about it at the moment because they are concerned they have not looked at these mergers enough in the past, like Facebook-WhatsApp.”Authorities were put off over Facebook Inc.’s change of position on how it handled data from WhatsApp, prompting EU officials to accuse the company of misleading them to win approval for the takeover in 2014. Big Tech is a flash point now for antitrust across the globe. In the U.S., there are probes into Google, Facebook and Amazon over allegations they unfairly hinder competition. The CMA is investigating how Google plans to use Looker Data Sciences Inc. data before approving that $2.6 billion takeover.While the CMA’s mission is in part to ensure big deals won’t hamper competition, it doesn’t usually investigate bids for minority stakes. It may have been moved to act this time because of Amazon’s access to an unending reservoir of data from its many businesses. And CMA’s Chief Executive Officer Andrea Coscelli has said that it was a mistake to allow deals like Facebook’s purchase of Instagram.“U.K. regulators may have some antitrust concerns with the proposed investment,” said Bloomberg Intelligence analysts Aitor Ortiz and Diana Gomes. “One of them could be whether Amazon could get access to Deliveroo’s user data, leveraging the delivery giant’s position in other markets besides on-demand restaurant delivery, such as online groceries.”Amazon, Deliveroo and the CMA declined to comment on the matter.Cut-Throat CompetitionThe food-delivery business is no stranger to the regulator’s attention. Two years ago the agency began investigating Just Eat Plc’s merger with a smaller rival Hungryhouse, eventually allowing it to go through because of the competition in the sector.Since then the delivery business has seen a wave of acquisitions and international expansion. Just Eat agreed to a 5 billion-pound merger ($6.6 billion) with Dutch firm Takeaway.com NV in July, while Uber Technologies Inc. was reported to be showing interest in Spanish startup Glovo. However, according to food-service consultant Peter Backman, competition in the sector remains strong.“It’s getting more intense because the pressure to get scale is becoming more intense,” said Backman, a former director of Horizons FS. “Although the market has gotten bigger, they are under huge pressure to become profitable.”Deliveroo has never turned a profit, losing 232 million pounds last year despite a 72% increase in global sales. A ruling against Amazon would be a setback for the U.K. company, which has already raised $1.53 billion in investor funding.In August, it was forced to make an abrupt retreat from Germany after struggling to get a grip on the market.For Amazon, the stakes aren’t as high, but if the CMA decision goes the wrong way, it faces yet another embarrassing exit from a market it has found difficult to crack. It closed its own U.K. food delivery unit Amazon Restaurants U.K. in December 2018, with its American counterpart following suite last summer.To contact the reporter on this story: Eddie Spence in London at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at firstname.lastname@example.org, Christopher Elser, Molly SchuetzFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
The past decade saw a ton of innovation from incumbent companies — like Amazon, Google, and Facebook. But new companies emerged as well and made their mark.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- What to make of the alarming data on assaults, murders and other unsafe incidents reported by Uber Technologies Inc. on Thursday?More than 3,000 sexual assault allegations were made in 2018 by Uber drivers and passengers in the U.S., the company said in a first-of-its-kind safety report. We can't know from the data if Uber is statistically safer than other forms of transportation, or safer than being a human — particularly a female human — in the United States in 2019. Taxis, public-transit agencies, professional-car services and other transportation providers don’t make comparable national reports of crime as Uber has done.The reported incidents are a fraction of the more than 1 billion rides Uber transacts in the U.S. each year. There is, though, one sure thing we can say about Uber, Lyft and related services that make them different than other forms of transportation: They sold us on the power of trust, and any erosion in that trust makes the companies vulnerable.When services such as Uber and Airbnb were getting off the ground earlier this decade, people were understandably apprehensive about taking a ride with strangers, or staying in the home of a random person. Our parents literally cautioned us against this our whole lives, and it seemed incredibly stupid to defy a lifetime of warnings.Slowly, though, these services wore down many people's natural reluctance to trust strangers in these circumstances. That was partly because Uber, Airbnb and similar companies were too convenient and useful for many people to shun. But also, and importantly, our stranger-danger fears wore down because the companies successfully convinced us to trust that any danger of that type was remote.The idea is that the collective power of millions of riders and drivers rating and reviewing each other would keep us safe. Uber and its peers around the world also touted their ability to screen drivers and passengers, and track rides to protect people from possible harm. There were questions from the beginning about how well Uber and other companies that put regular folks in the role of professional driver were screening people who used its service. But the companies’ ability to convince many people to tamp down their stranger-danger anxiety was a secret to success for Uber, Airbnb and the like.That's why anecdotes — and now data — of horrible crimes on Uber passengers and drivers matter, no matter whether they are statistically large or small. Those old feelings of anxiety recur.The sad fact is that assault is a common crime we don't like to think or talk about, because it makes us feel vulnerable. Every institution in America can do much more to protect vulnerable people. None of that absolves Uber from responsibility to do more.There is compelling reporting indicating that Uber sometimes protects itself from liability at the expense of drivers and riders who are preyed upon. Uber in its early years of aggressive expansion did truly unconscionable things in response to allegations of a passenger raped in India.Now, Uber deserves credit for doing the work to catalog and disclose incidents of abuse in its network, but we can’t be confident how many terrible abuses could have been avoided if Uber did more to prioritize safety. How much of the problem is Uber, and how much is the world? Because companies such as Uber sold us on trust, they get no passes when it comes to ensuring the safety of riders and drivers.The collective power of trust is one of those internet-era truisms that is coming under question now. It turns out those five-star product reviews can be bought and gamed. That person on Facebook who says she’s a civil rights activist may be a Russian propagandist. It turns out that even genius technology companies are fallible, perhaps willfully so, about letting dangerous people slip through the cracks.These risks are all present in the real world, of course, but for a long time we were convinced the power of the internet made trust more solid. Now companies, and the users of their products and services, are reckoning with the limits of trust. To contact the author of this story: Shira Ovide at email@example.comTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Beth Williams 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.
The chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee urged Uber Technologies Inc to take action after the company disclosed on Thursday it received over 3,000 reports of sexual assault related to its 1.3 billion rides in the United States last year. "As a country, we must ensure safety is a priority, and make it clear that sexual assault and harassment will not be tolerated anywhere, no matter where it occurs," he said. The sexual assault figure represents a 16% fall in the rate of incidents from the previous year in the five most serious categories of sexual assault reported, Uber said on Thursday in its first biennial U.S. Safety Report.
Aramco Goes Public, Finally Saudi Arabia took the biggest company in the world public today in the Saudi Arabian exchange, for what logically ended up being the biggest IPO in the world. It sold 3 billion shares at $8.53 a share, raising more than the now-runner-up Alibaba (NYSE:BABA) when it went public in 2014. Since […]The post Market Morning: Aramco Goes Public, Pelosi to Save Democracy, Payrolls Beat, Uber Assaults appeared first on Market Exclusive.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- One consequence of America’s Cyber Monday shopping binge is the imminent arrival of $9.4 billion worth of merchandise on the nation’s doorsteps. And that will cue the annual cries of frustration about porch pirates — along with a raft of local news stories on how to evade them, and a few viral tales of consumers attempting to spook them with booby-trapped packages or glitter bombs.The fixation on thwarting porch pirates is understandable. (I, for one, will confess to being irrationally angry recently when a $27 baby onesie was swiped from my front stoop.) But it is also a flawed way of thinking about a legitimate and persistent problem with e-commerce.The problem is not just theft. It is that shipping giants such as United Parcel Service Inc. and FedEx Corp., as well as big retailers, are not moving fast enough to make delivery of online orders more flexible and to turn over more control to shoppers.Consumers and neighborhood associations should spend less time trying to answer the question, “How can we create a world where expensive goods can sit on my doorstep for hours and not get stolen?” Instead, they should be asking, “How can we make it so that expensive goods are not left on my doorstep in the first place?”UPS and FedEx, to be fair, have made strides toward giving customers more options. Each has a network of thousands of access points where shoppers can pick up packages, including at ubiquitous stores such as Dollar General or CVS Pharmacy. Both shippers have apps that allow residents to provide delivery instructions for a driver.Retailers, too, are getting more creative. Amazon.com Inc. now offers the option of choosing a single day each week for all of your recent orders to arrive, making it easier to ensure you’ll be home when your haul is delivered. And both Amazon and Walmart Inc. are piloting services that rely on smart-home technology that allows a driver one-time, secure access to your home.Surely such a service, or some variation of it, will become commonplace within a decade. (After all, there was once a time when it was creepy to get in a stranger’s car, but thanks to Uber and Lyft that’s now ordinary.) For now, though, the choices for consumers are underwhelming or confusing — or, in some cases, both.For example, UPS and FedEx both trumpet the convenience of letting you reroute an in-progress shipment to an access point. But online shoppers aren’t able to fully take advantage because retailers can put restrictions on packages preventing the recipient from redirecting them. This is likely a well-intentioned anti-fraud tactic, but it means access points aren’t the reliable solution they’re cracked up to be.And retailers aren’t always great at steering customers toward desirable secure options. Amazon, for example, routinely tries to nudge me at checkout to try a pickup point that is a 30-minute drive from my home, even though there is a Whole Foods Market with Amazon lockers in walking distance.But there are bigger ideas that could do even more to ensure package security. What if UPS or FedEx were to more routinely provide narrower time windows for drop-offs, or to allocate more workers for nighttime deliveries when nine-to-fivers are likely to be at home? What if retailers allowed customers to choose their shipping provider at checkout, which might force shippers to compete for their loyalty?Such changes would further complicate the “last-mile” delivery challenges the industry has been addressing for decades, and would likely add costs. But these are the same logistics experts and retailers that were able to make speedy two-day delivery standard. It’s not unreasonable to expect them to innovate their way to giving shoppers more choice.Even if it’s difficult, improved delivery flexibility is a far better remedy for porch piracy than other headline-grabbing approaches. Police departments have experimented with planting bait packages on doorsteps that are outfitted with GPS trackers, potentially allowing them to catch individual thieves. Texas has a new law on the books that makes package theft punishable by up to 10 years in prison.Never mind that there are already laws against theft. These kinds of punitive measures are not useless, but they are likely to be helpful only in a limited area for a limited period of time.The more productive approach is to focus on reducing the unsecured supply of porch treasures. And no one is better equipped to attack that problem than the retailers and shippers. So shoppers should raise their expectations of these companies and demand that they do more.To contact the author of this story: Sarah Halzack at email@example.comTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Newman at firstname.lastname@example.orgThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Sarah Halzack is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering the consumer and retail industries. She was previously a national retail reporter for the Washington Post.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- As protests jolt Hong Kong business, organizations from Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. to universities are adapting by going digital, switching to video-conferencing app Zoom to conduct online investor briefings and virtual lectures.Zoom Video Communications Inc. joins a number of internet services that have taken off since the unrest began over the summer, from mobile messenger Telegram to work-at-home apps. In a financial hub that thrives on face-to-face deal-making and power lunches, Zoom helps fill a void created by transport disruptions and concerns about personal safety.Hong Kong’s business community leans on the app’s features, which include slide-sharing and support for up to 1,000 call participants, to carry on cross-border communications and with mainland China, where WhatsApp, Telegram and Google alternatives are banned. There’s a local version of Zoom that’s compatible, which is why the app’s downloads in Hong Kong soared 460% in November, after an escalation in protest violence first triggered a spike in September, according to researcher Sensor Tower.Read more: Zoom’s Eric Yuan, the CEO Who Made Videoconferencing Bearable“As schools continue to be in lock-down mode, we’ve had to move our lectures online to minimize disruption,” said Cheung Siu Wai, a professor at Hong Kong Baptist University, adding Skype has been another option.Now valued at $19 billion, Zoom’s shares have almost doubled since listing on the Nasdaq this year. It’s unclear how the spike in downloads may translate into revenue growth for Zoom, founded by Chinese emigrant Eric Yuan, who now resides in California.The company has various pricing tiers and recently added HSBC to a roster of paying clients that includes Uber Technologies Inc. and Zendesk Inc., underpinning 85% growth in revenue to $167 million in the October quarter. Representatives for the company, which is backed by investors including Salesforce.com Inc., Tiger Global and Qualcomm Inc., declined to comment on how the Hong Kong protests have affected its business.”With the periodic traffic disruptions, our colleagues have no choice but to use video-conferencing apps,” said Derek Chan, co-founder of Master Concept, a Hong Kong-based cloud service provider.To contact the reporters on this story: Carol Zhong in Hong Kong at email@example.com;Lulu Yilun Chen in Hong Kong at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Edwin Chan at email@example.com, Vlad SavovFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
Investing.com -- U.S. stock futures drifted higher early Friday in New York, consolidating overnight gains made after China said it would waive import tariffs on U.S. pork and soybeans.
(Bloomberg) -- SoftBank Group Corp. founder Masayoshi Son unveiled a $184 million initiative Friday to accelerate artificial intelligence research in Japan, enlisting Alibaba’s Jack Ma to expound on his goal of commercializing the technology.Son’s company announced a partnership with the University of Tokyo that includes spending 20 billion yen ($184 million) over 10 years by mobile arm SoftBank Corp. to establish the Beyond AI Institute. He roped in the Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. co-founder for an on-campus chat, during which the two billionaires discussed their vision for the future of technology.The institute will support 150 researchers from various disciplines and focus on transitioning AI research from the academic to the commercial using joint ventures between universities and companies. Health-care, city and social infrastructure and manufacturing will be the primary areas of focus, SoftBank Corp. said in a statement. That dovetails with its own goals: in November, SoftBank and Korea’s Naver Corp. said they plan to merge Yahoo Japan and Line Corp. into an internet giant under SoftBank’s control, to combine resources on AI and challenge leaders from Google to Tencent Holdings Ltd.Read more: SoftBank to Create Japan Internet Giant to Battle Global RivalsSon has long advocated AI as the most revolutionary new field of technological development. The Beyond AI Institute marks an investment in accelerating that research on his home turf, where he has previously bemoaned the relative under-performance of Japan’s startup scene. At the same time, he’ll be eager to put behind him a tough 2019 thanks to the calamitous implosion at WeWork and the shrinking values of Uber Technologies Inc. and Slack Technologies Inc.Offering a reminder of his most fruitful investment, Son hosted a talk with Ma, whose online retail empire has been the crown jewel in SoftBank’s investment portfolio. The two exchanged compliments and advocated passion, optimism and world-changing visions as essential to successful entrepreneurship.“In the past 20 years, we’ve been friends, partners and like soulmates in changing people’s lives,” said Son. Ma, in turn, said: “He probably has the biggest guts in the world when doing investment.”In a rare expression of contrition, Son recently said “there was a problem with my own judgment” after the WeWork debacle. He has imposed greater financial discipline on startups since then. On Friday, he said his enthusiasm for grand projects was undimmed. “My passion and dream is more than 100 times bigger than what I am right now. I am still only at the first step to my 100 steps.”To contact the reporters on this story: Vlad Savov in Tokyo at firstname.lastname@example.org;Takahiko Hyuga in Tokyo at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Edwin Chan at firstname.lastname@example.org, Vlad Savov, Peter ElstromFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Uber Technologies Inc. found more than 3,000 allegations of sexual assaults involving drivers or passengers on its platform in the U.S. last year, part of an extensive and long-awaited review in response to public safety concerns.The ride-hailing company released an 84-page safety report Thursday, seeking to quantify the misconduct and deaths that occur on its system and argue that its service is safer than alternatives.U.S. customers took about 1.3 billion trips last year, Uber said. About 50 people have died in Uber collisions annually for the past two years, at a rate about half the national average for automotive fatalities, according to the company. Nine people were killed in physical assaults last year, Uber said.Uber drivers reported nearly as many allegations of sexual assault as passengers, who made 56% of the claims. There is little comparable data on assaults in taxis or other transportation systems, and experts have said the attacks are widely under-reported. The assault claims reported to Uber ranged from unwanted kissing to forcible penetration.“Uber is very much a reflection of society,” said Tony West, Uber’s chief legal officer who helped spearhead the two-year research effort. “The sad, unfortunate fact is that sexual violence is more prevalent in our society than people think. People don’t like to talk about this issue.”Uber had committed more than a year ago to release a safety study, a promise Lyft Inc. made soon after. Lyft, the second-biggest ride-hailing provider in the U.S., has yet to publish a report. On Thursday, Uber said it would regularly share data with Lyft and other companies about drivers accused of serious safety lapses and continue publishing safety reports every two years.Uber has faced a steady stream of complaints in court across the country over driver misconduct, and Lyft has recently seen an explosion in legal claims by passengers. Just in California, at least 52 riders have sued Lyft this year over allegations they were assaulted or harassed by their drivers, according to filings reviewed by Bloomberg.“We remain committed to releasing our own safety transparency report and working within the industry to share information about drivers who don’t pass our initial or continuous background checks or are deactivated from our platform,” Lyft spokeswoman Alexandra LaManna said in a statement.Any number of deaths or violence is a reminder of the risks inherent to taking a ride with a stranger and the limited oversight the company has over what occurs. By publishing the data, Uber is taking an unusual step for a company, by drawing attention to the dangers of its product. The stock fell about 1.5% in extended trading after Uber put out the report.Uber shares had already fallen more than 35% from its May initial public offering through Thursday’s close. Its largest shareholder is Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp., which has struggled with its bets on Uber, WeWork and other startups in recent months.Uber has faced similar complaints in countries beyond the U.S. The company was sued in 2017 by a woman who alleged top executives violated her privacy after one of its drivers in India allegedly raped her.Regulators in London cited uncertainty about Uber’s ability to ensure the well-being of its passengers as a reason they revoked the company’s license to operate there last week. Uber will be able to continue operating in the U.K. capital as it appeals the decision. Dara Khosrowshahi, the chief executive officer, said at an event earlier this week that “a precursor to trust is transparency.”According to the study, the proportion of assaults to total trips decreased by 16% last year as Uber implemented new safety tools, such as contacting drivers and customers when the system identifies unusual activity, as well as adding a button to dial 9-1-1 from the app. “I do think Uber is one of the safest ways to get from point A to point B,” said West.Uber disclosed five categories of sexual assault allegations. In 2018, Uber received 1,560 reports of non-consensual touching of a sexual body part, 594 reports of non-consensual kissing of a non-sexual body part, 376 reports of non-consensual kissing of a sexual body part, 280 reports of attempted non-consensual sexual penetration and 235 reports of non-consensual sexual penetration.The extent of sexual misconduct, while staggering, isn’t unique to Uber, said Ebony Tucker, executive director at Raliance, an advocacy and consulting firm focused on preventing sexual violence. Uber’s findings “didn’t surprise any of us,” she said. “Sexual assault is pervasive. It’s everywhere.”Counting assaults is a complicated exercise. Only about a third of claims the company received about penetration without consent were reported to the police, Uber estimated. In about a quarter of cases, Uber said its team didn’t successfully communicate with the victim after the initial report. Women reported 89% of the rape allegations, the company said.Uber opted not to disclose many other troubling forms of sexual misconduct that it had previously identified as possible reporting categories. For instance, the company didn’t say how many times drivers and riders made inappropriate comments to one another, nor did it disclose incidents of indecent exposure.But advocates for victims of sexual violence called the decision to release data a potential watershed moment. “It’s really unprecedented for a company to collect this kind of systematic data over time and then share it with the public,” said Karen Baker, chief executive officer of the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, which advised Uber on the study. Baker said she has urged other companies in the hospitality and transportation industries in the U.S. to follow suit.Both Baker and Uber’s legal chief said the company may see an increase in reports of sexual misconduct in the future. That would actually be a positive sign, Baker said, because it would reflect victims’ confidence that their claims would be taken seriously.(Updates with Lyft statement in eighth paragraph.)\--With assistance from Robert Burnson.To contact the reporters on this story: Eric Newcomer in San Francisco at email@example.com;Lizette Chapman in San Francisco at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Mark Milian at email@example.com, Anne VanderMeyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
Uber just released its first-ever safety report that covers sexual assault. In 2017, Uber received 2,936 reports pertaining to sexual assault, and received 3,045 in 2018. Despite the increase in raw numbers, Uber saw a 16% decrease in the average incident rate, which it suggests may correlate with the company's increased focus on safety as of late.
The figure represents a 16% fall in the rate of incidents from the previous year in the five most serious categories of sexual assault reported, Uber said on Thursday in its first biennial U.S. Safety Report https://www.uber-assets.com/image/upload/v1575580686/Documents/Safety/UberUSSafetyReport_201718_FullReport.pdf. The firm also said reports of assaults on passengers overlooked risks for drivers as riders accounted for roughly half of the accused. The 84-page report comes almost two weeks after Uber said it would appeal the loss of its license to carry passengers in London over a "pattern of failures" on safety and security.
(Bloomberg) -- More than 100,000 trips have been taken in robotaxis operated by Waymo, the self-driving car unit of Alphabet Inc. Now the service is expanding to iPhone users.On the first anniversary of its pilot program in Chandler, Arizona, Waymo said it will begin offering an iOS app for its robot ride-hailing service for iPhones. It also revealed new details of the pioneering robotaxi service, which has been slow to offer fully autonomous service without human “safety drivers” behind the wheel to take over in an emergency.Waymo, which began a decade ago as Google’s self-driving car project, said its service has 1,500 monthly users and has tripled the number of weekly rides since January. Since late summer, Waymo has ramped up a “rider only” option without human safety drivers to a test group of a few hundred commuters. While those people weren’t always charged initially, they are now paying rates that are competitive with Uber and Lyft ride-hailing services, according to a Waymo spokeswoman.Most Waymo rides occur in the late afternoon and evening, with commuters using the service for everything from getting to work to having a “date night,” Dan Chu, the company’s chief product officer, wrote in a blog post.The service is expanding and will add more riders who will join a wait list by using the new iOS app. The service has been available on Android phones since the spring.Still, John Krafcik, Waymo’s chief executive officer, told reporters in October he is unsure when commercial robotaxis will take off. General Motors Co. has delayed the rollout of its service and Ford Motor Co.’s CEO has said the industry overestimated the arrival of self-driving cars.“It’s an extremely challenging thing to do,” Krafcik told reporters at a dinner in Detroit. “I do share your sense of uncertainty, even in my role. I don’t know precisely when everything is going to be ready, but I know I am supremely confident that it will be.”(Updates with comment from company spokeswoman in third paragraph.)To contact the reporter on this story: Keith Naughton in Southfield, Michigan at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Craig Trudell at email@example.com, Alistair BarrFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- It was never going to be easy for Kroger Co., the nation’s largest supermarket chain, to play defense at a moment of colossal change in the grocery business.That was apparent in its Thursday earnings report, in which revenue and adjusted earnings per share revenue came in slightly below analysts’ expectations, sending shares down. (On the bright side, comparable sales growth accelerated, increasing 2.5% from a year earlier.)The patchy results are the latest reason to doubt that this company is going to be able to transform itself for a more digital-centric future before it’s too late.At a presentation for analysts last month, CEO Rodney McMullen acknowledged that, two years into a three-year turnaround plan, the company has come up short. In particular, he said, “we asked our store associates to do too many things at once,” a reference to its efforts to remodel stores and make better use of shelf space while simultaneously ramping up its click-and-collect business.It is concerning that Kroger apparently has found it so difficult to do retailing battle on multiple fronts. After all, that is simply the reality of being a major brick-and-mortar chain these days, and key rivals seem to be managing it just fine.Target Corp. has renovated about 700 stores since 2017 and has also managed to roll out same-day delivery via Shipt and expand curbside pickup. In the latest quarter, 80% of its digital growth came from those and other same-day fulfillment options. Walmart Inc. has had similar success, developing an online grocery operation that is competitive with Amazon.com Inc.’s while also making physical stores cleaner and better-stocked.It’s not just that Kroger needs to be able to multitask. It also needs a better plan to win at online grocery.In a recent press release, Kroger proudly touted that, as a holiday season promotion, it would offer online grocery pickup for free and waive the usual $4.95 fee. Are shoppers seriously supposed to be impressed by that when pickup is always free at Walmart and Target? If Kroger can’t match that offering, it’s hard to see how it is going to fight effectively for digital grocery market share.Kroger’s biggest e-commerce bet is its partnership with Ocado Group Plc to build automated warehouses for grocery delivery. But those efficiencies will only matter if it can build a substantial base of online customers. And the cost of building these one-of-a-kind facilities, executives have said recently, is coming in higher than expected.In the meantime, Kroger continues to make head-scratching moves such as its foray into the world of so-called “dark kitchens,” or delivery-only food preparation facilities. Through a partnership with the cheekily named ClusterTruck, it announced this week, Kroger will experiment with on-demand delivery of prepared meals.This effectively puts the supermarket chain in competition for the diners that Grubhub, Doordash and Uber Eats are after. This category has enormous growth potential, so Kroger’s ambitions are understandable. But it’s also an area in which restaurant and technology companies have a head start and seem destined to outflank Kroger. And the whole venture seems like a distraction from the more pressing mission of shoring up its positioning in its core grocery business.Kroger’s three-year plan was underwhelming when it was unveiled two years ago, and since then the company hasn’t consistently impressed with its execution. Kroger is undoubtedly a busy company, but it’s not clear all the hustle is making it a better one.To contact the author of this story: Sarah Halzack 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.Sarah Halzack is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering the consumer and retail industries. She was previously a national retail reporter for the Washington Post.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
In a newly released interview, Nasdaq Chief Executive Adena Friedman says profits have become a top concern for investors and that priority may have taken some major tech companies by surprise.
(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) -- The scooter-sharing service Lime warned the U.S. government earlier this year of an existential threat to its business. Paying new tariffs on Chinese vehicles would require Lime either to absorb significant new costs, charge customers more or fundamentally reshape its supply chain, the company argued in an official request for an exemption. Choosing any of these options would “stunt Lime’s growth and threaten the survival of its existing services.” Over the last two years, a wave of scooter-sharing companies have emerged, based on the belief that American urbanites are hungry for alternatives to car travel. Their business models also relied on another assumption: that they’d always be able to import large numbers of low-cost vehicles from China. For the San Francisco-based Lime, the Chinese connections ran particularly deep. Brad Bao and Toby Sun, its co-founders, were both born in China, and they sold the startup to investors as a company that maintained a foot in their home country. Having two Chinese founders “who had the relationships, and can set up that operation quickly, was a real advantage,” said Joe Kraus, who invested in Lime in 2018 as a partner at GV, then became Lime’s chief operating officer four months later.President Donald Trump’s aggressive trade policies complicate that story. Countless American companies find themselves stuck in the middle of the competition between the U.S. and China. Markets plummeted on Tuesday after the president indicated he was inclined not to make a trade deal soon—then recovered the following day on signs that a deal could come before American tariffs are set to rise on Dec. 15. Companies have filed about 44,000 requests for tariff exemptions, and about 5,000 have been approved. The U.S. Trade Representative rejected Lime’s request, along with similar ones from Bird Rides Inc. and Uber Technologies Inc. Scooter imports from China to the U.S. this year total nearly $300 million, according to research compiled for Bloomberg by IHS Markit’s Global Trade Atlas. This puts the importers on the hook for about $74 million in tariffs, a significant added expense for the money-bleeding startups that dominate the scooter industry. Lime has raised almost $800 million since its founding in 2017, and investors valued the company at $2.4 billion in its most recent funding round this February. It is close to completing another round of investment that will add hundreds of millions of dollars to its coffers, according to an investor who did not want to be identified discussing private fundraising plans. Bao, who has been Lime’s CEO since May, was more sanguine about trade issues in a recent interview than the company was in its filing earlier this year. “We are not getting unnecessarily nervous,” he said, adding that Lime could be profitable as soon as next year. The company’s calculations rely on improvements to the durability of its vehicles, which Lime attributes largely to its manufacturing expertise. When asked what would happen if Chinese manufacturing receded as a viable option, Bao waved the idea off. “That doesn’t come to our mind,” he said. Yet Lime has already begun to take steps to relieve its exposure to tariffs. The startup imported over 30,000 vehicles in the months before the first round of tariffs went into effect last August, according to Steve Ferreira, CEO of Ocean Audit, which tracks the global movement of goods. Lime’s imports since that time amount to, as Ferreira puts it, “almost zilch.”Like many companies caught up in the trade war, Lime at times had trouble navigating the new landscape. Last year the company, along with a consultant it had hired, misclassified Lime’s scooter imports in a way that resulted in it not paying higher tariffs even after they were implemented, according to three people familiar with the matter. Lime executives later uncovered the practice, and told the government, paying for the tariffs it had avoided. The case is now closed, according to a company spokeswoman. Lime is now considering moving some manufacturing out of China and into Southeast Asia, according to a person familiar with the matter who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly. Kraus described relocating manufacturing capabilities as one of many options the company has to mitigate trade-related risks but declined to say whether it has already begun doing so. “We’ve got plans in place, whether it’s short, mid or long-term,” he said. A spokeswoman later said the company hasn’t moved any operations out of China. Lime’s Chinese connections are a key part of its culture, said people who work there. At its Redwood City, California, office, some employees greet one another and chat in Mandarin. Shelves of scooter helmets clutter the hallways, along with stacks of dried seaweed snacks, and individual packs of Nongshim Shin instant ramen. In the parking lot on a recent Friday afternoon, a man in a Lime helmet waved goodbye and yelled out “zaijian” to his colleagues as he scooted away. Lime likes to see itself as hard-charging even by the standards of tech startups. “As a Chinese company, they move fast,” said Christine Chang, who was senior manager of Lime’s logistics and supply chain operation until this summer. Speaking alternately in Mandarin and English in a recent interview, she said she was drawn to the company because of its Chinese-born founders and Chinese-speaking staff. Bao switches between downplaying and celebrating Lime’s ties to China. “We are born and bred in the U.S.,” he said, pointing out that Lime was founded in California. A few minutes later he argued that Lime was better prepared than its competitors to navigate sensitive international relationships. His Chinese upbringing, he said, “does really help with that.” Bao traces his own entrepreneurship to an ill-fated attempt to sell Nirvana T-shirts on the streets of Wuhan, China, when he was 14. It was the early 1990s, and the band was at the peak of its prominence. Yet, Chinese teenagers didn’t wear band shirts, opting instead for plain t-shirts. The business flopped. The lesson Bao took away, he said, was not to get too far ahead of the market.Bao, 44, moved to the U.S. in 2003 to attend Berkeley’s business school. After graduating, he joined Tencent Holdings Ltd., as the general manager of its U.S. operation. The job came with a $48,000 annual salary and no equity in the company, which is now worth $400 billion. After a stint as an investor, he started Lime in January 2017 with Sun, who he knew through a B-school alumni group. The two men were fixated on the growing Chinese trend of bike-sharing, where companies blanketed city streets with vehicles and let people unlock them with smartphone apps. They thought it’d work in the U.S. There was more interest for bike-sharing than there had been for Nirvana t-shirts in 1990s China, but not much more. Lime only began to look like a huge hit when it added scooters following the sudden success of Bird in late 2017. In the U.S., the main distinctions between Lime and Bird’s product offerings are the color schemes. When Bird and other rivals first launched their scooter-sharing businesses, they used off-the-shelf vehicles, adding their own software and branding. But Lime has always claimed a more sophisticated supply chain operation than its rivals.From the onset, it maintained operations in both China and the U.S. Its business in Shenzhen is run by Adam Zhang, who is described within the company as its third founder. Zhang, who was previously CEO of a Beijing-based e-bike company, is responsible for leading Lime’s Shenzhen team in hardware design, production and supply chain management, according to his LinkedIn profile. About 90 of the company’s 750 employees are currently based in China. The decision to invest in a full-time Asia operation, led by a local manager who understood the complexities of hardware and supply chain operations, was critical to their strategy, said Connie Chan, general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, an early Lime investor.Through its wide network of Chinese manufacturers, Lime was able to seek deeper control from day one, according to Bo Hu, its director of engineering. The company sourced components from various suppliers—a battery from one factory, a controller from another, a motor from a third, said Hu. The custom-made scooters are intended both to develop vehicles with Lime-specific features, and to build longer-lasting vehicles, because the rate of deterioration is one of the major factors determining the economic viability of scooter-sharing companies. “In order to get your vehicles to last a long time, you have to build them from scratch,” said Kraus. (Bird now says it also works with multiple partners to make custom vehicles for its service.) Lime’s manufacturing record hasn’t been spotless. Last year it pulled about 2,000 vehicles from the streets after some began to smolder or even catch fire. The company blamed manufacturing problems related to the battery used by Segway Ninebot, one of its suppliers. Segway Ninebot accused Lime of not properly maintaining its fleet. The two companies stopped working together shortly thereafter. Lime currently works with at least three Chinese manufacturers, including Dong Guan Honglin Industrial Co., according to two people with direct knowledge of Lime’s operations. Replacing these relationships with new ones outside of China would come with at least short-term spikes in cost, according to Chang, the former supply chain manager. Even if Lime did move manufacturing facilities to a country like Vietnam, it would likely have to ship raw materials from China, or source locally. Lime would also lose the benefit of its experience in China. “When you go to another country, they have a lot of quality issues, manufacturing issues,” said Chang. Lime’s decision to stock up ahead of the tariffs is also leading to a new liability in the coming months. The company maintains at least a dozen warehouses across the U.S., where it keeps unused vehicles overnight, or for longer stints, according to Chang. At times there have been tens of thousands of scooters sitting in storage, according to two people familiar with the company. Storage capacity can be stretched in the winter in cold-weather cities, when many of Lime’s scooters enter a state of semi-hibernation. All those tariff-free scooters Lime bought in last year will have to go somewhere, and warehouse space isn’t free. \--With assistance from Mark Niquette.To contact the author of this story: Candy Cheng in San Francisco at email@example.comTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Joshua Brustein at firstname.lastname@example.orgFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Larry Page and Sergey Brin just got a $2.3 billion retirement gift from investors.The Google co-founders, who announced Tuesday they were stepping down from day-to-day management of parent Alphabet Inc., added more than $1 billion each to their net worth today as the firm’s shares rose 1.9% in New York.They each own about 6% of the internet giant and still control Alphabet through special voting shares.The gains come as investors welcome Sundar Pichai’s elevation to chief executive officer of Alphabet, replacing Page in the role. It means the three most valuable U.S. tech firms no longer have a founder at the helm.Like Apple Inc.’s Tim Cook and Microsoft Corp.’s Satya Nadella, Pichai is a long-time lieutenant who steadily worked his way up the corporate ladder. More than 15 years after he joined the Mountain View-based company he’s replacing Page in the top job. Brin is stepping down as president, leaving Pichai as undisputed leader.The shift reflects Google’s accession into corporate middle age. Started in a California garage by Brin and Page in 1998, the firm had revenue of $137 billion in 2018 and today boasts a market value of $893 billion. That’s behind only Apple and Microsoft on the S&P 500 Index.Founder FreeOther Silicon Valley giants are also founder free. Larry Ellison’s Oracle Corp. is headed by Safra Catz, though Ellison is still involved as the company’s chairman. Some younger companies -- such as Uber Technologies Inc. and We Co. -- have turned to outsiders amid turmoil.There are some notable exceptions. Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg are still at the helm of Amazon.com Inc. and Facebook Inc. respectively, which are the fourth- and fifth-largest U.S. companies by market value.Such a transition has proved to be a boon for Apple and Microsoft. The iPhone maker’s shares have risen by more than 400% since Cook took the helm in August 2011 and Microsoft has quadrupled on Nadella’s watch.Since 2015, Pichai has served as CEO of Google, by far the company’s biggest division. During his time in that job, Alphabet’s shares doubled in price even as the company wrestled with increased scrutiny from regulators and lawmakers.Unusual PositionTheir success has placed the trio among America’s richest executives. Each are worth hundreds of millions of dollars thanks to stock awards they’ve received.Pichai, 47, is in an unusual position for a top executive. Unlike Cook and Nadella, who stand fourth and sixth on Bloomberg’s executive pay ranking, almost all of Pichai’s stock awards have vested, filings show.By contrast, Cook, 59, still has as many as 1.8 million restricted stock units worth about $500 million set to vest through August 2021, according to a recent filing. Nadella, 52, could earn as many as 1.8 million Microsoft shares through a long-term performance-based stock award that is currently worth about $275 million.The Alphabet board will likely move to rectify this discrepancy. But however they decide to compensate Pichai, he’ll still lag far behind the wealth accrued by Brin and Page. The pair have a combined net worth of about $126 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.(Updates net worth gains and share price in second paragraph.)\--With assistance from Anders Melin, Mark Bergen and Gerrit De Vynck.To contact the reporter on this story: Tom Metcalf in London at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Pierre Paulden at firstname.lastname@example.org, Steven Crabill, Peter EichenbaumFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.