• AWS Outposts begins to take shape to bring the cloud into the data center
    TechCrunch

    AWS Outposts begins to take shape to bring the cloud into the data center

    When AWS announced Outposts last year, a private cloud hardware stack they install in your data center, there were a lot of unanswered questions. This week at AWS re:Invent in Las Vegas, the company announced general availability as the vision for this approach began to become clearer. AWS CEO Andy Jassy, speaking at a press conference earlier today, said there are certain workloads like running a factory that need compute resources to be close because of low-latency requirements.

  • Monetising hate: covert enterprise co-opts far-right Facebook pages to churn out anti-Islamic posts
    The Guardian

    Monetising hate: covert enterprise co-opts far-right Facebook pages to churn out anti-Islamic posts

    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

  • Expedia (EXPE) Catches Eye: Stock Jumps 6.2%
    Zacks

    Expedia (EXPE) Catches Eye: Stock Jumps 6.2%

    Expedia (EXPE) saw a big move last session, as its shares jumped more than 6% on the day, amid huge volumes.

  • India's Smart Speaker Space Perks Up With AMZN, GOOGL & More
    Zacks

    India's Smart Speaker Space Perks Up With AMZN, GOOGL & More

    Amazon (AMZN), Google and others are leaving no stone unturned to rapidly penetrate the smart speaker market in India, which is booming due to rising adoption of virtual assistants in the country.

  • Check Point Ups Serverless Security Game With New Capabilities
    Zacks

    Check Point Ups Serverless Security Game With New Capabilities

    Check Point's (CHKP) new capabilities in CloudGuard will help customers' Kubernates configurations comply with container security baselines.

  • Bloomberg

    Amazon Should Ban Auschwitz Ornaments, but Not Hitler’s Book

    (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 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 mousepads 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 tcowen2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Newman at mnewman43@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Tyler Cowen is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is a professor of economics at George Mason University and writes for the blog Marginal Revolution. His books include "Big Business: A Love Letter to an American Anti-Hero."For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Warren Is Drafting U.S. Legislation to Reverse ‘Mega Mergers’
    Bloomberg

    Warren Is Drafting U.S. Legislation to Reverse ‘Mega Mergers’

    (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 enewcomer@bloomberg.net;Joshua Brustein in New York at jbrustein@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Milian at mmilian@bloomberg.netFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Google Facing New Front With U.K. Probe Into $2.6 Billion Deal
    Bloomberg

    Google Facing New Front With U.K. Probe Into $2.6 Billion Deal

    (Bloomberg) -- Google is facing a U.K. investigation into its $2.6 billion takeover of data company Looker Data Sciences Inc., opening up another front in the Alphabet Inc. unit’s ongoing battle with lawmakers.The Competition and Markets Authority on Thursday said that it issued an initial enforcement order, which prevents companies from integrating their services while the regulator carries out a early-stage review of the acquisition. The CMA has asked for comments on the deal by Dec. 20 before it decides whether to begin a formal probe.Google announced in June that it planned to buy U.S.-based Looker for its cloud unit, which lags far behind Amazon.com Inc. and Microsoft Corp. with just 4% of the cloud-computing infrastructure market as of 2018, according to the most-recent figures from analyst Gartner Inc. U.S. regulators cleared the deal in November.The U.K. review -- likely to focus on how Google plans to wield its power over data -- comes as Margrethe Vestager, the European Union’s Competition Commissioner, leads the charge into looking into how companies collect and use information. In August, she called tech giants “robot vacuum cleaners” sucking up valuable data in a way that can undermine competition.Vestager is currently investigating “the data business model” used by Google and others to collect information on how people use the web. She said the EU has posed “many questions to Google and others to get their views” and help the EU understand how the industry works, with a focus on contractual terms.Google agreed to buy smartwatch maker Fitbit Inc. for $2.1 billion. The tie-up, announced in October, has come under scrutiny from U.S. lawmakers.Though Google isn’t a leader in smartwatches or fitness trackers, regulators in the U.S. and elsewhere will likely have questions about what Google intends to do with the data Fitbit users have shared over the years, including intimate health and location information.\--With assistance from Jonathan Browning.To contact the reporter on this story: Giles Turner in London at gturner35@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Giles Turner at gturner35@bloomberg.net, Peter Chapman, Nate LanxonFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Jeremy Corbyn Has One Last Election Hope
    Bloomberg

    Jeremy Corbyn Has One Last Election Hope

    (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 traphael4@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: James Boxell at jboxell@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.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.

  • Sky News

    Facebook risks being 'one-stop grooming shop' over encryption plans, NSPCC warns

    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.

  • Amazon Faces Widening U.S. Antitrust Scrutiny in Cloud Business
    Bloomberg

    Amazon Faces Widening U.S. Antitrust Scrutiny in Cloud Business

    (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 dbass2@bloomberg.net;David McLaughlin in Washington at dmclaughlin9@bloomberg.net;Naomi Nix in Washington at nnix1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Sara Forden at sforden@bloomberg.net, ;Jillian Ward at jward56@bloomberg.net, Andrew PollackFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Mets in Talks to Sell 80% of Team to Investor Steve Cohen
    Bloomberg

    Mets in Talks to Sell 80% of Team to Investor Steve Cohen

    (Bloomberg) -- The owners of the New York Mets are in talks to sell up to an 80% stake of the Major League Baseball team to billionaire Steve Cohen, who is already an investor in the club, according to a person familiar with the matter.The transaction would value the team at a baseball-record $2.6 billion, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private. The Mets confirmed the talks in a statement.The move would put a sometimes-controversial Wall Street figure in charge of a team that’s long sat in the shadow of the New York Yankees. Cohen, who grew up in Great Neck on Long Island rooting for the Mets, was the inspiration for the show “Billions” and his deep pockets may give hope to long-suffering fans. But the transition will take time.Fred Wilpon, the Mets’ principal owner, will remain in his current role for at least five years, at which time Cohen would control the franchise, said the person. Jeff Wilpon, his son, will remain as the team’s chief operating officer for the five-year period, the person said.Cohen, whose net worth is $9.2 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, will remain as chief executive officer of Point72 Asset Management, the person said. Cohen didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.“Steve Cohen is a brilliant businessperson, he’s a passionate New Yorker, he’s a passionate Mets fan, and he’s wanted to own and control a baseball team for a very long time,” Leo Hindery, the founder and former CEO of the Yankees’ broadcast network, told Bloomberg Television. “It’s no surprise that he picked the Mets, his hometown team.”Cohen unsuccessfully bid on the Dodgers, who were bought by a group that included Guggenheim executives for $2.15 billion in 2012.Fred Wilpon is making the move as part of estate and philanthropic planning, the person familiar with the matter said. The Wilpons will retain a stake in the franchise they assumed control of in 2002 at a valuation of $391 million.Fraud CaseCohen, 63, started his former firm, SAC Capital Advisors, in 1992 and it averaged returns of about 30% annually. But the hedge fund pleaded guilty to securities fraud in 2013 and paid a record fine as part of a U.S. crackdown on insider trading on Wall Street.Cohen raised $5 billion from outside clients when his family office Point72 Asset Management became a hedge fund last year, saying it was easy to gather money. He said at the time that he took only 10 to 15 meetings, including one overseas trip. Point72 now has about $14.6 billion under management, most of it Cohen’s.The Mets have made the playoffs just three times since the Wilpons took control, with a losing World Series appearance in 2015.The Mets are represented by Allen & Co.Tough StretchOnce one of baseball’s biggest spenders, the Mets went through a period of lean years. Fans attribute that to the owners’ involvement in Bernie Madoff’s ponzi scheme, which put the team in financial disarray.The team took $65 million in loans from Major League Baseball and Bank of America Corp., then repaid them after selling a handful of minority stakes in the team. The owners also agreed to pay $162 million to settle a lawsuit brought by the liquidator of Madoff’s firm.Bringing on Cohen may signal a turning point in how the franchise spends. The team’s payroll this season was $160 million, 10th in MLB behind such clubs as the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Angels. The club lost one of its best pitchers Wednesday as right-hander Zack Wheeler agreed to a five-year, $118 million deal with the division-rival Philadelphia Phillies.“That’s not the kind of number that the current ownership could have matched,” said Hindery, who is now chairman of Trine Acquisition Corp. “It’s important for Mets fans to see in Steve Cohen somebody who will stay competitive with the Yankees, and on the West Coast, stay competitive with the likes of the Los Angeles Dodgers.”That’s true off the field as well. MLB just gave non-television streaming rights to its teams, freeing them to partner with whoever they want to offer digital packages to local fans. The Yankees recently partnered with Amazon.com Inc. to buy back the YES Network and are likely to stream games through Amazon’s site.“It’s important that the Mets have an owner capable of doing the same,” Hindery said.(Updates with comments in the sixth paragraph)\--With assistance from Eben Novy-Williams and Katherine Burton.To contact the reporter on this story: Scott Soshnick in New York at ssoshnick@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Nick Turner at nturner7@bloomberg.net, John J. Edwards IIIFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Alphabet (GOOGL) Appoints New CEO Who Must Now Navigate Treacherous Waters
    Zacks

    Alphabet (GOOGL) Appoints New CEO Who Must Now Navigate Treacherous Waters

    Google (GOOGL) co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin stepped down from active management of the internet giant's parent company Alphabet.

  • Alphabet’s New Boss Means $2 Billion for Departing Founders
    Bloomberg

    Alphabet’s New Boss Means $2 Billion for Departing Founders

    (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 tmetcalf7@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Pierre Paulden at ppaulden@bloomberg.net, Steven Crabill, Peter EichenbaumFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • CBS and Viacom Are Still Selling Wall Street on Their Deal
    Bloomberg

    CBS and Viacom Are Still Selling Wall Street on Their Deal

    (Bloomberg) -- Viacom Inc. and CBS Corp. completed their merger on Wednesday, ending three years of on-and-off talks and creating what they boast is an entertainment colossus without peer. The hope is that the combined company, rechristened ViacomCBS Inc., will spit out hit TV shows and movies faster than you can say Netflix.But Wall Street has been skeptical. Shares in both companies have tumbled more than 14% since they announced plans to combine in August, erasing billions of dollars in market value. Shareholders of CBS have sued the company in Delaware, alleging the merger only benefits its controlling shareholder, National Amusements Inc., the movie-theater chain owned by the Redstone family.The shares began to rebound on Wednesday, a sign that investors are finally warming to the deal. But ViacomCBS still has a long way to go before winning over skeptics.Even media analysts, typically a staid and supportive bunch, have questioned the logic of the deal. Michael Nathanson, co-founder of Moffett Nathanson LLC, dubbed an October filing that outlined details of the merger “an abject disaster.”That wasn’t the reception Shari Redstone was hoping for when she began agitating for a merger of the two companies back in 2016. That was when she supplanted her father, Sumner Redstone, as the public face of a family business with a clear goal: reunite the two companies that her father split apart in 2006.Wall Street was mixed on the deal at the time, but saw the logic for Viacom. The owner of MTV and Nickelodeon was losing teenagers to Netflix, advertisers to YouTube and confidence among its own employees. Combining with CBS would give the combined company the heft to negotiate better deals with pay-TV operators and advertisers.CEO ClashesYet the family met resistance from the leadership of both companies, leading to legal disputes with both Viacom chief Philippe Dauman, her dad’s old lawyer, and CBS boss Les Moonves, a TV industry legend. Dauman was fired in 2016, and Moonves was ousted last year after more than a dozen women accused him of sexual misconduct.Now that the merger is finally a reality, it looks late -- and the combined company looks small. ViacomCBS has a market capitalization of about $20 billion, a fraction of heavyweights Walt Disney Co., Comcast Corp., AT&T Inc. and Netflix Inc. Its $27 billion in annual sales is a fraction of all those companies but Netflix, which is growing at a much faster rate.Redstone would prefer investors look at another number: the $13 billion that the two companies are spending annually on TV shows and movies. That figure puts ViacomCBS in the same league as the biggest entertainment companies in the world, and speaks to what Redstone and Viacom chief Bob Bakish have said is a differentiated strategy. While AT&T, Comcast and Disney trip over one another to create their own Netflix, ViacomCBS will sell to all of them.Viacom’s Paramount produces “Jack Ryan” for Amazon, while Nickelodeon just signed a deal to make programs for Netflix. CBS both produces “Dead to Me” for Netflix and several shows for its own streaming service.Shares RallySome investors are coming over to their way of thinking. Viacom rallied the most since May on Wednesday, climbing as much as 6.1%. CBS rose as much as 6.2%. Both stocks came off their highs by the close, each rising more than 3%. ViacomCBS begins trading under the symbols VIACA and VIAC on Thursday.“It’s somewhat frustrating the way the stocks have traded; it’s like there are no believers out there,” said John Miller, a senior vice president at Ariel Investments, which holds stock in both companies. “We continue to believe this merger makes complete sense.”Miller said he expects “unbelievable” political advertising revenue in the 2020 election cycle, and said the companies are bringing together valuable programming. “The combination will make both companies stronger,” he said.Still, the combined company’s strategy remains confusing to many. At the same time it licenses “South Park,” one of its most popular programs, to AT&T’s HBO Max, ViacomCBS will maintain its own streaming service, All Access. The spending on original programming for All Access and Showtime is what prompted Nathanson to use the phrase “abject disaster” in the first place. The cash burn from that spending exceeded his forecast.Tough SpotBakish, who will run the combined company, is in an unenviable position. He doesn’t want to give up on the money he can get licensing programs to streaming services starved for hit shows, but he can’t forgo the world of streaming altogether. Wall Street has rewarded Disney for taking on Netflix head-to-head, but it is in the unique position of owning Marvel, “Star Wars” and Pixar.Investors’ concerns don’t stop there. They expected more cost synergies. They wanted more insight into how the two companies would benefit one another. Press appearances from Bakish have done little to assuage their concerns.But competing on the internet is not the only -- or even the main -- rationale for doing the deal. It does create a formidable TV company that will own the most-watched U.S. network, the most-watched kids’ TV network, one of the major Hollywood studios and a premium cable network in Showtime. All together, they will command more than 20% of TV viewing and the largest audience in almost every demographic of any company.“It’s a reach story,” Bakish told Bloomberg News in an interview the day the deal was announced. “We will have the largest TV business in the U.S. on a combined basis, and it strengthens our position to create value.”Bakish, Redstone and the leadership at CBS all say they’re convinced this deal is a no-brainer. Now they just need to convince everyone else.(Updates with deal’s completion in first paragraph, shares in 11th paragraph.)To contact the reporter on this story: Lucas Shaw in Los Angeles at lshaw31@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Nick Turner at nturner7@bloomberg.net, John J. Edwards IIIFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • A TikTok Craze Is Minting Celebrities and Ruining Lives in India
    Bloomberg

    A TikTok Craze Is Minting Celebrities and Ruining Lives in India

    (Bloomberg) -- Arpita Chaudhary, a newly recruited police constable in India’s western Gujarat state, became an overnight celebrity after posting a clip of her 15-second gambol -- clad in her civvies -- on the smash-hit social video app, TikTok.Then she paid the price. A snippet of her gyrating to a Bollywood song against the backdrop of a prison cell went viral and, days later, Chaudhary was suspended from her job. She had danced inside the police station while on duty.The short video app wildly popular with lip-syncing teenagers around the world has taken India by storm. Police officers, city workers and physicians looking to escape the humdrum of their work lives are finding its lure irresistible. They are regaling their countrymen with at-times cringe-worthy videos, shot inside police stations, public offices and government hospitals.In a recent TikTok video, two women officials of the Delhi Police groove to a movie song, and local media speculated that it appeared to have been shot while they were guarding VIPs in India’s capital.“Indians are bitten by the TikTok bug as the app makes it easy to create content using nothing more than a phone,” said Prasant Naidu, founder and CEO of the Bangalore-based digital technology consultancy Lighthouse Insights. “But it’s raising apprehensions because it’s Chinese-owned, stores Indian user data overseas and its mass base makes it easy to spread propaganda and porn.”More than 200 million users in India devour and share videos mimicking Bollywood dancing, movie dialog and comedy, making India TikTok’s biggest global market. ByteDance Inc., the Chinese internet giant behind TikTok, has a separate app called Douyin with similar features in China, where TikTok doesn’t operate. Videos of cavorting public officials highlight the lack of control over its use among government and law enforcement agencies and is lending strength to a backlash in India against the app. Some even say it’s a security risk.Prominent lawmaker Shashi Tharoor of the main Congress party last summer told Parliament that apps like TikTok are a “national security” threat and Indians are vulnerable to spying through the app because of the country’s lax data protection regulations. He is concerned that like other apps from China, TikTok has too close a relationship with China’s government. Tharoor said ByteDance’s paid influence could affect India’s democratic processes.Economic groups aligned with the ruling BJP have called for banning the app, saying it’s being used for “anti-national” content including videos advocating religious violence, inciting sentiments against particular social groups and poor treatment of women.A Southern court temporarily banned downloads of the app amid complaints that its content was degrading culture and encouraging pornography. In a Mumbai court, a litigant alleged that “unfiltered sexual content” from the app was harming young Indians and leading to crime.Security experts and lawmakers are more worried that TikTok seeks to access user information such as location, phone contacts, call records and audio. While other apps seek similar consent, “TikTok is from China with whom we have history and it becomes strategic and sensitive,” said Nikhil Pahwa, founder and editor of Medianama, which tracks the growth of India’s digital ecosystem.India is still working on a privacy and data protection framework, with the Personal Data Protection bill that regulates collection and transfer of data being considered. As long as rules and regulations regarding data are not robust, “these kind of apps can easily use the loopholes in law to collect user data,” said Tarun Pathak, associate director at consultancy Counterpoint Research.The world’s most downloaded app is controversial elsewhere. Indonesia had banned TikTok, saying it failed to block pornography and blasphemy. In the U.K., it is being investigated for collecting personal data of young users. The U.S. government has fined the app $5.7 million for collecting data of users under 13 without parental consent and is targeting the app for a national security review.Yet in no other country has the app taken hold as it has in India, with police officers and others risking their jobs to produce short videos. In one viral TikTok post set to a high-voltage movie song, five gun-wielding officers of a police SWAT team returning from an encounter in the central state of Uttar Pradesh are shown strutting across a field in slow motion, action movie style. Their chief unlocks his gun’s safety catch and pretend-fires at invisible bad guys.The SWAT team starring in the TikTok video was transferred out of the region.“We do not sanction unprofessional display of weapons and grotesque caricaturing of police,” the Uttar Pradesh police said in a statement.In another TikTok video shot in the southern city of Hyderabad, two physiotherapy students re-enact romantic movie scenes inside a government hospital and in another, four security guards prance about in the hospital’s emergency ward.The videos have continued to go viral, propelling ByteDance to the No. 1 spot among the world’s most valuable private companies. India, where millions of users continue to come online each month, is vital to its global ambitions. When the local court prohibited new downloads, ByteDance said the weeks-long ban caused “financial losses” of about to $500,000 a day.To stave criticism, TikTok has begun WaitASecToReflect digital literacy workshops to encourage users to pause before posting or sharing. TikTok implored users to “Bura na post karo, Bura na share karo, Bura na comment karo” [Post no evil, share no evil, comment no evil] and removed about 6 million videos since its India launch in early 2017.Meanwhile, the videos have even entered the political realm. In a regional election earlier this year, the ruling BJP nominated as its candidate a TikTok star whose sole qualification was her massive following on the app, where she lipsyncs to Bollywood songs. She lost the election narrowly.Police constable Chaudhary, still suspended from duty, has been luckier in parlaying her TikTok fame to success. Her music video TikTok ni Diwani (TikTok Crazy) scored over 2 million views within days of its release.To contact the reporter on this story: Saritha Rai in Bangalore at srai33@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Edwin Chan at echan273@bloomberg.net, Jodi Schneider, Peter ElstromFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Market Volatility Strikes Again
    Zacks

    Market Volatility Strikes Again

    It's time to play catch up. We Discuss trade talks, Google Founder's stepping down, Apple Innovation and Streaming wars. I know its a lot!