TWTR - Twitter, Inc.

NYSE - NYSE Delayed price. Currency in USD
35.21
-0.68 (-1.89%)
At close: 4:04PM EST

35.12 -0.09 (-0.26%)
After hours: 5:43PM EST

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Previous close35.89
Open36.18
Bid35.21 x 1200
Ask35.21 x 1400
Day's range34.88 - 36.45
52-week range28.63 - 45.86
Volume19,550,930
Avg. volume15,749,352
Market cap27.544B
Beta (5Y monthly)0.43
PE ratio (TTM)18.83
EPS (TTM)1.87
Earnings date29 Apr 2020
Forward dividend & yieldN/A (N/A)
Ex-dividend dateN/A
1y target est36.02
  • Oracle Reveals It’s Funding Dark Money Group That’s Fighting Big Tech
    Bloomberg

    Oracle Reveals It’s Funding Dark Money Group That’s Fighting Big Tech

    (Bloomberg) -- When the Internet Accountability Project popped up late last year and joined the growing crusade against Big Tech, the nonprofit group refused to say who was financing it.Turns out, at least one of its benefactors is Oracle Corp.Oracle donated between $25,000 and $99,999 last year to the internet project, according to a new political-giving report Oracle posted on its website. The group calls itself a conservative nonprofit advocating for tougher privacy rules and stronger antitrust enforcement against the internet giants.The IAP financing is just one part of an aggressive, and sometimes secretive, battle Oracle has been waging against its biggest rivals, including Amazon.com Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google.Oracle spent years fighting to unseat Amazon as the front-runner for a lucrative Pentagon cloud contract, which was awarded to Microsoft Corp. in October.The Redwood City, California, company has also been locked in a decade-long legal dispute with Google, claiming the search-engine giant violated Oracle copyrights by including some Java programming code in the Android phone. Oracle acquired Java’s developer, Sun Microsystems Inc., in 2010.Earlier this month, IAP filed an amicus brief supporting Oracle’s position in the case. IAP said it wants to “ensure that Google respects the copyrights of Oracle and other innovators.” The U.S. Supreme Court on March 24 will hear oral arguments in the Google v. Oracle America case.The Trump administration on Feb. 19 also urged the Supreme Court to reject Google’s appeal in the case. Its brief appeared the same day that Larry Ellison, Oracle’s co-founder and chairman, hosted a high-dollar fundraiser at his Rancho Mirage estate for President Donald Trump. The event prompted about 300 Oracle employees to stage a protest the next day. The U.S. had previously supported Oracle as the case wound its way through the courts.Oracle’s donations disclosure reveals that it contributed to at least four other groups that filed supportive briefs in the Supreme Court case. Google has also donated money to at least 10 groups that have filed briefs on its behalf in the high court case.Oracle and Amazon didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment about the Oracle disclosure. Google declined to comment.IAP President Mike Davis said in a statement the group doesn’t disclose its financial backers but specified that Oracle didn’t fund its Supreme Court brief.The internet project was launched in September by Davis, a former aide to Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, and Rachel Bovard, a former aide to Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. The group aims to “lend a conservative voice to the calls for federal and state governments to rein in Big Tech before it is too late,” according to its website.The IAP is a Section 501(c)(4), known as a “social-welfare” organization. That designation means it isn’t required to disclose donors as long as it doesn’t spend more than half of its money on campaign advertisements or activities to sway an election.Among other policies, IAP supports curtailing Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which shields tech companies from liability for content that users post on their platforms. The clause saves tech companies from having to review content before it’s published online, and then shields them from lawsuits if that content turns out to be problematic.Earlier: Barr Takes Aim at Legal Shield Enjoyed by Google, FacebookIn interviews and on social media, IAP has supported Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, who has proposed that tech companies lose the legal immunity unless they can prove to the Federal Trade Commission that they treat their content in a politically neutral manner.Since September, IAP has tweeted at least 11 times about Hawley’s legislative efforts against Google and other tech companies. Other IAP tweets highlight instances in which Google-funded groups fought on the internet giant’s behalf.“Holy smokes you guys, DC is awash in @Google money,” Bovard tweeted in September.Davis, the group’s president, wrote last week on Townhall.com that Google’s battle with Oracle is “the poster child for what we at IAP call ‘the Great 21st Century Internet Heist.’” He said the company “is anathema to conservatives and everything we stand for,” without disclosing that his group is funded by Oracle.Earlier: It’s the Kochs vs. the Mercers in the Right’s Big Tech BrawlOracle claims Google owes it at least $8.8 billion for using the Java code without a license. Google argues it was fair to use parts of the programming language to help Android communicate more easily with other software.The case has split Silicon Valley by pitting software makers who favor stronger copyright protections against companies that rely on others’ code to produce new innovations.Other CampaignsIAP is far from the only anti-tech group Oracle has funded. It also gave between $25,000 and $99,999 to the Free and Fair Markets Initiative, according to the disclosure.Free and Fair Markets claims it is a grassroots coalition of businesses and advocacy groups fighting for a better economy. In practice, it has focused more on publicizing negative reports about Amazon. The Wall Street Journal reported that Oracle, Walmart Inc. and the Simon Property Group had financed the group.For the last two years, Oracle has also waged a multi-front battle against Amazon over the Pentagon’s Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, cloud contract. The deal, which could be worth $10 billion over a decade, is designed to transition much of the Pentagon’s data into one commercially operated cloud system.For more: Oracle’s Catz Is Said to Talk Amazon Contract Row With TrumpAmazon was seen as the leading contender because it had already won a major cloud contract with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and had obtained high levels of security clearance. The move to Amazon’s cloud would have threatened Oracle’s legacy database business with the Defense Department.Oracle led a coalition of other tech companies, including Microsoft Corp. and International Business Machines Corp., to oppose the Pentagon’s decision to award the contract to a sole bidder. In addition to lobbying Congress and the Trump administration, Oracle also filed -- and lost -- challenges through the Government Accountability Office and the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.Oracle is currently appealing a July ruling that it lacked standing to challenge the contract.(Updates with comment from IAP in paragraph 11)\--With assistance from Greg Stohr.To contact the reporters on this story: Naomi Nix in Washington at nnix1@bloomberg.net;Joe Light in Washington at jlight8@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Sara Forden at sforden@bloomberg.net, Paula DwyerFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Mahathir in Driver’s Seat Again to Pick New Malaysia Leader
    Bloomberg

    Mahathir in Driver’s Seat Again to Pick New Malaysia Leader

    (Bloomberg) -- After a wild day that saw the collapse of Malaysia’s ruling coalition, one thing is clear: Mahathir Mohamad holds the key to forming the next government.Mahathir, 94, abruptly resigned as prime minister on Monday after a longstanding rift within his alliance over who would succeed him boiled over. By the end of the day, he was the only one left in charge after the king appointed him interim prime minister and dismissed the cabinet.Most parties in his ruling coalition pledged to continue supporting him as leader, and he also met with the heads of the opposition alliance on Tuesday. Reuters reported that he invited lawmakers from rival factions to join together in a unity government.“Whether or not it was strategic or planned is a matter of debate,” Bridget Welsh, an associate professor at John Cabot University in Italy who writes frequently about Malaysian politics , told Bloomberg Television. “But ultimately what has happened is he’s put himself in a much stronger position in terms of being able to choose who he wants to be in government and the process ahead.”While the outcome of the power struggle is unclear, the events mark another twist in the decades-long rivalry between Mahathir and Anwar Ibrahim. The distrust between them dates back to the 1990s, when Anwar was ousted from Mahathir’s cabinet and arrested for sodomy.The re-emergence of political instability threatens the economy at a time when the global coronavirus epidemic and trade wars are hurting growth. Malaysian assets continued their declines after getting pummeled a day earlier, with the ringgit weakening to a two-year low while palm oil futures in Kuala Lumpur slumped toward bear territory. The benchmark stock index rebounded after entering a bear market on Monday.Malaysia Power Struggle Boils Over With Mahathir’s ResignationMahathir and Anwar joined hands ahead of elections in 2018 for a stunning victory that ousted the previous coalition, which had ruled Malaysia for six decades. But Mahathir soon backtracked on a promise to hand over power shortly after the vote, and he has been similarly vague about giving Anwar the premiership after two years -- an anniversary coming up in May.The lack of clarity increased tensions in Anwar’s party, and his deputy -- Azmin Ali -- emerged as a potential rival to succeed Mahathir. Azmin officially left Anwar’s party in the Monday shakeup, and remains a potential leadership option.‘Just Another Day’Now, it’s just Mahathir running things. Social media users shared memes of a cabinet lineup with Mahathir’s picture in every post. On Tuesday, Mahathir shared photos of himself sitting at his office in his usual grey suit, looking through documents. The caption read: “Just another day in the office.”On Tuesday, Pakatan Harapan -- the former ruling coalition -- said it was sticking together even after Mahathir’s party left the bloc. Earlier, the palace announced that the king would meet with all lawmakers starting on Tuesday to determine who holds the majority of support in the house.The numbers will be crucial going forward. There are 222 seats in Malaysia’s fragmented parliament, held by 19 parties. The ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition had 129 seats until Monday, when dozens of lawmakers left the group, at least temporarily.Given the statements of support Mahathir has elicited from multiple parties, he could still form a fresh alliance that includes parties from both sides of the line, dropping those he doesn’t need from the current ruling coalition.That could mean the previous coalition essentially reforms without those who defected. If that happens, presumably that would again position Anwar to take over from Mahathir later this year, if an agreement reached earlier this month holds.Mahathir could also join hands with Azmin and UMNO, the party he once led and defected from, to form a new government. Anwar insisted on Monday that Mahathir assured him this would never happen.It’s also possible for the Barisan Nasional opposition, which led Malaysia for six decades until the 2018 election, to seize control. But it would have to convince almost all the lawmakers who left Pakatan to switch sides without bleeding too many of its own seats.Either way, as has long been the case in Malaysia over the years, all eyes are on Mahathir.(Updates with Pakatan Harapan sticking together.)\--With assistance from Yantoultra Ngui, Philip J. Heijmans, Adrian Leung, Liau Y-Sing and Anuradha Raghu.To contact the reporters on this story: Anisah Shukry in Kuala Lumpur at ashukry2@bloomberg.net;Hadi Azmi in Kuala Lumpur at klnews@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Daniel Ten Kate at dtenkate@bloomberg.net, Yudith Ho, Stephanie PhangFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Bloomberg

    Hong Kong Exports Plunged Even Before Virus Showed Full Impact

    (Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong can’t catch a break.January was supposed to be the month that sagging exports from the Asian finance hub’s huge port started to bottom. Instead, they slumped. By a lot more.Total outbound shipments plunged 23% from a year earlier, far worse than the 3.7% drop that economists expected, figures released Tuesday showed. Exports from the facility, one of the 10 largest ports in the world, saw big drops to key markets: down 21% to the rest of Asia, 33% to the U.S. and 37% to the U.K.While the data were probably affected by the annual Lunar New Year holidays, they also show that whatever dividend was likely from the U.S. and China trade deal has already evaporated. The focus now is on how much worse the pain could get as the city braces for fallout from the coronavirus.The disruptions, meanwhile, are reverberating:The shipping industry will remain volatile for most of the year, said Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles. In an interview, he said cargo traffic at the largest U.S. container port is down about 25% so far this month, a drag that could push total container volume down 15% in the first quarter. The U.S. imported half the amount of goods from China in the week ending Feb. 20 as it did in the same period last year, according to IHS Markit data compiled by Bloomberg. Economists are beginning to war game what an untethered outbreak could mean for global growth. Oxford Economics reckon an international health crisis could be enough to wipe more than $1 trillion from global gross domestic product. China’s mammoth steel sector — which accounts for more than half of global production —  is in turmoil. Stockpiles of rebar, a key construction material used to reinforce concrete, have swelled to a record. That’s hurting the price of iron ore, Australia’s biggest export. When Bloomberg reporters recently fanned out across the globe, they found plenty of examples of companies feeling the strain: New Zealand lobsters that were released back into the wild. A San Diego game studio that faced delays to its latest fantasy board games. A Hong Kong watch maker who couldn’t get coils or wheels.Charting the Trade WarThe British government is refusing to ask ports to get ready to implement new checks on goods moving between Britain and Northern Ireland, a decision that risks inflaming tensions between London and Brussels ahead of next week’s trade talks.Today’s Must ReadsJapanese investment | Nissan Motor gave the starkest warning yet on the future of the Japanese group’s car factories in western Europe, with a plant in the U.K. threatened by Brexit. Dispatch from Delhi | U.S. President Donald Trump and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi discussed issues from defense to regional security, but hopes faded for a trade deal this year. Profit warnings | Mastercard and United Airlines were the latest companies to warn sales and profit are getting hurt as the epidemic spreads beyond its center in China’s Hubei province. Sour taste | The U.K. shouldn’t allow imports of food that fall short of the country’s own standards when it draws up trade agreements, the head of the National Farmers Union said. Debt fuel | The coronavirus outbreak is threatening to scupper a debt refinancing for the world’s third-largest container shipping company.Economic AnalysisChina insight | Could growth be slowing below 3%? Here are the latest tracking estimates for 1Q GDP. U.K.-EU scenarios | Services, rules would be only slightly better in an FTA than no deal.Coming UpFeb. 28: U.S. advance goods trade balance, Mexico trade balance March 1: South Korea trade balance March 6: Canadian merchandise trade March 7: China trade balance\--With assistance from Craig Stirling, Krystal Chia, Michelle Jamrisko and Michael Arnold.To contact the author of this story: Enda Curran in Hong Kong at ecurran8@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Brendan Murray at brmurray@bloomberg.net, Zoe SchneeweissFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Eskom Faces Closure Threat at Biggest Working Power Plant
    Bloomberg

    Eskom Faces Closure Threat at Biggest Working Power Plant

    (Bloomberg) -- Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. is battling to keep all the units of its biggest operational power plant open after being served with a compliance notice by South Africa’s environment ministry because of its high levels of air pollution.The indebted power utility has failed to fully repair pollution-abatement equipment at its 4,116 megawatt Kendal power plant that began malfunctioning in early 2018 and was damaged further in a strike later that year. The ministry issued the notice in December saying the plant would need to close two of its six generating units, 1 and 5, if action wasn’t taken to bring them back into compliance. It demanded maintenance plans for the rest.The demands come at a bad time for Eskom, which is struggling to supply South Africa with sufficient power and has been forced to implement nationwide power cuts. It’s building two bigger plants, Medupi and Kusile, but they are not yet complete and it is struggling to service a 454 billion rand ($30 billion) debt burden.South Africa generates most of its power from coal and environmentalists have sued the government for not enforcing the law and addressing pollution. The plant’s emissions of particulate matter, which causes respiratory disease, have driven Eskom’s overall emissions of the pollutant to their worst level in two decades.Units at the plant have been emitting particulate matter at a multiple of the 100 milligrams per normal cubic meter limit. The pollutant causes asthma, bronchitis and emphysema, according to AirVisual, an air quality monitoring app.Eskom has “put in place a plan to ensure that Kendal is brought back into compliance as soon as possible,” the utility said in an emailed response to questions. Still, the company has objected to the compliance notice because of the impact it would have on electricity generation. Barbara Creecy, the environment minister, is considering the objection, Eskom said.Her ministry didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.The electrostatic precipitators, equipment that collects particles on charged plates, have been damaged along with dust-handling plants. The company plans to take the units out of operation one at a time to carry out repairs.Units 1 and 2 are complying with the limit, while unit 5 has been taken offline for repairs. Unit 3, 4 and 6 are above the limit and the next repairs planned will be to unit 6 in the second half of the year, Eskom said.“An expert’s initial assessment has found that the total annual excess deaths due to Kendal’s emissions for the 2018 period was approximately 100 and about 90 deaths for the 2019 period,” said Robyn Hugo, program head for climate change and pollution at Cape Town’s Centre for Environmental Rights, a legal organization that represents activists.“Given its staggering impact on human health and wellbeing, Eskom cannot continue to treat compliance with legal requirements as a suggestion,” Hugo said.(Adds Eskom’s debt burden in third paragraph)To contact the reporter on this story: Antony Sguazzin in Johannesburg at asguazzin@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: John McCorry at jmccorry@bloomberg.net, Pauline Bax, Chris KayFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Inside the Seething Boardroom Drama That Poisoned HQ Trivia
    Bloomberg

    Inside the Seething Boardroom Drama That Poisoned HQ Trivia

    (Bloomberg) -- Before HQ Trivia ran out of money earlier this month and abruptly shut down, the once-promising startup appeared to be on the brink of a dramatic victory. It had an acquisition offer from a media company called Whistle. The deal would have given HQ the cash it desperately needed to keep the lights on. Whistle was still doing its due diligence, but it already knew that HQ Trivia had been declining in popularity in recent months. It was familiar with the company’s history of managerial infighting, and it was aware of the shocking death of its 34-year-old co-founder from a drug overdose.Then, earlier this month, Whistle pulled out unexpectedly. HQ’s board members were blindsided, according to two people close to the company who asked not to be identified discussing private conversations. The company’s chief executive officer, Rus Yusupov, sent an email to its 25 employees on Valentine’s Day, telling them they were losing their jobs.That day, users got a bitter push notification on their phones. “HQ is live,” it read. “Just kidding. We’re off-air indefinitely.”The story of how one of the most promising companies in entertainment got to this point is a singular example of a clever idea derailed by what former employees describe as mismanagement and seething boardroom drama. In 2018, the New Statesman declared that “HQ Trivia—not Netflix—is the real future of television.” This year, by the time it was talking to digital video maker Whistle about a deal, HQ parent Intermedia Labs was on the verge of not being able to pay out promised prize money, people familiar with the company said.In nearly a dozen interviews with former employees, industry experts and others close to the startup, a portrait emerged of a company whose problems ran deeper than has been previously reported. In Silicon Valley, it’s not uncommon for good ideas to be stymied by managerial dysfunction. But HQ displayed a degree of personal animosity between staff and management—and among managers themselves—that’s rare even by tech startup standards. Yusupov, his board members and key employees all declined requests for comment. Most people who agreed to speak requested anonymity in order to protect their relationships, and prospects of getting another job in the industry.Now, the company is fighting for a second chance. On February 18, four days after declaring HQ was over and out of money, Yusupov tweeted that a new buyer had emerged. People familiar with the situation also say that a deal is close, though not finalized, and could become official as soon as early this week. Still, some who worked at the startup remain skeptical that HQ will ever make a comeback.Its most famous former employee, quiz show host Scott Rogowsky, tweeted a post-mortem for the company the day after it shut down. “HQ didn’t die of natural causes,” he wrote. “It was poisoned with a lethal cocktail of incompetence, arrogance, short-sightedness & sociopathic delusion.”On paper, the guys who founded HQ Trivia made a pretty good team. Yusupov and Colin Kroll had previously created Vine, the short looping video company. It became a force on the internet, minting now-famous influencers like viral provocateurs Jake and Logan Paul and musician Shawn Mendes. Vine was acquired by Twitter in 2015 for $30 million.But that integration into Twitter proved to be the first major setback for the promising duo. Kroll and Yusupov were both fired from the company at different times, Recode later reported. And, according to allegations that eventually surfaced in the media, Kroll made some of his female colleagues there uneasy with “creepy” behavior. In a statement to Axios, Kroll would later apologize for “things I said and did that made some feel unappreciated or uncomfortable,” and deny sexually harassing anyone. An investigation conducted by HQ’s board would also find his behavior fell short of harassment. The Twitter tie-up came to an end in October 2016, when the company shut down the service.By that point, though, Kroll and Yusupov had earned a reputation as online video whiz kids, and they found support for their next project, a live video app called Hype. Lightspeed Venture Partners invested $8 million to get the company off the ground, Recode reported. Lightspeed partner Jeremy Liew praised the company in a Medium post partly titled “Founders Matter,” which lauded pioneering social media entrepreneurs. “When these founders move on, they tend to see success again in their next venture,” he wrote. Hype didn’t find an audience. Neither did the company’s other ideas for a DIY game show or a celebrity baby photo-matching game. But before long, Yusupov and Kroll struck internet oil. HQ Trivia launched in August 2017 with a glitchy app, but almost immediately, it was a sensation. The game, an interactive mobile trivia show, was fun to play—and people of all ages found it addictive. When the live broadcast of the show would come on each day thousands of people stopped what they were doing to look at their phones and try to answer the game’s 12 questions correctly for cash prizes. Within months hundreds of thousands of players would tune in for the company’s daily show. But by mid-December of 2017, just months after its launch, trouble was already brewing for the company. HQ was struggling to raise money thanks to a reputation for “womanizing” that Kroll had left behind at Twitter, Liew said in a statement at the time to media outlets including Businessweek. Concerned by investors’ reticence, Liew, who was on the HQ board, launched an investigation into the allegations. He concluded that Kroll hadn’t been popular at Twitter, but that he didn’t harass anyone.As questions percolated about HQ’s management, its trivia app’s growth continued unabated. In February, the company scored a Super Bowl commercial, cementing its position as a staple of popular culture. The month after, the company raised $15 million in a funding round led VC firm Founders Fund. In a statement accompanying the funding announcement, Kroll said he was “let go” by Twitter from his role at Vine for “poor management,” and apologized for past behavior. HQ’s valuation climbed to $100 million.The high point for HQ Trivia came in March 2018, when almost 2.4 million people tuned in to try and win a $250,000 prize sponsored by Warner Bros. to promote its upcoming movie, “Ready Player One.” Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson made an appearance the next month, reaching a slightly smaller audience, and the game continued to book major sponsors like Nike Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google and JPMorgan Chase & Co.Despite the star power, in 2018 HQ Trivia was starting to slip in the App Store rankings. It went from consistently landing in the top five slots in the “games” category in the U.S. App Store at the beginning of the year, to 188th place on July 1, according to App Annie.The key problem was that HQ wasn’t innovating, according to conversations with former employees. As people got bored with the main game, the company had little else to offer them. The stagnation wasn’t necessarily for a lack of ideas. Starting in 2018, the company discussed lots of additional shows including a “Judge Judy”-like program, and one based on “Family Feud,” people familiar with the company said. A dating show idea got far enough along that the company even made a pilot, they said, but it never launched.Yusupov was more interested in building out HQ’s flagship product than launching new ones, former employees said. Several people also said that Yusupov, a talented designer and creative thinker, could be erratic—alternating between bursts of frenetic activity and long periods of inaction. One employee recalled how once, hours before a game was supposed to drop, Yusupov asked to cut the number of winners from 5,000 to 500. Another former staffer remembered Yusupov personally overseeing the details for a game, even as larger issues like cash burn loomed at the company.A representative for Yusupov declined requests for comment. In a conversation with the Wall Street Journal in 2019, he said, “I’ve always welcomed and appreciated candid feedback. I’m evolving as a leader and will continue to do so.”That spring, Kroll contemplated leaving HQ altogether. His relationship with Yusupov had been rocky since the allegations and subsequent fundraising struggles. "I have a lot of ideas left," he said in a text message to a friend reviewed by Bloomberg. "And I don't want to make them w/Rus."At the office, Yusupov and Kroll continued to sit next to each other. But their mutual dislike had become so intense that one person familiar with the dynamic recalled that instead of speaking, they would sometimes Slack employees messages for each other.In August 2018, some members of HQ’s four-person board of directors felt the company needed a change in leadership, Recode reported. Liew and Kroll wanted Kroll to replace Yusupov as CEO. “We’re trying to diversify a bit, and that’s where my skill-set comes in handy,” Kroll would later tell tech site Digiday. Yusupov, however, didn’t want to give up his job, according to people with knowledge of the dynamic at the time.Displacing a CEO, even with another co-founder, is a seismic event for a startup. “Removing the founder more often than not is like ripping out the heart of the company,” Carol Liao, assistant professor of law at the University of British Columbia, wrote in an email. To add to that, investors doing the ousting are also risking becoming known as unfriendly to founders. "If that becomes your reputation, you're in trouble," said Brandy Aven, associate professor of organizational theory, strategy, and entrepreneurship at Carnegie Mellon University.HQ’s board consisted of Liew, Kroll, Yusupov and Founders Fund’s Cyan Banister, who had joined earlier that year in the $15 million funding round. In the standoff between Kroll and Yusupov, Banister didn’t want to pick a side. (Founders Fund boasts on its website that it “has never removed a single founder.”) So she left the board to avoid the decision. That left Yusupov outnumbered 2-to-1. He was demoted. Before Kroll’s ascension to the CEO spot was announced, though, an employee filed a complaint about him to human resources, Recode first reported. The complaint, which accused Kroll of “inappropriate and unprofessional” management, was elevated to the board and leaked to the press. In an indication of the brewing mistrust at the company, Kroll suspected the leak could have come from Yusupov’s camp, according to text messages reviewed by Bloomberg.The complaint did not derail Kroll’s appointment, but the transfer of power solidified the long-gestating enmity between the founders. Yusupov felt betrayed that Kroll and Liew took away his job, people familiar with the situation said. Kroll thought Yusupov had tried to sabotage him in the press. He confided in a friend that he was considering firing his co-founder, and texted, "Feel like I should stop talking to Rus.”Then, just months after Kroll took over, HQ suffered its most shocking setback. In mid-December 2018, the company threw its annual holiday party. Kroll left the event and ordered drugs through an on-demand delivery service in New York City called Mike’s Candyshop, according to reports at the time. After taking the drugs with a girlfriend in his apartment late that night, the next day police found Kroll dead in his bed. The autopsy found heroin, cocaine and fentanyl in his body. Six men were arrested for running the drug service that provided the lethal substances, news reports said.Kroll’s death stunned HQ’s staff—and thrust Yusupov back into the unofficial role of CEO. That unsettled some employees. A few said they feared the company would slip into a state of inaction they believed had characterized Yusupov’s tenure as CEO. So several staffers—including the face of the company, quiz show host Rogowsky—started circulating the idea of drafting a letter demanding that the board replace Yusupov, according to multiple people familiar with the matter. A sizable number of HQ’s employees added their names.Liew was made aware of the letter before he ever received it. A hasty, all-staff meeting was called in February 2019, with Liew and other board members in attendance. At the meeting, the assembled staff was told that the board had hired a search firm to help HQ Trivia find a new leader. In the meantime HQ’s top engineering exec, Ben Sheats, and the company’s head of production, Nick Gallo, would share the CEO role with Yusupov, according to several former employees who were at the meeting. Liew also said that once Yusupov’s replacement was found, he would step down as board member, yielding his seat to his Lightspeed colleague, Merci Grace.But the new CEO never came. HQ spoke to a number of candidates in 2019, and got close on a few, but ultimately failed to hire anyone, according to people familiar with the discussions. Shortly after the February all-hands meeting, Rogowsky, by far HQ’s most visible employee, left for another job.By late summer of last year, it was clear that HQ needed an influx of capital, or new ownership, in order to survive. The number of downloads were down, and the company laid off about 20% of its staff in July, TechCrunch reported. The board hired Watertower Group, a boutique investment and advisory firm, and set out to explore their options, according to two people familiar with the arrangement. Watertower Group did not respond to requests for comment.In November, the company began talks with Whistle, formerly known as Whistle Sports, about an acquisition. Whistle makes digital shows for platforms like YouTube, IGTV, Snapchat Discover and the video section inside Facebook Inc., called Watch. HQ Trivia’s late  attempts at new games, including HQ Tunes for music trivia launched in December 2019, had failed to take off. But it wasn’t hard to see how the company's offerings might fit into Whistle’s broader content strategy.HQ’s board expected the deal to close in mid-February, then Whistle pulled the plug, according to people familiar with the startup’s thinking. The botched acquisition meant HQ no longer had the money to sustain operations, Yusupov tweeted. The one-time media darling suddenly, abruptly shuttered.In a statement, a spokeswoman for Whistle confirmed that the company had had conversations with HQ as part of its broader growth strategy. “We will continue to look for the right growth opportunities,” she wrote. HQ’s demise was not exactly surprising. Since the start of this year, HQ Trivia had not cracked the top 1,000 in the rankings of top games in the U.S. App Store, according to App Annie. Still, its closure marked one of the most dramatic tumbles from grace in recent tech history. “With HQ we showed the world the future of TV,” Yusupov tweeted. “Thanks to everyone who helped build this and thanks for playing.”While the game is over for the foreseeable future, the world has likely not heard the last of HQ. The company will be the focus of a new podcast from sports and entertainment outlet, the Ringer. And a group of former employees is currently shopping a documentary-style video series to a number of well-known streaming services, according to people familiar with the discussions. The group includes former host Rogowsky—but not Yusupov—the people said.Meanwhile, HQ is still seeking a reprieve. After the Whistle deal fell through, Yusupov and HQ’s board spent the weekend calling around in search of another buyer, according people familiar with the situation. Now, the people said, a deal is being negotiated and is expected to close in the coming days, but is still not official.The hope is that this new buyer will pay enough for HQ to at least deliver severance for employees and prize money for players, people familiar with the matter said, if not fund a return to glory for the app.Several people with knowledge of the discussions declined to comment on who the new buyer was, citing a fear of upending the deal. But that didn’t stop Yusupov from sharing last week that something is in the works. “We have found a new home for HQ, with a company that wants to keep it running,” he tweeted Tuesday. “Not a done deal yet, but I’m optimistic.”(Updates with context in the 31st paragraph. An earlier version of this story corrected the month of the app's first launch.)\--With assistance from Sarah McBride.To contact the author of this story: Kurt Wagner in San Francisco at kwagner71@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Anne VanderMey at avandermey@bloomberg.net, Mark MilianAndrew PollackFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Trudeau Seeks Talks After Protest Broken Up: Blockade Update
    Bloomberg

    Trudeau Seeks Talks After Protest Broken Up: Blockade Update

    (Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government hopes to restart talks with Indigenous groups now that police have begun to clear a key rail blockade that has disrupted Canada’s economy for weeks.Trudeau met with his top officials in Ottawa on Monday morning as provincial authorities moved in to clear a protest site near Belleville, Ontario. The blockade by Mohawk leaders was erected Feb. 6 in solidarity with some Wet’suwet’en Nation hereditary chiefs in British Columbia who oppose TC Energy Corp.’s Coastal GasLink pipeline, a C$6.6 billion ($5 billion) liquefied natural gas project.“We are committed to reconciliation and we are committed to sitting down and having a dialogue over the specific problem that exists with the Wet’suwet’en,” Transport Minister Marc Garneau told reporters after the cabinet meeting. “But at the same time the barricades had to come down because it was having a profound effect on the economy.”More on the Rail BlockadesFirst Nations’ Conflict With Industry Boils Over Again in CanadaTrudeau Abandons Talks, Says Blockades ‘Must Now Come Down’Rail Blockade Sparks ‘Uncharted’ Logjam for Canada Grain ExportsDemonstrations in several provinces by environmental and indigenous-rights activists had crippled freight and passenger traffic across Canada. Some blockades came down thanks to injunctions obtained by Canadian National Railway Co., but the one in Tyendinaga, Ontario -- along the key Toronto-to-Montreal corridor -- persisted past a midnight deadline Sunday, prompting police to move in.While Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said he is concerned about potential blowback from the detentions, he doesn’t think the Mohawk protesters intended to cause harm to the broader population. “Once those barricades are down, come back to the table. We’ve got so much work to do,” he said after the meeting with Trudeau.Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller, speaking Monday afternoon outside the legislature, added: “We’re not only fighting days of suspicion and mistrust, but decades and even centuries in some cases.”Police Detain Ontario Protesters (9:34 am Toronto)Protesters were detained by police in Tyendinaga, as provincial governments followed through on warnings that they would clear rail lines that have been blocked for weeks.At least three demonstrators were restrained by provincial police Monday morning, according to the state broadcaster. They were warned Sunday that they’d face a police investigation and charges if they didn’t obey a midnight deadline to disperse, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported, citing a Mohawk source. The blockade is about 130 miles northeast of Toronto.“The Ontario Provincial Police has taken action to resolve protest activity and remove the barriers to rail service in and near Tyendinaga Township,” according to a statement. “We have remained respectful of the ongoing dialogue, including issues of sovereignty between our Indigenous communities and various federal ministers.”Critical Needs Addressed (10:53 p.m. Sunday Toronto)Trudeau, who spoke with premiers from British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec on Sunday, informed them “of measures being taken to ensure that critical needs are addressed across Canada, including propane, chemicals to treat drinking water, and essential agricultural products,” according to a statement from his office.On Saturday, Blair called officials in Ontario and Quebec to discuss “ongoing work to end” the blockades, according to statements from his office. He told Quebec’s minister of municipal affairs and housing that he “appreciated the measured and effective approach taken by the police in Quebec.”Having asked for patience throughout last week, Trudeau changed tack on Friday afternoon. “We cannot continue to watch Canadians suffer shortages and layoffs,” the prime minister said in a televised address to the nation, adding that the responsibility to enforce court orders lies with provincial police forces. “The barricades must now come down,” he said.(Updates with Miller comment in 6th paragraph. A previous version of this story was corrected to remove a reference to CP Rail obtaining an injuction.)\--With assistance from Divya Balji.To contact the reporters on this story: Sandrine Rastello in Montreal at srastello@bloomberg.net;Stephen Wicary in Ottawa at swicary@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Derek Decloet at ddecloet@bloomberg.net, Chris Fournier, Theophilos ArgitisFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Johnson Faces Complaints of Bad Faith Ahead of Trade Talks
    Bloomberg

    Johnson Faces Complaints of Bad Faith Ahead of Trade Talks

    (Bloomberg) -- The U.K. and the European Union are increasingly at odds ahead of next week’s trade talks, with each side accusing the other of backing away from past promises.Regaining political independence and freedom from the EU’s legal system will take priority over securing a trade deal by the Dec. 31 deadline, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman, James Slack, told reporters on Monday. And in a move that risks stirring concerns in Dublin, the U.K. is refusing to ask ports to get ready to implement new checks on goods moving between Britain and Northern Ireland, he said.That position appears to defy the deal that broke the Brexit deadlock last year. Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said “there can be no backsliding” on the Northern Ireland protocol in the Withdrawal Agreement, broadcaster RTE reported on Monday. Varadkar, who is acting as caretaker premier after losing this month’s election, said the withdrawal agreement is an international treaty and “we expect the British government to honor that in full.”On Monday, EU ambassadors finalized the bloc’s negotiating mandate for the talks, including a demand that EU rules should be a “reference point” for the level playing field in an apparent concession to the hard line French. Ministers from member states are due to sign it off on Tuesday, with the U.K. expected to follow with its own paper on Thursday. Those documents will set out the parameters for different areas of discussion.‘What’s Changed?’But the background noises are already bad-tempered, and Johnson -- who is ideologically committed to Brexit and has a significant majority to rely on in Parliament -- is taking a negotiating position that raises the risk that no trade agreement will be reached before the Brexit transition period expires at the end of the years.The U.K. is also pushing back against the bloc’s insistence that Britain should follow European rules on employment and manufacturing standards if it wants a trade deal. Last week Johnson’s office tweeted a picture of an EU-generated slide suggesting the different kinds of trading arrangement available to the U.K., which concluded that a free-trade deal along the lines of the one done with Canada was the only likely option. “Now they say it’s not on offer after all,” the tweet said. “What’s changed?”Over the weekend, the U.K. seized on the time it’s taking the 27 member states to agree their joint position, with Johnson’s office accusing the EU of being “hamstrung by indecision and delay due to the competing interests of different member states.” French Europe Minister Amelie de Montchalin did nothing to calm the tension, accusing the U.K. of trying to use “the pressure of blackmail or time” to push a deal through.While much of this is simply rhetoric, the Irish border issue has been one of the key problems of Brexit for the last three years. Under the Withdrawal Agreement reached by the two sides, goods moving from Northern Ireland to Britain should be largely free from checks -- but that’s not the case when goods move in the other direction. In order to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland after Brexit, the U.K. agreed to apply the European Union’s rules on customs and regulations in Northern Ireland.In effect, that means customs controls on goods considered at risk of moving into the EU from Great Britain through Northern Ireland, according to the Institute of Government. It also means regulatory checks on goods moving into Northern Ireland from the rest of the U.K. to make sure they meet EU standards.Although the U.K. is talking tough, its language is slightly different depending on the direction of trade that it’s discussing. Slack said on Monday that goods moving from Northern Ireland to Britain would have “unfettered access.” He declined to say that same about goods moving in the opposite direction.Not About “Bespoke Agreement”“We will comply with our obligations,” he said.After leaving the EU on Jan. 31, Britain has until Dec. 31 to sign a trade deal with the EU -- or face crashing out of the bloc and trading on terms set by the World Trade Organization. Johnson has ruled out any extension of this transition period.In a statement outlining a call between Johnson and Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic on Monday afternoon, Johnson’s office underlined that commitment.“The Prime Minister highlighted that we are not seeking a special or bespoke agreement, but rather one like those the EU has already struck with other friendly countries like Canada,” the readout said. “He emphasized that the U.K. will not extend the transition period or accept any arrangements which subordinate us to EU rules.”(Updates detail of mandate in fourth paragraph.)\--With assistance from Dara Doyle and Samuel Dodge.To contact the reporters on this story: Robert Hutton in London at rhutton1@bloomberg.net;Ian Wishart in Brussels at iwishart@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Flavia Krause-Jackson at fjackson@bloomberg.net, Thomas Penny, Stuart BiggsFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • World-Changing Virus, Climate Threats Dominate G-20 Gathering
    Bloomberg

    World-Changing Virus, Climate Threats Dominate G-20 Gathering

    (Bloomberg) -- The Group of 20 meeting in Saudi Arabia should have marked a sigh of relief for global finance chiefs after trade tensions cooled and the global economy started to stabilize.The mood was quite different: A major new risk has emerged with the outbreak of the coronavirus, and each passing day drains hope that the epidemic will be quickly contained. The disease has already killed more than 2,400 people and infected close to 80,000 worldwide, with more and more countries reporting cases.The economic fallout all but seized center stage at the meeting. The finance ministers and central bankers who gathered over the weekend tried their best to salvage what was left of their agenda.Here are the takeaways as global policy makers leave Riyadh:Economy StrickenThe idling factories, cities on lockdown and disrupted supply chains couldn’t be ignored.Just a month ago, the IMF was offering some modest reason for optimism about the 2020 outlook. On Saturday, it was a different story.Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said the virus outbreak had led the lender to trim 0.1 percentage points from its global growth forecast, but that it’s also looking at more “dire” scenarios.“We do not know what will be the next steps, indeed if the epidemic will turn to pandemic or not,” French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told Bloomberg TV. “But we have to be prepared.”First RespondersParticipants at the meeting agreed on a “menu of policy options” to counter the emergency, but they included few details on a coordinated response in their joint statement.The gathering saw yet another round in the long-running debate about who should take the lead if more stimulus is needed.Central bankers are pretty clear: Their tanks are close to empty and governments -- especially those with surpluses -- need to step up and do their bit.“There was the feeling that if the policy mix needed to be strengthened in the face of coronavirus, it couldn’t be only monetary policy,” European Central Bank policy maker Francois Villeroy de Galhau told Bloomberg. “There is still monetary space but it is more limited than before.”Climate ControlOfficials at G-20 meetings often spend much of their energy navigating the thorny topic of climate change and the U.S. refusal to mention what most see as the world’s biggest long-term challenge.This time, the group statement included a reference to “climate change.” It was only in relation to financial stability implications, but it’s a small victory for those who warn of a greater looming crisis and want more done in response.It could prove a significant step by allowing central bankers and finance ministers to more easily make fighting climate change a part of their everyday operations.Steven Mnuchin, however, cast doubt on whether this was a historic moment. The Treasury Secretary said he didn’t bow to European pressure on the issue, and the mention of “climate” in the communique was simply a statement of fact about what the Financial Stability Board -- which oversees the global banking system -- was doing.Taxing IssueThe intricacies of how to overhaul global tax rules are enough to cause a shudder in even the most enthusiastic of technocrats. The G-20 was reminder that the issue could also be enough to spark a transatlantic trade war.The top protagonists kicked off the meeting with a public display of consensus on a discussion panel: Everyone wants to get a deal on taxing the likes of Google and Facebook. The problem is that European countries have moved too fast for American comfort by imposing unilateral digital services taxes -- and Washington is threatening tariffs.The only way to lift the threat of a trade war is to get a global agreement instead. That’s not so simple as the U.S. wants a “safe harbor” regime, but Europe says that would make the rules optional.Mnuchin spent a lot of the G-20 trying to explain why safe harbor isn’t optional, but to little avail. How the semantic ambiguity evolves in the coming weeks will be key to maintaining world trade peace.Read MoreG-20 Finance Chiefs Go on Alert With Global Growth at Risk Globalization Comes Under Fire Amid Coronavirus ‘Stress Test’Kuroda Pushes Back Against Speculation Over Yen’s Haven StatusMnuchin Says Congress Key Hurdle to Europe’s Digital Tax DemandsIMF Has ‘Fruitful Exchange’ With Argentina on Path Forward Frydenberg Says Australia Economy Resilient Despite Coronavirus\--With assistance from Toru Fujioka, Cagan Koc, Benjamin Harvey, Saleha Mohsin, Yousef Gamal El-Din, Vivian Nereim, Donna Abu-Nasr and Jana Randow.To contact the reporters on this story: William Horobin in Paris at whorobin@bloomberg.net;Paul Abelsky in Dubai at pabelsky@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Simon Kennedy at skennedy4@bloomberg.net, Fergal O'Brien, Brian SwintFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Twitter Suspends 70 Accounts With Pro-Michael Bloomberg Tweets
    Bloomberg

    Twitter Suspends 70 Accounts With Pro-Michael Bloomberg Tweets

    (Bloomberg) -- Twitter Inc. on Friday said it had begun suspending 70 accounts that posted identical messages in support of Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg in a pattern that violates the social-media company’s rules.A Twitter spokesman said in a statement that it had taken “enforcement action on a group of accounts for violating our rules against platform manipulation and spam.”Some of the suspensions will be permanent, while in some cases account owners will have to verify they have control of their accounts, the Twitter statement said.(Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.)The campaign has reportedly hired hundreds of employees to pump out campaign messages on social media platforms. In accounts reviewed by the Los Angeles Times, which first reported the enforcement action, the organizers used identical texts, links and hashtags. Many of the accounts had been created in the last two months, after Bloomberg entered the presidential race on Nov. 24.Bloomberg campaign spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said staffers and volunteers use an app called Outvote to share content “and was not intended to mislead anyone.” The campaign asks all deputy field organizers to identify themselves as working on behalf of the candidate on their social media accounts, she said.Twitter said it had determined that the posts were in violation of its “Platform Manipulation and Spam Policy.”Twitter said the campaign violated its rules against “creating multiple accounts to post duplicative content,” “posting identical or substantially similar Tweets or hashtags from multiple accounts you operate” and “coordinating with or compensating others to engage in artificial engagement or amplification, even if the people involved use only one account.”(Updates with Bloomberg campaign response in sixth paragraph)\--With assistance from Natnicha Chuwiruch and Mark Niquette.To contact the reporter on this story: Jennifer Epstein in Manchester, New Hampshire at jepstein32@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Wendy Benjaminson at wbenjaminson@bloomberg.net, John HarneyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Twitter suspends group of pro-Bloomberg accounts over 'platform manipulation'
    Reuters

    Twitter suspends group of pro-Bloomberg accounts over 'platform manipulation'

    Twitter Inc on Friday said it had started suspending and restricting dozens of accounts posting content promoting U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg. "We took enforcement action on about 70 accounts, which includes a combination of permanent suspensions and account challenges to verify ownership," a Twitter spokeswoman said in a statement to Reuters. Twitter said the accounts violated its platform manipulation and spam policy, which prohibits coordination among accounts to amplify or disrupt conversation by using multiple accounts.

  • Social Media Stocks That Are Here To Stay
    Zacks

    Social Media Stocks That Are Here To Stay

    Social media is one of the most influential mediums in the world today, youmake sure that you put your money where the influence will last

  • Bloomberg

    An Africa United on Trade Faces U.S.’s One-on-One Tactics

    (Bloomberg) -- The good news is that the U.S. doesn’t seem to make the often loathed assumption that Africa is one big country. The less good news is that its trade relations with the continent’s 55 states could become increasingly fragmented.On his first trip to Africa as secretary of State this week, Michael Pompeo focused on business ties as he met with officials in Senegal, Angola and Ethiopia. President Donald Trump “loves deals” and “wants more to happen between the U.S. and nations all across Africa,” Pompeo said in Addis Ababa.That came two weeks after Washington announced that it intended to start talks for a free-trade deal with Kenya. The only other such pact is with Morocco.But on the same trip, Pompeo took a swipe at South Africa, the continent’s most-industrial economy and currently the U.S.’s biggest trading partner in the region. He said the plans of the country’s ruling party to allow land expropriation would be disastrous and described the policy proposal as an example of central planning that has failed in other African states like Zimbabwe.Trade relations between the U.S. and African nations will come under increased scrutiny between now and 2025. That’s when the African Growth & Opportunity Act, which provides sub-Saharan African countries duty-free access for about 6,500 products to America, expires.The Trump administration doesn’t favor renewing it and wants the planned Kenyan deal to be a model for other arrangements with individual countries.But there’s an all-for-one, one-for-all pull in the opposite direction, with the African Continental Free Trade Agreement that’s been signed by all but one of the countries recognized by the African Union. A deal between the U.S. and Kenya could undermine this continent-wide commerce pact and limit Africa’s power to negotiate, according to the secretary-general of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, Mukhisa Kituyi.“Kenya should not provide cracks in the armor of those who have pushed for further collective engagement,” Kituyi said in a joint statement this month with Erastus Mwencha, the former head of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa. “There is strength in numbers.”Charting the Trade WarThe unprecedented gyrations caused by the coronavirus have hit the shipping business because 90% of all trade moves by sea and China has grown into the maritime industry’s main source of cargoes. The disruptions have left toy makers like Hasbro and fashion houses like the owner of Michael Kors, Versace and Jimmy Choo struggling with their supply chains. Vessels are idling. And exporters to China face diversions as clients there use force majeure clauses in their contracts to walk away from commitments to buy cargoes.Today’s Must ReadsCoronavirus fallout | South Korea’s early trade data suggest the coronavirus epidemic has started to disrupt the region’s supply chains, and the effects are going global. Deere in headlights | American farmers aren’t ready to heed President Donald Trump’s advice to buy bigger tractors after his deal with China, a new survey of their spending plans showed. Quick turnaround | The shipping industry has run into headwinds ranging from China’s health crisis to poor weather. One CEO who oversees a fleet of 55 vessels expects a quick comeback. Cattle drive | Australia overtook the U.S. to become the world’s top exporter of beef by value in 2019, aided by a 9% increase in export volumes. Brazil stayed the top shipper by volume. Shell games | American farmers have deposed Iran as king of the global pistachio industry, benefiting from U.S. policies hostile to Tehran, climate change, and egregious failures of economic and water management.Economic AnalysisTracking the virus | South Korean import data highlight the coronavirus outbreak’s disruptions. Brexit bargains | The U.K.'s lower-tariff plan should cut prices and raise competition.Coming UpFeb. 25: CPB World Trade Monitor; Hong Kong trade balance  Feb. 28: U.S. advance goods trade balance Britain’s departure from the EU on Jan. 31 marked the start of a new and, if anything, more complex phase of the negotiations. Click here for a timeline to the year ahead.\--With assistance from Nick Wadhams and David Malingha.To contact the author of this story: Rene Vollgraaff in Johannesburg at rvollgraaff@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Brendan Murray at brmurray@bloomberg.net, Zoe SchneeweissFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Virgin Galactic's Share Price Has Left the Stratosphere
    Bloomberg

    Virgin Galactic's Share Price Has Left the Stratosphere

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- A year ago Richard Branson was on his private island, Necker, when the former Twitter executive Adam Bain came to see him with a proposal for how to take Branson’s suborbital space travel company public.The bearded British billionaire is doubtless glad he took the meeting: After an unsteady start, Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc.’s valuation has rocketed. The stock has surged more than 400% since a low in December, valuing the company at close to $8 billion, or almost 2,000 times the revenues it’s estimated to have generated in 2019. (For comparison, Uber Technologies Inc. trades on about 5.5 times last year’s revenue).Vieco USA, a Virgin-controlled entity, still owns more than half of the shares,(1) meaning Branson’s net worth — estimated by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index at about $5 billion before the listing — is suddenly a whole lot bigger. The loss-making company is now his most valuable asset. There haven’t been any big company developments to justify such market euphoria, which makes you wonder whether it’s sustainable. The stock gains since the start of this year are about double those enjoyed by Tesla Inc.’s rip-snorting shares.Several hedge funds, including Suvretta Capital Management, which owns 3.4% of Virgin Galactic’s equity, have profited from the surge but plenty of its peers are betting that a meeting with cold reality is inevitable. About 30% of the free float has been shorted, according to IHS Markit data. This space battle isn’t for the fainthearted, and there’s a danger that overenthusiastic retail investors end up getting hurt. On Thursday, the stock rose as much as 13%, erased all those gains, then fell as much as 18%, before closing broadly unchanged.In fairness, Virgin Galactic’s technical achievements are impressive, even inspiring. Branson’s company has spent years perfecting its product, giving it a head start in the nascent space tourism business. At $250,000 a ticket for a 90-minute flight (including a few minutes of zero-gravity weightlessness) it could prove to be pretty lucrative. The company might have almost $600 million of yearly revenue by 2023, according to a management projection.But, as I’ve noted before, a lot can go wrong when your business is carrying tourists into suborbital space and twitchy regulators are poring over your every move. Any unexpected delays or interruptions (never mind an accident) would cause the stock to swiftly lose altitude.As with Elon Musk’s Tesla faithful, Virgin Galactic’s fans don’t seem too bothered by these near-term challenges. One hope among investors is that the company will use the technology and experience gained from ferrying tourists into space to build a potentially far more lucrative market: intercontinental hypersonic flight.Yet the regulatory hurdles to launching such flights will be daunting. Perfecting the technology will require much more than the $430 million in net proceeds that Virgin Galactic received from the listing.(2)It’s conceivable, then, that the huge run-up in the stock — if sustained — might tempt Branson to raise more money, just as Tesla did last week with a $2 billion stock offering. The investor enthusiasm shown for Branson’s company won’t have escaped Musk’s attention either. His Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) has had no trouble raising money in private markets; it’s been valued at about $33 billion. But the Tesla founder is also considering a public offering of SpaceX’s internet offshoot, Starlink, in a few years, and any market fervor around space investing would make that easier. A hard landing for Virgin Galactic investors could change the dynamic.For now, Branson could afford to splash out on another private island if he wanted. Or maybe some acreage on the moon. (1) Vieco owns a 58.6% stake and Branson is the beneficial owner of 80.7% of that, according to this filing.(2) Virgin Galactic could receive a further cash boost if warrants conveying the right to purchase a total of 31 million shares are exercised for cash.To contact the author of this story: Chris Bryant at cbryant32@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: James Boxell at jboxell@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Chris Bryant is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering industrial companies. He previously worked for the Financial Times.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Bloomberg

    Review: Can Samsung’s New Z Flip Convert iPhone Fans?

    (Bloomberg) -- Many iPhone users are wed to Apple Inc.’s ecosystem, but the latest Galaxy device from Samsung Electronics Co. may finally get them to turn a curious eye.The Galaxy Z Flip is Samsung’s second try at a compelling foldable device after last year’s Galaxy Fold. This sophomore effort costs a less astronomical $1,380, fits into much smaller pockets and opens and closes just like the flip handsets of years past.The reactions -- at least in Samsung’s home base of South Korea -- to the foldable Z Flip have been instant and infectious. For a gadget intended to attract attention, this rethinking of the Android smartphone is off to a solid start. The Flip was released on Valentine’s Day and sold out on the first day in several key markets. It’s out of stock now on Samsung’s website, which went down for two hours around midnight Friday after a limited edition designed by Thom Browne went on sale. Posts of creative Flip accessorization are gaining traction on Twitter and Instagram. In a world of me-too mobile devices, the Z Flip is eye-catching. But it’s also an absolute fingerprint magnet that requires tender use and care.“I’ve always stuck to the iPhone, but this is the most tempting moment to consider switching to Galaxy,” said Kyuhee Kang, a 29-year-old designer in Tokyo who’s been an Apple loyalist since the iPhone 4.Read more: Samsung Bets on Big Camera Upgrade in Galaxy S20, Unveils Z FlipThe 6.7-inch screen of the Galaxy Z Flip collapses into a palm-sized square akin to a Chanel compact -- and Samsung encourages that luxury association with high-gloss finishes and a limited edition in collaboration with designer Browne.Priced between the upgraded versions of Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro Max and 11 Pro, the Flip is a premium offering that Samsung wants to differentiate. There’s a certain nostalgic tug about answering calls by opening the gadget, then hanging up by snapping it shut. At the same time, it’s such a large device that if I were to operate it single-handedly every time I’d quickly develop thumb or wrist strain. Two hands are required for safety.The still-nascent foldables category has two huge hurdles to overcome: proving its durability and offering sufficient, not necessarily superlative, specs. Motorola’s Razr, a close competitor to Samsung’s Z Flip, is thought to be fragile by at least one reviewer and is a step behind on almost every front: the camera, battery life, processor and display are all underwhelming.Motorola’s $1,500 Razr Reboot Feels More Prototype Than PremiumTrue to its spec-obsessive pedigree, Samsung made sure the Z Flip is well stocked in most categories, though the Z Flip is noticeably behind on battery life. It has a large display but its battery is segmented in two because of the space requirements of its hinge, so it’s smaller. That hinge applies lessons learned from the Galaxy Fold and feels rigid and strong. One early Z Flip owner, however, managed to break his device’s display by merely flipping it open, and there’s been a controversy online about how easily the Flip’s ultra-thin glass gets scratched. Samsung says there’s a protective layer atop the glass and that’s what testers are able to scuff.The hinge enables the Z Flip to stand at a variety of angles much like a laptop. This has allowed me to record my four-month-old puppy’s first bathing moment and shoot time-lapses of snowy scenes without a tripod. Couples may like the split-screen mode that lets them message each other on one half of the screen while watching or playing something on the other. The phone also becomes its own stand for watching videos and taking selfies.Samsung still has room for improvement on the design of its foldables, which feature a chunky bezel that doesn’t sit flush with the display and thus prevents smooth swipes from the edge of the screen -- required by Samsung’s own user interface. The Z Flip also has an underwhelming mono speaker. Last but not least, the 1.1-inch front display is too small to show anything more useful than an icon signifying the type of notification received.Will iPhone fans end up abandoning their iMessages and Apple Music playlists? Probably not that many for this Flip generation, as the balance between price, benefits and compromises still has a way to go. But Samsung has crafted the most refined and fully featured foldable device to date. It won’t move the entire market just yet, but it’s stirring the interest that may yet make the foldable category a success.(Updates with Samsung website outage in the third paragraph)To contact the reporter on this story: Sohee Kim in Seoul at skim847@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Edwin Chan at echan273@bloomberg.net, Vlad SavovFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Bloomberg

    Trump’s India Trip: Full Stadium and Mostly Empty Promises

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- If there’s one thing everyone knows about President Donald Trump, it’s that he loves a captive audience — the larger and more enthusiastic, the better. This is one of the many things he has in common with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Next week, both of them will have a chance to indulge their shared passion. Trump is to visit New Delhi and Modi’s home town of Ahmedabad — and the president has said that he expects seven million people to greet him there, although Twitter was swift to note that that would be 80% of the city’s population, which is perhaps unlikely. What is certain is that Modi and Trump will headline a rally opening Ahmedabad’s new cricket stadium, the world’s largest, in front of 125,000 people. Like most Americans, Trump might be a trifle unsure about what cricket is, but both leaders considered the last rally they attended together, in Houston last year, a roaring success.Aside from putting the two adulation-hungry politicians in front of crowds, the policy goals of Trump’s trip are unclear. Some in New Delhi hope that it will restore a bit of dynamism to the relationship, given that India’s stock in Washington is not very high at the moment. Modi’s embrace of Trump has served to alienate many Democrats, including many of the contenders for the party’s presidential nomination. But even some Republicans have expressed dismay at recent divisive actions by Modi’s government. Recently, Senator Lindsey Graham and India’s foreign minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, had an unusually testy exchange at the Munich Security Conference about Kashmir.India’s status as a fast-growing large economy often serves to paper over such concerns, but economic growth has cratered recently. Trade relations have also declined sharply, with Trump saying that “we’re not treated very well by India, but I happen to like Prime Minister Modi a lot.” This month, the U.S. declared that India would no longer be treated as a developing country when it comes to trading rules, which is very bad news for Indian exporters. Any hope that a reinvigorated trading relationship would emerge from the visit was dashed by Trump. The president said that he was “saving the big trade deal for later on.” In fact, the U.S. Trade Representative recently cancelled a visit to India because nothing was expected from it.A lot has changed in just a few years. In the years after George W. Bush and Manmohan Singh signed the Indo-U.S. nuclear agreement, which essentially formalized India’s status as a nuclear power, a genuine sense of optimism about bilateral ties prevailed. But multiple recent disappointments have caused these expectations to sour; there is a new and cynical tone to how the two capitals talk about each other. In that context, any visit by an American president is good news, even if nothing comes of it — at least it will keep the conversation  going, and hope alive.We should, in fact, expect at least a little forward movement, if only to satisfy both leaders’ demands for good press. One bit of good news would be if Westinghouse finally got to sell its nuclear reactors to India. Policymakers in Washington have complained for a decade that Bush’s big bet on India though the nuclear deal has not led to any payoff for U.S. companies; this might at least set those concerns to rest. Another giant irritant — to Trump at least — has been Indian tariffs on Harley-Davidson motorcycles, which are made in electorally crucial Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Indian officials have apparently promised to lower tariffs to “a single digit.” In spite of severely strained defense budgets, India is also likely to buy two different sorts of military helicopters from the U.S., at a combined cost of $3.4 billion. New Delhi at least clearly wants to show its desire for bilateral relations to be restored to some kind of equilibrium.It has bet big on Trump being the person who makes that happen. That wager may be unwise; Trump has made no secret of his skepticism about trade. In any case, India’s approach to the U.S. has always been predicated on the assumption that the relationship cannot be merely transactional. New Delhi’s policymakers think that, since India’s rise is in the U.S. interest, America must be prepared to give more to India than it will receive in return. But this doesn’t sit easily with Trump’s well-known disdain for America’s “unequal” strategic relationships. I’m not sure how many stadiums full of cheering crowds it would take for Trump to jettison that principle.To contact the author of this story: Mihir Sharma at msharma131@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: James Gibney at jgibney5@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Mihir Sharma is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He was a columnist for the Indian Express and the Business Standard, and he is the author of “Restart: The Last Chance for the Indian Economy.”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Twitter tests labels, community moderation for lies by public figures
    Reuters

    Twitter tests labels, community moderation for lies by public figures

    NBC News earlier reported that Twitter company documents showing a mockup of the new approach were accessible on a publicly available website, although it did not identify the site. "We're exploring a number of ways to address misinformation and provide more context for Tweets on Twitter," Twitter said in a statement.

  • Daily Crunch: Twitter threads are getting easier
    TechCrunch

    Daily Crunch: Twitter threads are getting easier

    Twitter is rolling out a "continue thread" button, ViacomCBS has big plans for its streaming service and Morgan Stanley acquires E-Trade. Twitter is adding a new feature for mobile users to make it easier to link dispersed tweets together. Per 9to5Mac, the feature — which Twitter tweeted about yesterday — is slowly rolling out to its iOS app.

  • Bloomberg

    Argentina’s Government Needs to Speak With One Voice on Debt

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- Anywhere else, news that a cratering economy, a collapsing currency and evaporating international reserves had pushed sovereign debt to “unsustainable” levels would be occasion for national dread. Yet the International Monetary Fund’s woeful bill of health on Feb. 19 brought relief and even something close to exaltation to the governing halls of Argentina.“I celebrate the IMF for recognizing the Argentine position regarding debt,” President Alberto Fernandez said on Twitter late Wednesday, shortly after the Fund concluded a weeklong visit. “If all parties are willing to agree, we can return to growth, honor our commitments and put Argentina on its feet again.”It’s going to be a long way up. Argentina desperately needed the IMF’s imprimatur before it could strike a pact with private creditors. Yet while the Fernandez government read the Washington-based lender’s bulletin as vindication of the Argentine demand that private creditors take a hit on their loans, the way forward is far less certain. Neither the IMF – which is on the hook to Argentina for $44 billion or 47% of its entire credit exposure – nor the minimum 75% or so of bondholders required to sign off on any agreement will be bullied easily into a bad deal any more than they will be moved by Pope Francis’s prayers. That’s the cue for the country’s ruling Peronists to swap the balcony for the negotiating table. Will they?Ever since he swept Argentina’s presidential primaries last August, virtually ensuring his electoral victory, Alberto Fernandez has been the topic of fierce speculation. Would a famously behind-the-scenes politician serve as merely the mouthpiece for his willful deputy, the former president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner? Or would he outflank the Peronist flamethrowers and work up a pragmatic plan to spare the nation another ruinous default?Half a year on, we’re no wiser, though the signs out of Buenos Aires are hardly auspicious. The ruling Front for All electoral alliance remains a coalition of rivals. The resulting mixed messaging from Fernandez’s inner circle is confusing investors and lenders, and stoking popular demands that his administration will be hard pressed to meet.In January, Buenos Aires governor and alpha Peronist Axel Kicillof issued creditors an ultimatum: Take a late payment on $250 million in provincial debt or face a “disorderly” situation. His mentor Fernandez de Kirchner upped the ante, warning – on a trip to Cuba, no less – that the International Monetary Fund wouldn’t get even “half a cent” back until the country grew again and only if it agreed to a big haircut on Argentine debt. Both petards may have been no more than ill wind off the pampas (neither the provincial bondholders nor the IMF blinked), but the malodorousness was hard to miss.The IMF has given Argentina a reprieve but not a pass. Fernandez must convince chary creditors to come to terms with a nation storied for serial default. His self-imposed timeline for closing a deal: March 31.Yet the government’s economic agenda offers few clues and thin hopes. On the campaign trail, Fernandez pledged to find an amicable solution to the country’s debt imbroglio: Argentina owes around $312 billion, worth 91% of gross domestic product. He also promised to spare his compatriots any more pain and scolded the IMF for deepening the country’s woes. Fernandez then doubled down on that message during a recent diplomatic tour, on which he sought the blessings of European heads of state and Pope Francis ahead of the country’s debt negotiations.He left the details to Economy Minister Martin Guzman, a young (he’s 37) respected academic with no hands-on experience. Like his mentor, the Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, Guzman is no fan of laissez faire economics. At the same time, he has been hailed as a moderate and a rare pragmatist in a palace packed with nationalist hardliners.Optimists took heart from Fernandez’s first policy initiative, the December economic emergency law, which included measures to rein in the primary fiscal deficit to 0.4% of GDP in 2020 by raising taxes on farm exports, tourism, personal goods,  buying dollars and reducing spending by selectively freezing prices and capping pension increases. Yet the government’s subsequent loose money policies could erase even those modest savings, and fuel what Oxford Economics calls the highest rate of monetary expansion in 16 years.Nor was Guzman’s debut in congress reassuring. In a hearing before lawmakers, he warned bondholders to brace for “frustration” over the coming “deep debt restructuring,” and forecast reaching fiscal balance only in 2023. “We’re not going to allow foreign investment funds to set the guidelines on macroeconomic policy,” he said. Argentina’s dollar bonds slumped.The populist pitch was likely a nod to the domestic audience, which is bracing for a third straight year of recession, with one of every three Argentines already living in poverty. “The government position may reflect the paranoia of a leader in a region on fire,” Benjamin Gedan, director of the Argentina Project at the Wilson Center in Washington, told me. “Austerity was a trigger for social unrest across Latin America over the last year, and after four years of worsening poverty and a deep recession, Argentina has every ingredient for explosion. Adjustment is a toxic word.”Alternatively, standing tough with creditors may have been Guzman’s strategic opening move in an eventual compromise on debt. But if that’s so, the government’s leverage is limited in a marketplace already inured to Argentine bluster. (When Buenos Aires’s creditors refused to budge on provincial debt, Kicillof paid them in full.) “The message from Buenos Aires was that Argentina will do anything to avoid default,” said Gedan.“The Fernandez government is not wrong to say that under current conditions the debt is unpayable, and to ask creditors to sit down to discuss better terms,” said Adriana Dupita, of Bloomberg Economics. “But first you need to have the right diagnosis of the problem and a plan, and I don’t see one.”Dupita is not alone. Just to repay the IMF, the country’s priority creditor, Argentina will have to spend out the equivalent of a quarter of all export revenues projected for 2022 and 2023, financial analysts Nouriel Roubini and Alessandro Magnoli Bocchi wrote this week. Since that’s out of the question, the only recourse is for Argentina to persuade the Fund to reschedule its debt.Yet in lieu of a “sensible plan,” a new loan arrangement with an easier repayment schedule is unlikely, they concluded. “Given the current lack of a clear and comprehensive strategy by the government, a formal default on the foreign law debt appears to be quite likely at this stage,” Roubini and Bocchi wrote.Before Argentina can come up with a solid economic plan, it needs a credible political pact. That takes a government which speaks with one voice, mutes the palace incendiaries and treats debt and economic recovery not as a passion play but as part of a national business plan. “Argentines need to have a discussion of what type of country they want: a state-led industrial policy? A country open to global trade?” said Nicolas Saldias, an Argentina expert at the Wilson Center. “That requires cutting across partisan lines and getting the opposition on board to come to an understanding about economic basics.” Now that would be something to celebrate.To contact the author of this story: Mac Margolis at mmargolis14@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: James Gibney at jgibney5@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Mac Margolis is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering Latin and South America. He was a reporter for Newsweek and is the author of “The Last New World: The Conquest of the Amazon Frontier.”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Argentina Gets IMF’s Seal of Approval to Hit Bondholders Hard
    Bloomberg

    Argentina Gets IMF’s Seal of Approval to Hit Bondholders Hard

    (Bloomberg) -- For all their turbulent relationship over the decades, the International Monetary Fund just gave Argentina the backing it needed to hit its bondholders with a significant haircut.Argentina’s debt load is “unsustainable” and private creditors would need to make a “meaningful contribution” for the country to regain its footing, the IMF said in a statement on Wednesday, adding that no fiscal adjustment by itself would be sufficient to reverse the situation.Bond prices reflected the aggressive language, with Argentina’s 2021 bonds falling 1.2 cent to a three-week low of 52 cents. Neither the IMF nor the government have indicated how big the haircut should be.“The private bondholders’ fears have come true,” said Jimena Blanco, head of Latin America political research at consulting firm Verisk Maplecroft in Buenos Aires. “The Fund throws them under the bus to save its position. The haircut has to come from the private sector.”Even if hardly surprising for a country that has lost more than a third of its international reserves since July and had installed draconian capital controls, the Fund’s declaration marks another chapter in Argentina’s long history of fiscal crises and debt mismanagement. The nation, which has defaulted eight times in its two centuries of independence, is trying to again reduce its liabilities as the economy heads for its third straight year of contraction in 2020.Read More: Argentine Sovereign Bonds Primed For Government-Led News CycleAligned IncentivesThe Fund, a perennial villain in Argentina after more than 20 financing agreements since 1958, this time has its incentives aligned with the South American country: a big haircut to private creditors would give the Washington-based organization more space to recover the $44 billion disbursed of the record $56 billion loan approved to Argentina in 2018, which has been the subject of heavy criticism.“The primary surplus that would be needed to reduce public debt and gross financing needs to levels consistent with manageable rollover risk and satisfactory potential growth is not economically nor politically feasible,” the Fund said in its statement.IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva told reporters in Rabat, Morroco Thursday that the time line is tight for Argentina to reach an agreement with creditors.The Fund’s assessment came after a week of meetings with Argentine officials during its first technical mission in Buenos Aires under Alberto Fernandez’s presidency. Fernandez said in a tweet that he celebrated the IMF’s recognition of Argentina’s posture.“If all parties show the willingness to reach a deal, we can return to growth, honor our commitments and get Argentina back on its feet,” he wrote.Fernandez is seeking to renegotiate billions of dollars in debt with private creditors, including the loan with the Washington-based organization, and said he expects to wrap up the talks by March 31, a deadline most analysts see as too ambitious.“The fact that it is politically and economically impossible for Argentina to constitute a primary surplus is a complete and total break from the norm of the IMF’s relationships with other emerging market debtors going through a restructuring,” said Walter Stoeppelwerth, Chief Investment Officer at Portfolio Personal Inversiones in Buenos Aires. “In a game theory of three, you have two lined up looking to put the third player in check-mate.”Heavier DebtArgentina’s record IMF loan has been on hold since August after Fernandez pulled off a shock upset of incumbent Mauricio Macri in a presidential primary vote, sending markets reeling. This is the first time IMF officials have formally commented on Argentina’s debt since the fourth review of the credit line in July, when they called it “sustainable, but not with a high probability.”“IMF staff emphasized the importance of continuing a collaborative process of engagement with private creditors to maximize their participation in the debt operation,” according to the statement. Argentina’s debt rose to nearly 90% of gross domestic public at the end of 2019, 13 percentage points higher than the July projection, the Fund said.For all the Fund’s suggestions, Economy Minister Martin Guzman had already warned investors last week they’ll probably be frustrated with negotiations, without providing many details. His mentor, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, said in an interview in Davos in January that bondholders should brace for ‘significant haircuts.’Guzman will meet with the IMF’s at the G-20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting that takes place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Feb. 22-23. He will also hold bilaterals at the event with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and France’s Economy & Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter.(Updates with comment from IMF Director in 8th paragraph)\--With assistance from Patrick Gillespie, Ben Bartenstein and Souhail Karam.To contact the reporters on this story: Jorgelina do Rosario in Buenos Aires at jdorosario@bloomberg.net;Sydney Maki in New York at smaki8@bloomberg.net;Scott Squires in Buenos Aires at ssquires4@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Juan Pablo Spinetto at jspinetto@bloomberg.net, Scott Squires, Matthew BristowFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Twitter adds a button so you can thread your shower thoughts
    TechCrunch

    Twitter adds a button so you can thread your shower thoughts

    Hold that tweet -- and add another one. Twitter is adding a new feature for mobile users to make it easier to link dispersed 'shower thoughts' together -- and another thing styleee. Per 9to5Mac, the feature -- which Twitter tweeted about yesterday -- is slowly rolling out to its iOS app.

  • Singapore Plans Biggest Budget Gap in Over Two Decades
    Bloomberg

    Singapore Plans Biggest Budget Gap in Over Two Decades

    (Bloomberg) -- Follow Bloomberg on LINE messenger for all the business news and analysis you need.Singapore will post its biggest budget deficit since at least 1997, pledging S$6.4 billion ($4.6 billion) in dedicated support for an economy being slammed by the coronavirus outbreak.The deficit will widen to 2.1% of gross domestic product in the year through March 2021 from a projected 0.3% in the current fiscal year, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said Tuesday in Parliament. The median in a Bloomberg survey of economists was for a fiscal 2020 shortfall of 1.5% of GDP.Faced with an election due by April 2021 and a virus outbreak that’s having a worse impact than SARS, the government is stepping up its support for an economy that was already under strain from last year’s trade tensions. The state will set aside S$800 million to fight and contain the coronavirus outbreak, and will provide two economic support packages totaling S$5.6 billion to assist businesses and consumers.“This year we usher in a new decade, one marked by tectonic shifts in our operating environment, and major uncertainties,” Heng, who is also deputy prime minister, said in his budget speech in Parliament. The government is putting in every effort to “slow down the spread of the virus,” he said.Singapore had been planning additional support for businesses hit by the ongoing U.S.-China trade war before the coronavirus outbreak set in earlier this year. The city state, which has more than 70 confirmed cases of the virus, downgraded its growth outlook on Monday as it braces for an economic impact that’s worse than the 2003 SARS pandemic.“Such exceptional circumstances definitely call for a robust fiscal response,” said Irvin Seah, a senior economist at DBS Group Holdings Ltd. “The very prudent fiscal planning that we always abide to over the years has enabled us the ability to respond strongly in such a difficult period.”Read More: After Dismissing Musk’s Jibes, Singapore Is Welcoming EVsThe coronavirus package announced Tuesday dwarfs the S$230 million stimulus the government rolled out in the wake of the SARS outbreak.Heng also outlined the following steps in his budget speech:Economic SupportThe bulk of the S$800 million support to fight the coronavirus will go to the Health Ministry. Of the S$5.6 billion economic support, S$4 billion will primarily go toward supporting businesses with wage costs. The rest will assist consumers by offering “additional, timely help to more households with cost of living,” especially for lower-income families.Sectors directly affected by the coronavirus -- like tourism, aviation and food -- will get additional support such as property tax rebates and rental waivers.GSTThe government still plans to raise the goods-and-services tax by 2025, but won’t increase it next year, Heng said. He outlined an enhanced package of subsidies, worth S$6 billion, to support consumers when the GST increase does take effect. The majority of Singaporean families will receive offsets of at least five years’ worth to cover GST expenses. Lower- and middle-income Singaporeans and retirees remain eligible for additional support.Foreign WorkersThe proportion of mid-level skilled foreign workers in some industries will be lowered as the government continues to strike a balance between providing job opportunities for locals and retaining an open labor market. The ratio of maximum permitted S Pass workers to a company’s total workforce in construction, marine shipyard and process sectors will be lowered to 15% from 20% in two phases beginning in January 2021, Heng said. The government won’t reduce the threshold for manufacturers at this point, given the economic uncertainties, but intends to eventually do so, he said.Cash HandoutsThe government will provide a S$1.6 billion package to assist households with expenses “during this period of uncertainty." This will include a one-off cash payout of between S$100 and S$300, depending on income, for all Singaporeans aged 21 and above.(Corrects items covered by S$1.6 billion package in last paragraph of story originally published Feb. 18.)\--With assistance from Chanyaporn Chanjaroen, Melissa Cheok, Jasmine Ng, Kyunghee Park, Derek Wallbank and Myungshin Cho.To contact the reporters on this story: Michelle Jamrisko in Singapore at mjamrisko@bloomberg.net;Faris Mokhtar in Singapore at fmokhtar1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Nasreen Seria at nseria@bloomberg.net;Joyce Koh at jkoh38@bloomberg.netFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Trump Names U.S. Envoy Who Riled Germany as Acting Director of Intelligence
    Bloomberg

    Trump Names U.S. Envoy Who Riled Germany as Acting Director of Intelligence

    (Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump said he’ll appoint Ric Grenell, the current U.S. ambassador to Germany, to be the next acting director of national intelligence.Grenell is a Trump loyalist who was nominated to be ambassador to Germany in 2017 after having served as spokesman for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in the early 2000s. He regularly caused friction with the NATO ally by demanding German companies leave Iran and warning them against working on a Russian gas pipeline, among other moves.Grenell will be the highest-profile, openly gay member of Trump’s administration, leading an intelligence community that for decades viewed homosexuality as a reason for suspicion and a firing offense.Grenell will replace Joseph Maguire, a former Navy SEAL whom Trump appointed as DNI after the resignation of former Indiana Senator Dan Coats last year. Maguire has held the job in an acting capacity and Trump was required by law to either replace him or ask the Senate to confirm him in the position by next month.Appointing Grenell in an acting capacity will avoid the need for a potentially complicated Senate confirmation, but Trump will face the same six-month deadline on his tenure.Sidestepping SenateSenator Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, criticized the president in a statement for picking “an individual without any intelligence experience to serve as the leader of the nation’s intelligence community in an acting capacity.”He said Trump was using the acting director’s role in an apparent “effort to sidestep the Senate’s constitutional authority to advise and consent on such critical national security positions.”Congress created the DNI position after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to coordinate the activities of U.S. intelligence agencies. It’s a Cabinet-level position that leads the U.S. intelligence community -- 17 organizations which include the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency and National Reconnaissance Office. One of its key responsibilities is assembling the president’s regular intelligence briefings.Grenell’s appointment could help bridge a divide between the president and his intelligence community, whose work Trump has questioned ever since he was told days before taking office that Russia meddled in the 2016 election to damage his opponent, Hillary Clinton. While Maguire has had a low profile as DNI, Coats was known for publicly countering some of the president’s assertions on issues ranging from Islamic State to North Korea.In Berlin, the 53-year-old Grenell has eagerly taken up the Trump agenda, tangling frequently with Chancellor Angela Merkel and her coalition, demanding that Germany spend more on defense, withdraw support for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline and criticizing the government for its meetings with Iranian leaders.That loyalty has given Grenell outsize influence in Trump’s inner circle. He was appointed the presidential envoy for Serbia and Kosovo, scoring quick wins that he trumpeted loudly: tentative agreement to open rail and road links between the two, and resume commercial flights.Grenell has also taken a leading role in warning countries against incorporating China’s Huawei Technologies Co. hardware into their 5G telecommunication networks, tweeting threats to cut intelligence sharing if they do so. Ignoring that advice, he said, would be like “asking the KGB to install your phone lines.”His fiery appearances on Fox News have earned him praise from the president. To other political appointees at embassies around the world, Grenell’s advice has been to get the president’s phone number and call him directly, circumventing the apparatus of the State Department.That dynamic has engendered frosty relations with the department. Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson blocked an early plan to appoint Grenell ambassador to NATO but allowed him to take Germany instead. And Grenell has had strained relations, at times, with Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, in part for his campaign to decriminalize homosexuality internationally, a move he took with Trump’s blessing but not Pompeo’s.He opposed Pompeo’s decision not to issue a statement commemorating the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, and was critical of an edict that Pompeo issued not to fly the gay pride flag from the same flagpole as the American flag at embassies across the world. When Pompeo visited Germany for the Munich Security Conference last week, Grenell brought his partner Matt Lashey to the airport to meet him.(Updates with Democrat Warner’s criticism in sixth paragraph)To contact the reporters on this story: Jennifer Jacobs in Washington at jjacobs68@bloomberg.net;Nick Wadhams in Washington at nwadhams@bloomberg.net;Jordan Fabian in Washington at jfabian6@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Alex Wayne at awayne3@bloomberg.net, Larry LiebertFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Barr Takes Aim at Legal Shield Enjoyed by Google, Facebook
    Bloomberg

    Barr Takes Aim at Legal Shield Enjoyed by Google, Facebook

    (Bloomberg) -- Attorney General William Barr is taking aim at a legal shield enjoyed by companies such as Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Facebook Inc. as the provision comes under increasing fire from both liberals and conservatives.Barr has accused social media companies of hiding behind a clause that gives them immunity from lawsuits while their platforms carry material that promotes illicit and immoral conduct and suppresses conservative opinions.The attorney general convened a workshop Wednesday, featuring many of the tech companies’ critics, to explore potential changes to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which was passed in 1996 and has been credited with allowing the then-fledgling internet to flourish.“The Justice Department is concerned about the expansive reach of Section 230, but we’re not here to advocate for a position,” Barr said in his opening remarks. “Rather, we are here to convene a discussion to help us examine 230 and its impact in greater detail.”Barr said 230 liability is relevant to the Justice Department’s ability to “combat lawless spaces online.” He could instruct his Justice Department to explore ways to limit the provision, which protects internet companies from liability for user-generated content.The technology platforms warn that any changes in their legal shield could fundamentally alter their business models and force them to review every post, making it impossible for all but the biggest companies to operate.Barr and lawmakers from both political parties have blamed Section 230’s sweeping legal protections for allowing what they see as irresponsible behavior by the big technology companies.“We are concerned that internet services, under the guise of Section 230, can not only block access to law enforcement -- even when officials have secured a court-authorized warrant -- but also prevent victims from civil recovery,” Barr said. “Giving broad immunity to platforms that purposefully blind themselves -- and law enforcers -- to illegal conduct on their services does not create incentives to make the online world safer for children.”FBI Director Christopher Wray also addressed the workshop, along with a range of lawyers, academics, child advocates, tech critics, and trade groups. Some of the speakers, such as a representative from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, have expressed concerns about how the law is currently written, or called for changes.Others argue that the law should be left alone, including the Computer & Communications Industry Association, a tech trade group that counts Google and Facebook as members. The Justice Department also plans to host private listening sessions.Representatives from Google and Facebook didn’t respond to questions about whether they’d received invitations. A spokeswoman for Twitter Inc. declined to comment.Liberal groups say internet platforms don’t do enough to stop the spread of hate speech or police political disinformation from foreign and domestic operatives. Conservatives say the tech companies censor right-wing viewpoints.Both groups seek changes to the shield that would increase companies’ liability as a solution. Lawmakers and tech policy experts from both sides of the aisle worry about children’s safety online as well as drug sales, harassment and stalking, among other issues.“A lot of people are angry for different reasons at the large platforms,” said Jeff Kosseff, a professor at the U.S. Naval Academy who has written a history of the law and is also scheduled to address the workshop. “Section 230 is a pretty attractive proxy for that anger.”While the Justice Department can make recommendations, only Congress can change the law. Some legal experts say they are perplexed by the department’s role in the Section 230 debate, which doesn’t tie the government’s hands in prosecuting violations of criminal law.“DOJ is in a weird position to be convening a roundtable on a topic that isn’t in their wheelhouse,” said Eric Goldman, a professor at Santa Clara University School of Law and longtime defender of Section 230, who is also set to speak.Lawmakers are exploring an array of possible changes to the law, looking to use it to make companies police content in a politically “neutral” manner, rein in use of the shield by short-term home-rental companies or protect voters from misinformation. Democratic presidential hopefuls including former Vice President Joe Biden have weighed in with calls to repeal or change the law.When it comes to cases where online material exploits children, a draft bill from Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a top Trump ally, would only allow the companies to keep the liability shield if they follow a set of best practices. For example, they would be required to report and delete the material, but also preserve it for law enforcement. Critics worry that the measure would also undermine encrypted communications because encoded platforms can’t see what material the law would prompt them to report.In 2018, in the first successful effort to chip away at the shield, Congress eliminated the liability protection for companies that knowingly facilitate online sex trafficking.The critics propose a range of changes -- from raising the bar on which companies can have the shield, to carving out other laws, to repealing Section 230 entirely. Uniting them, however, is the belief that the provision enables an online environment rife with political misinformation, drug dealing, child abuse and other ills.Technology companies counter that Section 230 allows social media startups to flourish because they don’t have to monitor postings and protects free speech. It also fosters their efforts to remove offensive content because the law allows them to take down material without facing penalties.“Section 230 encourages services to fight misconduct and protect users from online harms by removing disincentives to moderate abusive behavior,” Matt Schruers, the president of the Computer & Communications Industry Association, said in an excerpt from his prepared remarks.David Chavern, president of the News Media Alliance, a trade group representing publishers, doesn’t favor repealing the law but proposes “limiting the exemption for just the very largest companies, who both derive the most benefits from Section 230 and have the greatest capacities to take legal responsibility,” according to a copy of his remarks obtained by Bloomberg.Chavern’s group blames the advertising practices of Google and Facebook for the decline of journalism and advocates for policies to rebalance the relationship.(Updates with comments from Barr from eighth paragraph)\--With assistance from Naomi Nix.To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Brody in Washington, D.C. at btenerellabr@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Sara Forden at sforden@bloomberg.net, Paula Dwyer, John HarneyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • U.K. Aims to Slash Unskilled Immigration After Leaving EU
    Bloomberg

    U.K. Aims to Slash Unskilled Immigration After Leaving EU

    (Bloomberg) -- Boris Johnson’s government unveiled plans to end what it called the U.K.’s dependence on “cheap low-skilled labor” and deliver on its pledge to halt freedom of movement from the European Union after Brexit.Under a points-based immigration system to come into effect on Jan. 1, 2021, workers must prove they can speak English, have a verified job offer and meet a points threshold based on their specific skills, qualifications and prospective salaries, according to a government policy paper published Wednesday.The system will “bring overall migration numbers down” while attracting “the brightest and the best from around the globe,” Home Secretary Priti Patel told LBC radio. The aim is to “end our reliance on low-skilled workers that are obviously -- more often than not -- low paid,” she said.Why Immigration Down Under Appeals to U.K.’s Johnson: QuickTakeJohnson has repeatedly said voters opted for Brexit at least in part to control immigration, but the plans triggered immediate warnings from businesses about the impact of anticipated worker shortages. A government advisory group estimated last month that 70% of EU workers already in the U.K. wouldn’t have qualified for visas under the new rules. The government says companies must “adapt” and do more to train the domestic workforce. Net migration from the EU has fallen dramatically since the 2016 referendum.“The speed and scale of these changes will require significant adjustment by businesses,” said Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce. “Companies are already investing heavily in home-grown talent across the U.K., but critical labor shortages mean firms will still need access to overseas workers at all skill levels.”A table published by the Home Office showed 70 points would be needed to get a visa. Examples include 10 points for speaking English, 20 points for a job offer, 20 for a salary of 25,600 pounds ($33,000) or above, and 20 points each for a post-doctoral qualification or a job in a designated shortage occupation.Although Johnson has branded the rules a complete change, it largely involves making EU citizens apply for visas under the existing system for non-EU migrants. That will include student visas. With employers no longer able to access the entire EU to fill job vacancies, required thresholds on the existing system have been lowered, both in salaries and required qualifications.In moves describing how the U.K. border itself will work from next year, the government said that EU citizens will be able to use electronic gates, reducing waits, and they won’t need a visa for stays of less than six months.The existing system for high-earners and the most skilled, which allows them to come to the U.K. without a job offer, will likewise be extended to EU citizens, the government said, though it gave fewer details.BacklashRepresentatives of the social care, hospitality and food industries were among those quick to criticize the new system. Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers’ Union, told the Times newspaper plans to restrict visas for low-skilled workers could severely affect the sector.The opposition Labour Party said the government’s plan amounted to a “salary threshold system” that will make it difficult to attract needed workers and pledged to challenge the proposal as the legislation goes through Parliament. The pro-EU Liberal Democrats said the proposal is “based on xenophobia.”But Patel argued that the government is delivering on what voters demanded in the 2016 Brexit referendum, and when they kept her Conservative Party in power in general elections in 2017 and 2019.The public “are fed up,” she told LBC. “They want to see a British government with its own immigration policy and system, a government that would take take back control of our borders.”(Updates with policy details from fourth paragraph)\--With assistance from Robert Hutton and Alex Morales.To contact the reporter on this story: Olivia Konotey-Ahulu in London at okonoteyahul@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Stuart Biggs, Alex MoralesFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • China’s Government Created a Pair of Anime Idols. Outrage Ensues
    Bloomberg

    China’s Government Created a Pair of Anime Idols. Outrage Ensues

    (Bloomberg) -- China’s Communist Party invented a duo of virtual social media influencers in its latest bid to win the hearts and minds of millennials. They did just the opposite.The ruling regime’s Youth League this week debuted the officially sanctioned anime characters -- a pair of adolescents in Chinese traditional garb with names straight out of Mao Zedong’s poetic oeuvre. It introduced the would-be online idols -- the boy’s name roughly translates as “red flag flutters freely” while his sibling is “rivers and mountains are beautiful” -- on Twitter-like site Weibo, igniting an onslaught of ridicule and vitriol. Within hours, the Youth League had pulled the duo offline.Read more: ‘Fangirls’ Defend China From Hong Kong Protesters and the WorldDigitally created avatars are the latest rage on social media, inspiring huge followings just like real-life pop icons or idols. But in this case, the pair stoked concerns that Beijing was subverting a trend for political purposes. In tens of thousands of comments, Chinese bloggers lashed out against Beijing’s use of cartoon figures to communicate policy. The Youth League -- the Party branch for younger members -- quickly removed its original Weibo post and scrubbed content from a Weibo account dedicated to the pair.“I’m your citizen, not your fan,” one Weibo user wrote in a widely circulated comment.China’s government has over the years tried to engage the country’s youth and reinforce its ideology with rap, anime and chat-app stickers. Unsurprisingly, the Youth League is at the center of such campaigns: It ranks among the top 10 creators of content on anime-focused video service Bilibili in terms of both followers and views, according to data tracker Biliob.com.“The government’s legitimacy is at a very low point more than a month into the coronavirus outbreak. Previously people have already accumulated dissatisfaction with state media tapping into fandom culture in virus coverage,” said Fang Kecheng, assistant professor of communication and journalism at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. “Co-opting anime and fandom culture is no panacea.”Using virtual idols to fan Chinese nationalism isn’t a new concept -- but up to this point it’s been a distinctly grass-roots one. During Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests in 2019, online patriots created a viral personification of their nation called “Brother Ah Zhong” or Brother China, a pop idol who debuted 5,000 years ago with a fan base of 1.4 billion. The Youth League and state media praised what they called a spirited defense of their homeland against foreign attack.The League’s attempt to replicate that with its own virtual pair fizzled near-instantaneously. One point of criticism centered on the use of women by the propaganda machine. The debut of the idols came just days after a controversial state-media video in which female medical workers wept silently while men shaved their heads to help prevent infection during the coronavirus outbreak. Many Weibo users in fact directed a rhetorical question at the Youth League’s female anime character: “Why don’t you shave your head?”Read more: China Ramps Up Virus Propaganda, And Stirs Even More OutrageTo contact the reporter on this story: Zheping Huang in Hong Kong at zhuang245@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Edwin Chan at echan273@bloomberg.net, Vlad SavovFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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