• Bloomberg

    PG&E Has No Intention of Paying People for Blackout Right Now

    (Bloomberg) -- The millions of Californians who were plunged into darkness during an unprecedented blackout last week shouldn’t expect a check in the mail from bankrupt utility giant PG&E Corp. anytime soon. When asked by a state regulator on Friday whether the utility plans to pay back customers for the costs of the outage, PG&E utility chief Andrew Vesey said the company hasn’t “committed to making those reimbursements.” It’s not “our intention to undertake a reimbursement,” he said at a meeting in San Francisco.California Governor Gavin Newsom had called on PG&E to refund residential customers affected $100 each and businesses $250 for the shutoff. Vesey said the company would be open to talking with regulators about the idea at a later date.To contact the reporter on this story: Mark Chediak in San Francisco at mchediak@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Lynn Doan at ldoan6@bloomberg.netFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Bloomberg

    PG&E to California: How About You Try Calling the Next Blackout?

    (Bloomberg) -- The chief of California utility giant PG&E Corp. has a suggestion for those state officials attacking the company over an unprecedented blackout it orchestrated last week to prevent wildfires: Why don’t you try making the call next time?Bill Johnson, chief executive officer of the embattled power company, posed the idea in a letter to California Governor Gavin Newsom on Friday -- just before attending a meeting in San Francisco where he was blasted by state regulators. In his letter, Johnson said perhaps the state’s utility commission or its fire agency should make future decisions on whether to turn off the lights. Currently, that responsibility lies with three PG&E vice presidents.Johnson noted that PG&E’s analysis of the event went unchallenged at an inter-agency meeting ahead of the blackout, which plunged more than 2 million people into darkness. “There was consensus,” he said. And the company said it doesn’t intend to reimburse affected customers as Newsom had proposed that it do earlier this week.At the meeting on Friday, California’s utility regulator wasn’t buying Johnson’s idea. The company’s shutoff has drawn outrage from residents and state officials who say the blackout was more extensive than necessary and wasn’t properly communicated. Banks, offices, restaurants, pharmacies, grocery stores and others were forced shut. Traffic lights went down. Government agencies hauled out costly backup generators to keep critical operations running. In all, the economic impact may have topped $2.6 billion.“I can tell you, you guys failed on so many levels on pretty simple stuff,” California Public Utilities Commission President Marybel Batjer said at the meeting. “This isn’t hard.”‘Digging Deep’Commissioner Genevieve Shiroma described Johnson’s idea of leaving future decisions in the state’s hands as “looking to give somebody else the responsibility versus digging down deep and looking at what meaningful changes need to be made.”Johnson insisted that he wasn’t trying to evade responsibility but to bolster the public’s confidence in decisions made. “There is commentary out there that we can’t be trusted,” he said. “If the decision authority goes somewhere else, we would still do all the analysis.”Others have raised the idea since the blackout. When asked about a state-level decision last week, Newsom himself would only call it an “interesting question” and “one we’ve asked ourselves on multiple occasions.”Two consecutive years of deadly wildfires sparked by PG&E’s power lines during high winds drove the company into bankruptcy in January, facing $30 billion in liabilities. Johnson told the commission on Friday that cutting power last week may have helped prevent another disastrous blaze. After the winds subsided, PG&E found more than 100 instances of damaged equipment.Poor Execution“We didn’t have any catastrophic fires in northern and central California, and that was the sole purpose of the shutoff,” Johnson told the commission Friday.He conceded however that the blackout wasn’t executed as well as it could’ve been. Local governments said they received conflicting information from PG&E representatives. A group of county and city officials compared the experience in a filing to “battling the Hydra” and said their liaisons were forced to sit “alone in a conference room” separated from the company’s emergency operations center by three security gates.PG&E executives including Johnson acknowledged that they need to improve their communication and coordination with agencies -- because last week’s blackout won’t be the last. Johnson told commissioners that it will probably take ten years for PG&E to shore up its grid enough so that shutoffs can be “ratcheted down significantly.”To contact the reporters on this story: David R. Baker in San Francisco at dbaker116@bloomberg.net;Mark Chediak in San Francisco at mchediak@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Lynn Doan at ldoan6@bloomberg.netFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Zynga (ZNGA) Stock Moves -0.16%: What You Should Know
    Zacks

    Zynga (ZNGA) Stock Moves -0.16%: What You Should Know

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  • Snap Stock Upgraded by Bank of America—What’s Next?
    Market Realist

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  • Snap's (SNAP) New Dynamic Ads Target E-commerce Advertisers
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  • What's in Store for Las Vegas Sands (LVS) in Q3 Earnings?
    Zacks

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  • Snap (SNAP) to Report Q3 Earnings: What's in the Cards?
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  • Is Boston Scientific's (NYSE:BSX) Share Price Gain Of 200% Well Earned?
    Simply Wall St.

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  • After Years of Fiery Hell, California Gets Less of a Scorching in 2019
    Bloomberg

    After Years of Fiery Hell, California Gets Less of a Scorching in 2019

    (Bloomberg) -- Mother Nature has given a bit of a break to California during the 2019 wildfire season, but firefighters say the threat remains in force.Only about 163,000 acres have burned this year, a fraction of the 632,000 or so scorched in the same period last year. A wet, snowy winter led to a widespread greening in the spring, signaling there would be plenty of tinder around after a hot, dry summer. But the landscape stayed relatively moist after clouds moored above the Sierra Nevadas in May slowed the snow melt.With weather as an ally, firefighters were able to spend more time finding and containing hot spots before they spread. Meanwhile, PG&E Corp. has suggested its blackout of 2 million people this month may also have helped. After the cutoffs, the company said it found more than 100 instances of wind-driven equipment damage that could have caused fires.“How we warm up and how we dry out are pretty important on how we set up the fire regime for the rest of the year,” said Mike Anderson, a state climatologist in Sacramento. “This year our heat didn’t show up until August. We actually caught a break.”Two years of wildfires helped push PG&E, the state’s biggest utility owner, into bankruptcy after its equipment was identified as the cause of raging blazes that included the Camp Fire in November 2018 that killed 86 people and destroyed an entire town. This month, the company responded by cutting power to residents across northern and central California to make sure its equipment didn’t cause harm once again.While that move has faced fierce criticism, PG&E crews inspecting more than 27,500 miles (44,257 kilometers) of power lines after the blackout found wind damage that included trees tangled with power lines and utility poles knocked to the ground, according to spokesman Jeff Smith.“Had we not shut off power, this type of damage could have sparked a fire,” PG&E Chief Executive Officer Bill Johnson said in an opinion story in Thursday’s San Francisco Chronicle. “In fact, vegetation contacting lines was the very cause of a number of fires in the North Bay two years ago.”Still, the consensus among forecasters and firefighters is that neither the state nor its utilities are out of the danger zone yet.The wildfire season runs into winter, when about 90% of the state’s rain and snow descends. In the meantime, while the state’s bone-dry season was delayed, it wasn’t eliminated. Very low humidity levels combined with high winds rolling down mountain sides -- the “Santa Ana” winds in Southern California, and the “Diablos” in the north -- remain a threat for wildfires ahead.Late season blazes can be very dangerous. In December 2017, for instance, the Thomas fire covered 281,893 acres in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, destroying more than 1,000 structures.“Everyone who is commenting on this year is doing so with their fingers crossed,” said Keith Gilless, dean emeritus of the U.C. Berkeley College of Natural Resources, in a telephone interview.The concern now is focused on as many as 147 million dead trees still standing in California’s forests that were killed by a six-year drought earlier in the decade and a subsequent infestation of bark beetles, said Scott McLean, spokesman for the California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection, commonly called Cal Fire.California this year had 400 extra seasonal firefighters to help tamp down spot fires and implement prescribed burns to limit the amount of tinder in key areas, according to McLean. “It’s hard to say what the rest of this year is going to bring,” he added. “We probably should see more fire activity into November at some point.”To contact the reporters on this story: Brian K. Sullivan in Boston at bsullivan10@bloomberg.net;David R. Baker in San Francisco at dbaker116@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tina Davis at tinadavis@bloomberg.net, Reg Gale, Steven FrankFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Three Men at PG&E Decide When Californians Go Dark to Stop Fires
    Bloomberg

    Three Men at PG&E Decide When Californians Go Dark to Stop Fires

    (Bloomberg) -- Since an unprecedented blackout plunged millions of Californians into darkness last week, residents and state officials have questioned how utility giant PG&E Corp. came to the decision to cut the lights.Now they have some answers.In a report filed with California utility regulators on Thursday, the San Francisco-based company said three vice presidents are responsible for deciding whether the power goes out to keep electrical lines from igniting blazes: Michael Lewis, senior vice president of electric operations; Sumeet Singh, vice president of asset and risk management; and Ahmad Ababneh, vice president of electric operations on major projects and programs. Two more vice presidents will join the bunch in 2020.PG&E said the utility has already provided the factors these officials take into account in deciding. In a September 2018 document, the company said it uses national fire danger ratings, National Weather Service warnings, humidity levels, temperature, terrain and local climate to weigh shutoffs. The utility said at the time that it expected to cut service once or twice a year. So far in 2019, it has shut power at least thrice.PG&E has been taking more extreme measures to keep its lines from sparking blazes since a series of catastrophic wildfires in 2017 and 2018 saddled the company with an estimated $30 billion in liabilities and forced it into bankruptcy. Last week’s blackout -- the largest one the utility has ever orchestrated -- has drawn outrage from politicians who said the outage was too extensive and that the company did a poor job of communicating it to customers.“There are crucial lessons to learn from this event, and we are committed to learning and doing a better job across the board,” PG&E Chief Executive Officer Bill Johnson said in a letter accompanying the report.PG&E also said in the filing that the company’s board of directors doesn’t directly influence shutoff decisions. But it noted that a board committee oversees the company’s wildfire safety plan -- which includes shutoffs.\--With assistance from Mark Chediak.To contact the reporter on this story: Lynn Doan in San Francisco at ldoan6@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Lynn Doan at ldoan6@bloomberg.net, Aaron ClarkFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Sen. Wyden: People like Mark Zuckerberg should be punished for their lies
    Yahoo Finance

    Sen. Wyden: People like Mark Zuckerberg should be punished for their lies

    Oregon Senator Rob Wyden introduces a new data privacy bill,known as the Mind Your Own Business Act.

  • Occidental Petroleum (OXY) Stock Sinks As Market Gains: What You Should Know
    Zacks

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  • Snap (SNAP) Outpaces Stock Market Gains: What You Should Know
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    Snap (SNAP) closed at $13.78 in the latest trading session, marking a +0.8% move from the prior day.

  • Will SNAP Stock Rise above Its IPO Price after Earnings?
    Market Realist

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    The Q3 Snap earnings report is due on October 22. So could a positive surprise be enough to send Snap stock back toward its original price?

  • Snap Q3 Earnings Report on Deck: Will the Run Continue?
    Zacks

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    Snap (SNAP) is set to report its third quarter results after the closing bell on Tuesday, October 22.

  • California Is in Big Trouble Again
    Bloomberg

    California Is in Big Trouble Again

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- Ten to 15 years ago, pundits liked to speculate that California was on the verge of becoming a failed state. In the early years of the new century the state suffered widespread blackouts thanks to a botched deregulation of its electricity market. Meanwhile, with long-standing ballot initiatives requiring a legislative supermajority to pass tax increases, and education expenses ballooning, the state’s budget seemed permanently mired in the red. Arnold Schwarzenegger, governor at the time, managed to cobble together a deal to limit deficits, but the Great Recession sent them soaring again. The collapse of the housing bubble hit California hard, pushing unemployment above 12%. Some commentators suggested that California’s governance model, heavy on regulation and subject to the whims of ballot initiatives, could lose out to the more laissez-faire systems of states like Texas.California battled back. Under Schwarzenegger's successor, Jerry Brown, the state raised taxes on residents making more than $250,000, and bumped up the sales tax a bit. The new taxes on California’s high earners, along with the recovery in the housing and stock markets and a new technology boom, helped push the state’s budget back into the black:But California’s victory over dysfunction may be short-lived. Earlier this month, California utility PG&E Corp. intentionally cut power to millions of residents, costing the state economy billions of dollars. The planned blackout was meant to keep power lines from sparking wildfires, which have raged across California with increasing fury in recent years:The monetary losses from these fires are staggering — some estimates put them at $400 billion in 2018, or almost a seventh of the state’s gross domestic product. This includes health costs, lost property, lost jobs, decreased asset values and migration out of the state. Meanwhile, PG&E executives say that the intermittent blackouts will continue, meaning that much of the state may no longer have reliable year-round electricity. That will doubtless exert a further chilling effect on investment and property values.Fires aren’t California’s only problem. Thanks in large part to spiraling urban rents, the homeless population increased by 5.3% from 2010 to 2018, in a state that already has almost half of the nation’s homeless. In Los Angeles and San Francisco, the crisis is especially acute, with destitute people and pitiful tent encampments crowding the sidewalks. Government pension costs are rising much faster in California than in the rest of the nation, forcing cost-saving measures that are degrading the state’s education system.These forces are driving Californians to move out of the state in increasing numbers. Population growth is trickling off, and may soon go negative:Even the wealthy are moving away. A recent paper by economists Joshua Rauh and Ryan Shyu found that out-migration of top-bracket taxpayers accelerated after the income tax hike of 2012. That’s bound to put even more pressure on state finances that rely so heavily on contributions from the top 1%. Just how much of that exodus is due to the tax hikes rather than to other factors is unclear, but Rauh and Shyu argue that tax avoidance plays a significant role.So despite its heroic efforts and an unprecedented degree of political unity — Democrats now have a supermajority in the state legislature and the governor's office — California risks falling back onto the dysfunctional path that it seemed to be on in the early 2000s.Much of this is for reasons beyond the state’s control. Climate change is exacerbating drought and wildfires. The rent crisis in California cities is largely due to a structural shift in the U.S. economy; as knowledge industries become more dominant, high-earning workers are crowding into cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles in order to be close to each other, driving rents up for everyone else.But California’s political system is making it hard to respond to these pressures. Thanks to a 1978 ballot initiative called Proposition 13, California cities have stringent limits on raising revenue from local property taxes. That forces the state to provide many services, financing them with hefty income taxes. Those are inherently more unreliable than property taxes, since wealthy taxpayers can move away (while property can’t move), and since California’s income taxes fluctuate a lot because they depend so much on the profits residents earn on volatile stock prices.Meanwhile, despite one-party control of the state legislature, California has been unable to meaningfully address its housing crisis. Powerful local property owners prevent municipal governments from allowing new housing to accommodate the influx of workers from out of state. And they wield power at the state level too, as demonstrated by the demise last year of a bill that would have permitted more apartment buildings near transit hubs.As for the state’s beleaguered power companies, it’s not clear that any plan exists. PG&E is resisting pressure to sell its assets to local governments, Governor Gavin Newsom is considering breaking up the company and the state utility commission is looking at a restructuring. None of that answers the fundamental question of how the state will provide reliable electricity in an age of intensifying wildfires.If California is going to avoid this dark path, it will need the political will to carry out bold reforms. Proposition 13 must be repealed, and property taxes raised. The state legislature needs to pass bills to allow greater housing density and more construction throughout the state. Cities will have to make deals on benefit cuts for pensioners in order to spend more on schools. And the state will probably have to bite the bullet and shell out more money to bury power lines.California can still save itself from becoming a failed state, but its days of complacency and easy prosperity are over. To contact the author of this story: Noah Smith at nsmith150@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: James Greiff at jgreiff@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Noah Smith is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He was an assistant professor of finance at Stony Brook University, and he blogs at Noahpinion.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Earnings Preview: Cypress Semiconductor (CY) Q3 Earnings Expected to Decline
    Zacks

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  • T-Mobile & Sprint Win FCC Approval for Long-Awaited Merger
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    T-Mobile & Sprint Win FCC Approval for Long-Awaited Merger

    T-Mobile (TMUS)-Sprint deal is expected to reduce competition, drive prices and slow innovation, making 5G deployment ineffective.

  • Is Smartsheet (SMAR) Outperforming Other Computer and Technology Stocks This Year?
    Zacks

    Is Smartsheet (SMAR) Outperforming Other Computer and Technology Stocks This Year?

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  • Snap launches dynamic ads to draw more advertisers
    Reuters

    Snap launches dynamic ads to draw more advertisers

    Snap has grown revenue and its userbase as larger rivals Alphabet's Google and Facebook Inc , which dominate the global digital advertising market, face regulatory scrutiny over their market control. Both Google and Facebook already offer dynamic ads. Dynamic ad platforms pick items from advertisers' product catalogs and target them automatically to people with relevant interests, removing the need to manually advertise each product individually.

  • What's in the Cards for Centene's (CNC) Earnings in Q3?
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  • Twitter Q3 2019 Earnings Preview: Buy TWTR Stock Up 40% in 2019?
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