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The final installment of the Daniel Craig-led James Bond franchise “No Time to Die” cancelled its upcoming Beijing premiere due to “uncertainties” surrounding the coronavirus outbreak.
(Bloomberg) -- Terms of Trade is a daily newsletter that untangles a world threatened by trade wars. Sign up here. European finance chiefs arrived at a meeting of their global peers in Riyadh demanding the urgent creation of a new global tax system for the 21st century that would capture the profits of tech multinationals. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin responded: it’s not that simple.New rules for taxing companies like Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Facebook Inc. have stirred intense debate at this weekend’s Group of 20 meeting of finance chiefs. Finding a solution this year is key to maintaining a tariff truce the U.S. and Europe struck after France agreed to delay the collection of a national levy.While finance ministers from France and Germany were among those expressing confidence on Saturday that a compromise could be found in time, Mnuchin warned that he is somewhat hamstrung. “Let me emphasize: in the U.S., depending upon what the solutions are, these may require congressional approval,” he said during a discussion, sitting alongside France’s Bruno Le Maire.The pair have held tense discussions since France introduced a 3% levy last year on the digital revenue of companies that make their sales primarily online. The move was supposed to give impetus to international talks to redefine tax rules, and the government has pledged to abolish its national tax if there is agreement on such rules.The U.S. has argued the French measure discriminates against American companies, and threatened tariffs as high as 100% on $2.4 billion of French goods. Donald Trump’s government agreed to hold fire on import duties and France pushed back collecting the digital tax until the end of 2020.“One of the things we’re balancing is sticking with the fundamental issue of taxing based upon where companies are -- the more we change that to broaden this, the more we run into other issues,” Mnuchin said. He indicated Congress as a hurdle before any major changes on taxes can be agreed upon, but added “there’s a tremendous desire to get this done.”Spain, Italy and Austria also want to impose a digital service tax. Turkey, a G-20 member, introduced a 7.5% levy in December, targeting companies from Google and Facebook to Netflix Inc.“It is our collective responsibility to reach a global agreement on this issue by the end of this year,” the finance ministers of the euro area’s four largest economy said in an editorial published in European newspapers. “We now have a unique opportunity to recast the global tax system to make it fairer and more effective.”Sticking PointThe key sticking point is a U.S. proposal to make the new digital tax rules a safe-harbor regime. Doing that, the U.S. has said, would address concerns of taxpayers about mandatory departure from longstanding rules. France and others have contested that could render the rules effectively optional, which would make agreement impossible.In Riyadh, Mnuchin countered this interpretation.“What a safe harbor is -- and there’s lots of safe harbors that exist -- you pay the safe harbor as opposed to paying something else, and you get tax certainty,” he said. “People may pay a little bit more in a safe harbor knowing they have tax certainty.”Le Maire said he welcomed Mnuchin’s clarification.“We are in the process of technically assessing what it really means and what might be the consequences of such a solution,” he said. “It is fair and useful to give all the attention to this U.S. proposal.”To get agreement, Le Maire also said France would be open to a “phased” or “step-by-step” approach.German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said there’s more than a 50% chance that a deal is struck before the end of the year.“Everyone has understood that it would be bad to push the debate into the next year or the year after that,” he told reporters. “We need something that helps protect us against the race to the bottom on taxes.”The framework -- developed under the leadership of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development -- will also include a deal on a global minimum tax, which the group is close to agreeing on, according to Mnuchin.Most countries want any OECD deal to be accepted as a package: the digital service tax along with a global minimum tax. The OECD has said both reforms together could boost government tax revenues by around $100 billion.To contact the reporters on this story: Saleha Mohsin in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org;William Horobin in Paris at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Alex Wayne at firstname.lastname@example.org, Jana Randow, Paul AbelskyFor 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 Opinion) -- Investors in the retail sector can’t get their fill of gas stations. Seven & i Holdings Co., the Japanese company that controls 7-Eleven, is in exclusive talks to acquire Marathon Petroleum Corp.’s Speedway gas stations for about $22 billion, people familiar with the matter told Scott Deveau, Kiel Porter and Manuel Baigorri of Bloomberg News.That’s not the only deal out there. EG Group, a closely held U.K. forecourts operator that had also shown an interest in Speedway, this week offered A$3.9 billion ($2.6 billion) in cash for the gas stations owned by Caltex Australia Ltd.Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. is also bidding for Caltex’s entire business, including its refinery and fuel distribution unit as well as the retail gas-station network. Couche-Tard, Seven & i, and Berkshire Hathaway Inc. went on a similar spree for U.S. fuel retailers, truck stops and convenience stores in 2017.The argument for these deals is quite straightforward. Grocery retail for several decades has been shifting away from the stereotype of large nuclear families doing weekly shopping trips in big-box supermarkets, toward individuals, working parents and retirees picking up a few things from a local convenience store several times a week.If you’re looking to expand into convenience stores, gas stations are a target-rich environment — scattered through urban areas and along major highways, and ripe for upgrading beyond their traditional fare of basic fuel for vehicles and their drivers. In the meantime, the constant need to fill up gas tanks provides a reliable stream of cash, although one that’s highly leveraged to the price of oil.Seven & i hopes to echo the revival of its domestic business by offering a wider range of products and fresh food to customers. EG Group, which has grown from a single U.K. gas station in 2001 to encompass around 5,900 sites on three continents, makes a similar argument. It hopes to eventually make about 70% of its profits from non-fuel retail, up from around 50% currently, by bringing recognized retail brands into its forecourts to create mini-malls.There’s just one problem with this bold vision. Fuel retail is on the verge of a major structural revolution — and the result isn’t likely to be a pretty one for gas stations.The most obvious bear scenario would come if automakers’ rush to electrify their product ranges succeeds in bringing about the decline of the internal combustion engine. Around 10 million electric vehicles will be on the road by the end of this year and there’s already nearly a million EV charging stations, according to BloombergNEF.While that still represents a small share of the car market, the situation should change rapidly in the second half of this decade, as the costs of electric vehicles fall definitively below those of conventional ones and government phase-out targets in the 2030s start to loom. On a global basis, the International Energy Agency expects gasoline demand to peak in the late 2020s. The sorts of developed markets where the current gas station M&A frenzy is playing out are unlikely to be the most resilient to that shift.Even if gas stations invest in their own charging infrastructure — a relatively costly activity, and one that would commit them to purchasing from third-party utilities rather than the vertically integrated refining businesses they’re often bundled up with — they risk losing their traditional monopoly on fuel supply to chargers in homes and workplaces. That threatens footfall, a key metric for retailers who depend on high volumes of customer traffic to make the most of their store assets.Things may be somewhat better if the electric-car revolution fails to catch light. Even then, though, fuel-efficiency mandates mean fewer trips to buy gas, leading to a similar effect on footfall. Combined with a shift toward more online delivery, the effect could be dismal: By 2035, more than a quarter of gas stations will be unable to make economic profits in even the least electrified scenario, according to a report last year by Boston Consulting Group. All of this would be fine if convenience stores were going to be so profitable over the next few years that they could afford to make a quick buck and transform themselves before they’re overwhelmed by change.There’s little sign of that, though. EG Group made just 16 million euros ($17.3 million) of net income on an underlying basis in its latest results, despite more than 12 billion euros of revenue (on a statutory basis, there was a 138 million euro net loss). Net income margins at Seven & i’s U.S. unit tend to hover around 3%, and returns on equity are an unspectacular 8% or 9%. Viva Energy Group Ltd., a competitor to Caltex which operates Shell-branded forecourts in Australia, has lost about 25% of its market capitalization since an initial public offering in 2018.The days of the conventional gas station are numbered. Anyone who wants to make money from transforming them had better have their foot firmly pressed on the accelerator.To contact the author of this story: David Fickling at email@example.comTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Rachel Rosenthal at firstname.lastname@example.orgThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.David Fickling is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering commodities, as well as industrial and consumer companies. He has been a reporter for Bloomberg News, Dow Jones, the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times and the Guardian.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) -- Small investors are back. In a big way.Their fingerprints are on Apple Inc.’s staggering rally. They piled into Tesla Inc. as it tripled, and turned speculative fliers like Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc. into some of the most heavily traded shares in the country. Why the enthusiasm? Some see a link to decisions by brokerages to cut commissions on trades to nothing.While it’s tough to know what’s causing what -- bull markets are fueled by new converts but also lure them -- trading volume at online and discount brokers has exploded. TD Ameritrade Holding Corp., which started offering free trading in October, has seen million-trade days multiplying at a record pace.Along with E*Trade Financial Corp., daily average revenue trades -- a standard industry metric that may be a bit of a misnomer now since buying and selling is free -- have almost doubled to an all-time high since last September, data compiled by Sundial Research showed.“When you take a bull market and juice it with zero commission trading, we can expect it to generate interest among retail accounts. That, it did,” said Jason Goepfert, president of Sundial. “Retail traders have become manic.”Individual investors were seen as indifferent participants for much of the 11-year bull market. No more. The latest leg of their emergence times closely with October, when E*Trade, Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade slashed commission fees to zero. Not that it’s firm proof of anything, but since the start of that month, the S&P 500 is up 12% and the Nasdaq 100 has surged 22%.Conversations with a handful of clients found lots of praise for zero-commission trades but mostly conservative purchases -- index funds and blue chips. Matt Hermansen, 23, who works for a concrete company in Oakland, California, said the absence of fees makes him more willing to trade.“I’ll invest smaller amounts. Before I never really invested anything less than $1,000, $500 minimum,” he said in a phone interview. “Now if I have enough to buy an extra share, I’ll do it. I’ll do like $300.”At TD Ameritrade, the number of days where the amount of trades topped 1 million reached 38 during the fiscal first quarter ended Dec. 31, according to Steve Boyle, interim president and chief executive officer. That compares to 23 such days in all of fiscal year 2019.It’s “a new world in discount brokerage where price no longer clouds the comparison for trades,” Boyle said in an earnings statement on Jan. 21. By that date, the firm’s monthly volume had already risen 40% from a year ago, averaging 1.4 million trades per day.At E*Trade, similar trends has played out. Daily average revenue trades have increased 74% since the firm’s fee cut, Sundial’s data showed.Randy Frederick, a vice president of trading and derivatives at Charles Schwab, says the surge in trading also reflects a growing confidence in the bull market. Indeed, from the coronavirus outbreak to Apple’s sales warning, nothing has been able to stop shares from marching higher.“It’s partially driven by free commissions, but I don’t think it’s just that, because not everyone is offering free commissions,” Frederick said. “The fact that we have been in a bull market for a long time, people are just optimistic. Things are going up and they continue to go up.”U.S. households are turning more optimistic on the stock market. According to the latest sentiment reading from the Conference Board, the share of respondents expecting stocks to rise in the next year advanced to 43.1% in January, the highest since October 2018.Hot stocks get the most attention. At TD Ameritrade, Apple, Microsoft Inc., Tesla and Virgin Galactic have been among the highly traded this year, according to JJ Kinahan, the firm’s chief market strategist. Shares of the two tech giants have climbed at least 9%, double the S&P 500’s gain. Tesla, Elon Musk’s automaker, and Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson’s space-tourism company, have done even better, with triple-digit advances. Virgin Galactic, in particular, has seen retail investors talking up their positions on message boards like r/wallstreetbets on Reddit.“A lot of our millennial clients over the past six months were buyers of Tesla,” Kinahan said. “Younger people buy products they are familiar with, or more importantly, think are going to be viable products down the road,” he added. “It does make sense to say that some of these, maybe Virgin Galactic, may be a product that makes sense in 10 years.”For Peter Cecchini, chief global market strategist at Cantor Fitzgerald LP, affection among retail investors for both tech stocks and loss-making companies is creating flashbacks to the internet frenzy in late 1990s.“There’s sometimes no fundamental reason for it. It just is based on perception -- a perception based on narratives that run only an inch deep,” he said in note. “Let’s see how much longer it persists. This kind of activity often unwinds much faster than the wind up.”(Updates prices in sixth paragraph)\--With assistance from Claire Ballentine and Esha Dey.To contact the reporters on this story: Lu Wang in New York at email@example.com;Vildana Hajric in New York at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Brad Olesen at email@example.com, Chris Nagi, Richard RichtmyerFor 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) -- Amazon.com Inc. has asked a court to force the government to hand over documents related to Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s decision to recuse himself from making decisions on a $10 billion cloud-services contract.In a court filing made public on Friday, Amazon seeks a trove of documents to bolster its challenge of the Pentagon’s Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, cloud contract that was awarded to Microsoft Corp. in October.Amazon Web Services, Amazon’s cloud unit, is also asking the U.S Court of Federal Claims to require the government to turn over materials that shed light on the role that Stacy Cummings, a deputy assistant secretary of defense, played in the procurement.Cummings communicated with the team evaluating JEDI bids and worked on preparations for JEDI-related meetings involving Esper, the lawsuit said. She recused herself from working on the procurement in September 2019, according to the lawsuit.In a previous filing, government lawyers argued that Amazon is “not entitled” to all materials relating to the recusals of Cummings and Esper. They added that Cummings had a conflict with Microsoft, that “did not impact the procurement.”Other files Amazon seeks include “informal notes” between the bid selection team members, JEDI-related content on digital channels and procurement documents that were presented to Esper and Deputy Secretary David Norquist.Representatives for the Defense Department and Microsoft didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.Amazon filed a lawsuit in November in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims alleging that the Defense Department failed to fairly judge its bid because President Donald Trump viewed Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos as his “political enemy.”Amazon asked the court earlier this month to allow it to question Trump, Esper, former Defense Secretary James Mattis, and Dana Deasy, the Pentagon’s chief information officer.In August 2019, the newly confirmed Esper ordered a review of the procurement after Trump endorsed criticism that the Pentagon had given Amazon an unfair advantage with the contract’s design.The Pentagon announced in October that Esper would recuse himself from any decisions involving the contract to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. Esper’s son worked as a consultant for International Business Machines Corp., which along with Oracle Corp., had earlier been eliminated from the competition.Three days after Esper’s recusal, the Pentagon announced it had chosen Microsoft, an upset victory for the company that many in the industry viewed as a distant second to Amazon.“A complete factual record on the bases for these recusals is especially critical in light of the well-grounded allegations AWS has made about the troubling circumstances surrounding the recusals of DoD personnel,” the lawsuit said.The Pentagon’s JEDI project is designed to consolidate the department’s cloud computing infrastructure and modernize its technology systems. Earlier this month, a judge agreed to block Microsoft from working on the contract while Amazon’s lawsuit is being litigated.To contact the reporter on this story: Naomi Nix in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Sara Forden at email@example.com, 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.
U.S. stocks sold off and the Nasdaq had its worst daily percentage decline in about three weeks on Friday as a spike in new coronavirus cases and data showing a stall in U.S. business activity in February fueled investors' fears about economic growth. Declines were led by the technology sector for a second straight session. Tech-related heavyweights Microsoft Corp , Amazon.com Inc and Apple Inc were the biggest drags on the S&P 500.
MOSCOW/LONDON, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Russian oil major Rosneft is facing a logistical headache as several customers have demanded it immediately remove its Swiss trading division, sanctioned by the United States this week, from all supply chains, according to five trading sources. Washington this month imposed sanctions on Rosneft's Geneva-based unit Rosneft Trading (RTSA), accusing it of providing a financial lifeline to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government. U.S. officials have accused the Rosneft subsidiary of propping up the Venezuelan oil sector and engaging in ship-to-ship transfers to actively evade American sanctions.
U.S. stocks sold off on Friday as a spike in new coronavirus cases in China and other countries and as data showing U.S. business activity stalled in February fueled investors' fears about the economy. Declines on Friday were led by heavyweights Microsoft Corp , Amazon.com Inc and Apple Inc for a second straight day. Chipmakers, with strong ties to China for revenue, also fell sharply, with the Philadelphia Semiconductor index falling 3%.
Global equity markets slumped on Friday as the fast-spreading coronavirus drove investors into safe havens, with gold hitting a fresh seven-year high and the yield on the 30-year U.S. Treasury bond sliding to an all-time low. The virus has emerged in 26 countries and territories outside mainland China, killing 11 people, according to a Reuters tally. Data shows mainland China had 889 new confirmed cases and 118 deaths, with most of those in the provincial capital of Wuhan, which remains under virtual lockdown.
(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Justice Department has sought outside legal help to bolster its antitrust investigations of large technology platforms, according to two people familiar with the matter, in a sign that the government may be preparing a lawsuit against one or more of the companies.The department approached at least one law firm about working on the government’s behalf, said the people. That firm -- Kellogg Hansen Todd Figel & Frederick PLLC -- declined to take on the assignment because of a conflict, according to one of the people, who asked not to be named because the investigation is confidential.The agency has opened investigations into Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Facebook Inc., following a July announcement of a broad probe into whether tech platforms are stifling competition. It wasn’t clear which case the department was seeking help for, or whether it will ultimately go through with hiring an outside firm.The move, however, may be a sign the Justice Department is preparing for litigation against the tech companies. Attorney General William Barr said in December that the probe was moving “very quickly” and that he wanted to complete it some time this year.A nationwide coalition of states is also investigating the companies and is working with the Justice Department.The Justice Department declined to comment. Michael Kellogg, one of the founding partners of Kellogg Hansen, where Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch once worked, didn’t respond to a request seeking comment.Earlier: DOJ Plans ‘Expeditious’ Antitrust Probe Into Big Tech PracticesWhile the hiring of outside lawyers is rare, it’s not unheard of. The department in the past has turned to private counsel to take on high-profile litigation, most notably when it hired David Boies to spearhead the landmark antitrust case against Microsoft Corp. two decades ago.In 2012, the Federal Trade Commission similarly hired a top Washington litigator, Beth Wilkinson, then a partner with Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, to help with its antitrust investigation of Google. The agency ultimately closed that investigation without taking action.An outside firm would enhance the department’s resources if it decided to sue. Litigation against one of the tech giants could be a monumental, years-long undertaking. The Justice Department’s case against Microsoft started in 1998 and ended in 2002, when a court approved a settlement.To contact the reporter on this story: David McLaughlin in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Sara Forden at email@example.com, 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.
Lyft did not comment on the financing of the deal. Halo Cars was founded in 2018 and has operations in U.S. markets such as New York and Chicago. Lyft and larger rival Uber Technologies Inc, both based in San Francisco, are pursuing different roads in search of profitability, with Uber pouring money into side businesses which have so far lost money and Lyft focusing solely on moving people around.
New Hampshire-based Timberland, part of VF Corp , since August has offered to plant a tree every time customers choose to have their orders delivered in 4-8 days versus the standard 3 days. Customers hit the brakes on more than 18% of all Timberland orders during the holiday season's Black Friday to Cyber Monday shopping spike. Acceptance has averaged about 14% and resulted in about 55,000 tree plantings so far.
(Bloomberg) -- A pivotal moment next week for at-home fitness provider Peloton Interactive Inc. could conjure up memories of last year’s releases of newly-issued stock by technology companies -- moves that rattled investors and led to heightened volatility for Lyft Inc. and Uber Technologies Inc.Come Monday, some 90% of Peloton’s shares outstanding will be freed up, opening the first window for insiders and early investors to sell since the company’s September initial public offering. This particular lock-up -- similar to Lyft’s -- expires short of the traditional 180-day lock-up period that most companies follow.Meanwhile, Peloton shares at the recent close of around $27 are below its $29 IPO price. Analysts cited the early lock-up as a near-term risk to shares. MKM’s Rohit Kulkarni, in a report published Friday, said that unlike Uber and Lyft, almost all locked-up shares as well as vested stock options “have significant positive returns,” which could lead to downward pressure in the near-term.Lock-ups “created volatility for other recent tech IPOs,” in anticipation of pent up selling pressure, although the stocks tended to bounce back in the days following the expiration, BofA analyst Justin Post said in a telephone interview.Recalling Lyft and Uber’s volatility around their lock-up expirations, Raymond James analyst Justin Patterson said that it “coincided with negative regulatory headlines. And unique to Uber was a former executive selling fairly aggressively into the market.” By contrast, Peloton’s founders remain at the company.The date was moved up because Peloton’s lock-up expiry would have fallen during a blackout period that would bar insiders from selling, according to a Feb. 5 filing submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission when the company reported earnings. A highlight of the filing was the company’s estimate of shares outstanding -- 317 million. That figure includes options that have or will be vested as of Feb. 24, as well as some 273 million convertible Class B shares eligible to be sold in the public market.Analysts using the 280 million shares outstanding that were cited in Peloton’s quarterly report have some math homework to do before Monday.Based on JPMorgan’s estimate of roughly 277 million shares that will unlock for insiders and early investors, about 87% of Peloton’s estimated 317 million shares outstanding stands to be freed. That would include 144 million shares held by affiliates and 133 million shares held by non-affiliates.Tiger Global Management and Peloton Chief Executive Officer John Foley are among the largest affiliates, with roughly 15% and 6.1% holdings respectively, according to JPMorgan. Technology Crossover Ventures (TCV) has 6%. Fidelity, which owns 5% of shares outstanding, and Comcast, with 3.3%, are not counted among affiliates, according to JPMorgan. Tiger Global and Fidelity declined to comment. TCV deferred to the company to answer questions while Peloton declined to comment.To contact the reporter on this story: Crystal Kim in New York at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Brad Olesen at email@example.com, Scott Schnipper, Cristin FlanaganFor 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.
The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: NVIDIA, Costco Wholesale, Stryker, Advanced Micro Devices and CSX