DealBook Briefing: The Disney-Comcast Fight Switches to Sky
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Sky takes center stage in the Disney-Comcast duel
Walt Disney and Comcast may not be fighting over 21st Century Fox any more. The two giants instead look likely to focus their efforts on buying control of Sky, the European satellite broadcaster that Fox has a stake in.
Fox took the lead over Comcast in the Sky bidding yesterday morning, offering (with Disney’s blessing) £14 a share. By last night, Comcast took it back, offering £14.75 a share. Sky’s independent board committee quickly switched its recommendation from Fox to Comcast.
There’s a regulatory wrinkle here: If Disney and Comcast were to raise their offers for Fox, they both believe, Britain’s Takeover Code would force them to offer more for Sky as well. That’s a reason to keep their eyes on the European prize — meaning the fight for Sky may only intensify.
Twitter cracks down on fake accounts
The social network will start erasing tens of millions of suspect followers from user accounts today, in a bid for renewed trust. The move follows an NYT investigation in January into the fake accounts industry, which helps some Twitter users inflate their influence.
Advertisers, who were questioning the value of Twitter “influencers,” praised the crackdown. And since the company omits suspected fake accounts from its monthly active user totals, this won’t hurt its quarterly reports. Twitter’s already riding high.
But whether it can restore faith after being accused of allowing hate speech and harassment to flourish remains to be seen.
Beans are Trump’s trade secret weapon. Minerals may be Beijing’s.
President Trump’s trade battles have escalated quickly. In January, they affected 18 products; today they touch about 10,000. (Here’s a smart visualization of the ramp-up.) While it includes everything from tires to tilapia, some items matter more than others.
Soybeans are central to the spat with Beijing, because China relies on America for much of its supply. That’s good for Mr. Trump: The Chinese are stockpiling them ahead of the tariffs, which tilts trade figures his way.
But his threat to impose levies on an additional $200 billion worth of Chinese goods is forcing Beijing to rethink its tactics. Alexandra Stevenson of the NYT points out that China could cut supplies of minerals vital to batteries, smartphones and other high-tech items. They’re worryingly hard to get elsewhere.
More in trade: Brexit and the trade wars are quietly undermining the markets. There may be a slim chance of America and China restarting trade talks. So far, the fight is costing a typical American family about $60 a year (next stop:$270).
Kushner deals keep leading back to Washington
Jared Kushner may have left his role at his family’s real estate company, but he still has holdings in it. That raises questions about Kushner Companies’ dealings with partners with ties to the government.
The NYT took a look at some of those links, including to the buyer of a nuclear power company and to a visas-for-cash businessman. Mr. Kushner says that he has followed lawyers’ advice in removing himself from Kushner Companies’ dealings. But a former government ethics official told the NYT: “Jared knows who is invested with the family business. He can’t unlearn that.”
The F.C.C. seems to want to listen to consumers
Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, has proposed overhauling the way that consumers provide feedback during its public consultations. The WSJ reports that the move is meant to protect against abuse of the system. (Potentially fraudulent responses were rife in the net neutrality consultation, an investigation suggests.)
Meanwhile, the WaPo claims that the F.C.C. has postponed voting on a provision that would have passed informal complaints directly to companies. Lawmakers feared that F.C.C. staff would no longer review them, effectively forcing consumers into paying $225 to file formal complaints.
America might not be ready for the A.I. wars
Artificial intelligence is creating highly believable fake content for propaganda, helping government surveillance, enabling new kinds of cyber attacks, and far more. How prepared is the U.S. government?
According to a report from the Center for a New American Security, not very. The authors call current government efforts to bolster national security on A.I. “nascent.” Speaking to Axios, Paul Scharre, one of the authors of the report, said that “the United States government does not have a plan to remain a global leader in A.I. I fear that U.S. policymakers take America’s technological advantages for granted.”
John Schnatter, founder of the Papa John’s pizza chain, resigned as chairman after using a racial slur. (NYT)
John Amato, C.E.O. of the Hollywood Reporter-Billboard Media Group, resigned over his handling of sexual harassment coverage. (NYT)
Morgan Stanley named Tom Miles as its head of M.&A. for the Americas.
The speed read
• Broadcom agreed to buy the software maker CA Technologies for nearly $19 billion, its first major deal since trying to buy Qualcomm. Investors may not celebrate.
• Tiger Global Management, the investment firm that backed start-ups like Warby Parker and Flipkart, is said to have taken a $1 billion stake in SoftBank. (Bloomberg)
• Guggenheim has agreed to buy the financial restructuring firm Millstein & Company. (WSJ)
Politics and policy
• Tax changes since 2000 will save the top 1 percent of American households $111 billion this year. (NYT Opinion)
• After Brexit, Prime Minister Theresa May wants Britain to use E.U. rules on goods, but not on services, which make up 80 percent of its economy. (Bloomberg)
• China wants high-tech cars. German automakers want to help. (NYT)
• The Chinese telecom company ZTE now only needs to pay the Commerce Department $400 million before restarting business in America. (Reuters)
• Google is turning internet balloons and delivery drones into real businesses. (NYT)
• Facebook says it will give academics “full access” to data so that they can understand election interference. (WSJ)
Best of the rest
• How a small Arkansas-based bank became America’s biggest construction lender. (Bloomberg Businessweek)
• How Beijing spreads its state-media messages around the world. (FT)