Sep 12, 2019

DealBook Briefing: C.E.O.s Demand More Gun Control

11-14 minutes - Source: NYT

CreditCreditRichard Drew/Associated Press
These corporate leaders want action on guns
This morning, the heads of 145 companies sent a letter to Senate leaders calling for an expansion of background checks to firearms sales and stronger gun laws, Andrew reports.
“Doing nothing about America’s gun violence crisis is simply unacceptable and it is time to stand with the American public on gun safety,” the letter reads. “Gun violence in America is not inevitable; it’s preventable.”
Among the signers are the heads of Levi Strauss, Uber, Airbnb, Gap and Lyft. Another is Thrive Capital, the venture capital firm run by Josh Kushner, the brother of Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law.
It’s another sign of the business world taking a stand on gun control in the wake of last month’s mass shootings. Since then, Walmart has tightened its policies on gun sales, and CVS and Walgreens have started asking customers not to openly carry firearms in their stores.
“C.E.O.s are wired to take action on things that are going to impact their business, and gun violence is impacting everybody’s business now,” Chip Bergh, the C.E.O. of Levi Strauss, told Andrew.
But some business leaders held off on joining, deciding that the political risk was too high. Executives at Facebook and Google considered joining the movement, but worried about intensifying the political spotlight on their companies, Andrew reports.
Today’s DealBook Briefing was written by Andrew Ross Sorkin in Washington, Michael J. de la Merced and Lindsey Underwood in London, and Stephen Grocer in New York.
CreditJerome Favre/EPA, via Shutterstock
In offering $36.6 billion for the London Stock Exchange, the parent company of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange is hoping to create one of the world’s most international stock markets. But that effort could fail because of nationalist concerns, Michael writes.
Fusing the two exchanges would let companies and investors profit from a common platform for trading stocks that would be open 24 hours a day. “This deal would create a truly global market infrastructure group connecting east and west,” Charles Li, the Hong Kong exchange’s C.E.O., said yesterday.
It comes at a time of political uncertainty in both exchanges’ homes:
• London’s centuries-long status as a leading financial capital is in doubt because of Brexit.
• China’s efforts to assert control over Hong Kong have provoked months of angry protests. Expanding the Hong Kong exchange’s reach into the West could reduce its vulnerability to that turbulence.
But it’s unclear whether British regulators will let the deal proceed. Government officials have said over the past year that they will scrutinize takeovers of British targets for national security concerns. The business minister, Andrea Leadsom, said yesterday that regulators would “look very carefully at anything that had security implications for the U.K.”
Shares in the Hong Kong exchange’s parent fell today on news of the takeover attempt, while shares in the London Stock Exchange closed below the offer’s value. That suggests that investors are skeptical of a deal happening anytime soon. We’ll know more when — or if — the Hong Kong Stock Exchange makes a formal bid within the next four weeks.
CreditRobert F. Bukaty/Associated Press
An F.D.A. plan to remove flavored e-cigarettes and nicotine pods — excluding tobacco-flavored, but including mint and menthol — from the market will be released in the coming weeks, Alex Azar, the health and human services secretary, said yesterday.
“The White House and the F.D.A. have faced mounting pressure from lawmakers, public health officials, parents and educators, who have grown alarmed by the popularity of vaping among teenagers but have felt powerless to keep e-cigarettes away from students and out of schools,” Ms. Kaplan notes.
Michael Bloomberg, the former New York mayor, also weighed in this week by announcing a $160 million push to ban flavored e-cigarettes.
The White House is joining states that are battling the products. Last week, Michigan became the first state to prohibit the sale of flavored e-cigarettes. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York has also called for a ban, and Massachusetts and California are considering similar measures. San Francisco approved an e-cigarette ban this year.
More: Vaping-related illnesses haven’t cropped up in Europe — but agencies also aren’t keeping track.
The creator of OxyContin has tentatively reached a settlement agreement for thousands of opioid cases, Jan Hoffman of the NYT reports.
It would involve Purdue’s filing for bankruptcy protection, in which the company would be dissolved. A new company would be formed to continue selling OxyContin and other medicines, with profits used to pay plaintiffs. Purdue would also donate addiction treatments and overdose-reversal drugs.
“The deal is a landmark moment in the long-running effort to compel Purdue, the company whose signature opioid, OxyContin, is seen as an early driver of the epidemic, and its owners, the Sacklers, to face a reckoning for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people from overdoses and the calamitous systemic costs,” Ms. Hoffman writes.
But Purdue isn’t in the clear yet. The tentative settlement must still be approved by Purdue’s board and a bankruptcy court judge. And several states have denounced the proposal and vowed to pursue the Sackler fortune.
CreditPiroschka Van De Wouw/Reuters
Prosus, a consumer internet giant that is the single biggest shareholder of China’s Tencent, made its debut on the Euronext exchange in Amsterdam yesterday. Investors couldn’t get enough of it, Michael writes.
Prosus (Latin for “forward”) was spun off from Naspers, the media and tech titan that trades on the Johannesburg stock market. Behind the separation was a desire to draw in more international investors, especially since Naspers was growing too big for the South African exchange.
It’s a global business. Beyond its 31 percent stake in Tencent‚ which alone was worth around $131 billion yesterday — Prosus also has a huge classifieds operation in countries like Brazil, Indonesia and Poland and a payments unit that is in 18 markets. And it is invested in food delivery start-ups around the world.
In some ways, it’s a European counterpart to SoftBank and its $100 billion Vision Fund.
Shareholders appear to believe in its potential. Shares in Prosus soared more than 25 percent yesterday, giving it a market value of nearly $133 billion as of closing time.
Prosus’ challenge is to find more blockbusters. The company believes it can: It earned $1.6 billion from its investment in India’s Flipkart, and its classifieds and payments businesses are growing.
CreditRick Wilking/Reuters
The swashbuckling oil and gas entrepreneur, corporate raider, environmentalist and media darling had long been one of corporate America’s most colorful titans, Jonathan Kandell of the NYT writes. Mr. Pickens was 91.
• “Mr. Pickens made big oil companies quake in the 1980s by threatening to take them over until they bought back his shares at elevated prices,” Mr. Kandell writes “Business foes denounced him as a ‘greenmailer’ whose only interest was to make a quick profit on his stock purchases.”
• “But Mr. Pickens insisted that his real motives were to shake up staid boardrooms and enrich ordinary shareholders — ‘the neglected minority,’ as he called them.”
• “At the apex of his fame and fortune, in the mid-1980s, he appeared on the covers of national magazines, owned vast ranches and crisscrossed the country on corporate jets.”
• In the 2000s, he “headed a nationwide campaign to push for energy self-sufficiency through the exploitation of natural gas, wind power and solar energy with the aim of reducing the United States’ dependence on oil imports from the Middle East.”
Mark Hurd, Oracle’s co-C.E.O., will take a leave of absence for health-related reasons. His responsibilities will be taken up by the company’s founder Larry Ellison and co-C.E.O. Safra Catz.
Jonathan Sorrell, the president of Man Group, will step down from the hedge fund’s board ahead of his impending departure from the company. Man’s chairman, Ian Livingston, is also said to be considering quitting.
• Yahoo Japan has agreed to buy Zozo, a Japanese online fashion company, in a deal that values the business at $3.7 billion. (FT)
• Anheuser-Busch InBev has restarted its plan to list its Asian business in Hong Kong. (FT)
• The teeth-straightening start-up SmileDirectClub priced its I.P.O. at $23 per share, above its expected range, and raised $1.3 billion. (CNBC)
• The retailer Forever 21 is reportedly planning to file for bankruptcy protection as early as Sunday. (WSJ)
• Mexico has given the state oil company Pemex $5 billion to help prepay some of its bonds,a bailout that government officials say is a one-off. (Reuters)
Politics and policy
• President Trump told White House officials yesterday that he wouldn’t push a tax cut that would mostly benefit wealthy investors, for now. (NYT)
• Mr. Trump called on the Fed’s “boneheads” to cut interest rates below zero. Related: How negative rates would work. (NYT)
• Manhattan prosecutors are reportedly investigating whether the Trump Organization falsified business records. (NBC News)
• Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, told Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to have NOAA publicly disavow government weather forecasters’ assertion that Alabama was not at risk during Hurricane Dorian. (NYT)
• The Pentagon is reportedly drawing up a list of companies with ties to the Chinese military to help protect the supply chains for American weapons. (FT)
• The British government published internal estimates of the consequences of a no-deal Brexit, including potentially severe delays at ports and shortages of food, medicine and fuel. (FT)
• President Trump has delayed increases for some tariffs after China did the same yesterday. (NYT)
• Boeing warned that sales of its Dreamliner airplane could become a casualty of America’s trade war with China. (Bloomberg)
• The White House wants Congress to pass the revised North American trade deal within the next two months, according to Peter Navarro, a top trade adviser. (Politico)
• Uber says that a new California law forcing gig-economy companies to provide workers with protections like benefits and a minimum wage would not apply to its drivers. (NYT)
• Apple’s market value is back above $1 trillion. (CNBC)
• An argument for why Apple should end its annual iPhone showcase events. (NYT Opinion)
• Anduril Industries, the start-up creating a virtual Southern border wall that was created by a founder of Oculus, reportedly raised new money at a $1 billion valuation from firms like Andreessen Horowitz. (CNBC)
• Antitrust officials from the F.T.C. have reportedly begun interviewing merchants on Amazon to determine whether the company is using its size to stifle competition. (Bloomberg)
Best of the rest
• Global airline regulators are split on whether to bring Boeing’s 737 Max back into service. (WSJ)
• A former partner at KPMG was sentenced to prison for his role in a the theft of confidential information on firm clients whose audits were going to be reviewed by the nation’s accounting regulator. (WSJ)
• Index funds and E.T.F.s have grown larger than old-fashioned funds run by stock pickers. (Bloomberg)

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