Morning Brief: Top Financial Stories Dominating on Wednesday, June 15

Reuters

Warner Bros Discovery To Undergo Major Global Ad Sales Team Restructuring

  • Warner Bros. Discovery, Inc WBD could downsize up to 30% or nearly 1,000 jobs in its global advertising sales team, Reuters reports.
  • Warner offered members of its U.S. advertising sales team an option to leave the company voluntarily.
  • The global advertising sales team has ~3,000 members.

Biden Questions Oil Companies On Lack Of Gasoline Amid Increasing Prices

  • As U.S. president Joe Biden faces pressure over rising gasoline prices, he demanded oil companies explain why more gasoline is not in the market.
  • Biden wrote to executives from Marathon Petroleum Corp MPC, Valero Energy Corporation VLO, and Exxon Mobil Corp XOM and complained that they had reduced oil refining to beef up their profits, according to a copy of the letter seen by Reuters.
  • “At a time of war, refinery profit margins well above normal being passed directly onto American families are unacceptable,” Biden wrote.

iQIYI Shares Trade Lower On Reports Of Possible Stake Sale

  • Baidu, Inc BIDU is exploring selling its controlling stake in iQIYI, Inc IQ at a potential valuation of ~$7 billion.
  • Baidu, which owns 53% of iQIYI and holds over 90% of its shareholder voting rights, looks to sell all its holdings in China’s Netflix, Inc NFLX counterpart.
  • Baidu’s targeted valuation of $7 billion represents a price of ~$8.13 per share, implying a 74% premium on its June 14 close of $4.67.

Over 100 CEOs Including Alphabet, Amazon, Microsoft Press For China Competition Bill

  • A broad coalition of 123 CEOs and senior executives representing major sectors of the American economy and millions of U.S. workers urged Congress to pass legislation to amplify U.S. economic competitiveness, including in chip manufacturing.
  • The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), which organized the letter signing, claimed it was the largest group of corporate leaders to endorse the bill.
  • CEOs from Alphabet Inc GOOG GOOGL, Amazon.com Inc AMZN, and Microsoft Corp MSFT requested the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate to approve legislation aimed at strengthening U.S. economic competitiveness against China.

L3Harris Technologies Eyes Israeli Spyware Firm NSO

  • L3Harris Technologies Inc LHX is planning to acquire Israeli spyware firm NSO Group, Reuters reported, citing U.S. and Israeli media.
  • The deal is expected to be finalized after being approved by Israel, the U.S., and L3Harris’ board of directors.
  • A separate report published by Intelligence Online has shed light on the White House’s concerns about the deal sparking counterintelligence and security concerns.

Qualcomm Wins EU Antitrust Lawsuit Which Has An Apple Connection

  • Qualcomm Inc QCOM clinched victory against a €997 million ($1.05 billion) penalty slapped by EU antitrust regulators.
  • The EU imposed the fine four years back for paying Apple Inc AAPL to use only its chips and block out rivals like Intel Corp INTC.
  • The European Commission alleged Qualcomm of engaging in anti-competitive practice between 2011 and 2016 by paying billions of dollars to Apple to use its chips in all its iPhones and iPads.

FDA Committee Backs Moderna’s COVID-19 Shot For Kids, Adolescents: Report

  • Moderna Inc’s MRNA COVID-19 vaccine received unanimous backing from the FDA’s committee of independent immunization experts for children ages 6 through 17.
  • Reuters reported that there is limited chance for a significant immediate demand for the Moderna shots for 6- to 17-year-olds.
  • It cited Pfizer Inc PFE/ BioNTech SE’s BNTX vaccine authorization for children aged 5 to 11 in October and approval for teenagers in a couple of months.

Wall Street Journal

Softbank-Backed Mental Health Startup Cerebral Under FTC Scrutiny

  • The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has begun investigating mental-health startup Cerebral Inc on its potential engagement in unfair practices related to advertising or marketing of services.
  • The FTC letter, reviewed by the Wall Street Journal, also directed the company to preserve documents.
  • In particular, the commission seeks information related to the program(s) where Cerebral continues to bill customers a subscription fee until the customer cancels, also called “negative option programs.”

Zendesk Explores Settlement Discussions With Activist Investor Jana Partners

  • Customer engagement software solutions portfolio provider Zendesk, Inc ZEN is exploring settlement options with activist investor Jana Partners LLC, days after the software company failed to divest itself.
  • The truce could call for the exit of CEO Mikkel Svane and director Carl Bass.
  • Bass, the former CEO of Autodesk Inc ADSK, is Zendesk’s lead independent director and chair of the board’s compensation committee.

Bloomberg

Bill Gates Slams Crypto, NFTs: Shams Based On ‘Greater Fool Theory

  • Microsoft Corp MSFT co-founder Bill Gates has launched a barge of criticism against cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) on Tuesday.
  • The former Microsoft executive said cryptocurrency projects like NFTs were shams “based on the greater fool theory” at a climate conference hosted by the publication TechCrunch, reported Bloomberg.
  • Gates did not hold back on the sarcasm and said, “Obviously, expensive digital images of monkeys are going to improve the world immensely.”

How Many Subscribers Disney Could Due To Setback In India

  • In the e-auction for the multi-year rights to the Indian Premier League cricket tournament, a joint venture between Paramount Global PARA and Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries won the streaming rights, outbidding incumbent holder Walt Disney Company DIS.
  • The loss of IPL streaming rights may have cost Disney 20 million subscribers, Bloomberg reported, citing estimates from Media Partners Asia. This could leave Disney+ streaming service facing an uphill task to achieve the global subscriber goal of 260 million by 2024.

Financial Times

BP Purchases 40% Stake In Green Hydrogen Project In Australia

  • BP plc BP is acquiring the largest stake in a vast solar, wind, and green hydrogen project in Western Australia that will cost more than $30 billion to develop.
  • The energy company stated that it has agreed to buy 40.5% of the Asian Renewable Energy Hub, which it will also operate, making it one of its biggest renewable energy bets. Financial terms were not disclosed.
  • Developed by partners Intercontinental Energy, CWP Global, and Macquarie, the 6,500 square kilometers site in the Pilbara mining region has the potential to be one of the largest renewable power hubs in the world.

Benzinga

Dogecoin (DOGE) Gears Up To Launch Major Project

  • Dogecoin DOGE/USD developer Michi Lumin said Tuesday that a project that encompasses building blocks for projects based on the meme coin may be launched soon.
  • Lumin shared an update on Twitter which indicated that the Libdogecoin v0.1 release is getting closer.
  • Libdogecoin will encompass a “complete implementation’ of Dogecoin protocols as a C library, which will allow anyone to create a Dogecoin-compliant product without having to deal with specifics of cryptocurrency functions, according to the Dogecoin Foundation.

Ford To Recall 49,000 Mustang Mach-Es Over This Safety Issue

  • Ford Motor Co F is asking dealers to temporarily pause selling the Mustang Mach-E electric crossovers due to a potential safety defect that could cause the vehicles to become immobile, CNBC reported on Tuesday, citing a company notice.
  • Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford is recalling about 49,000 of the roughly 100,000 Mach-Es that it produced between May 27, 2020, through May 24, 2022.
  • The affected Mach-Es were built at Ford’s Cuautitlan plant in Mexico.

Pfizer Halts Enrollment In Paxlovid COVID-19 Trial In Standard-Risk Population

  • Pfizer Inc PFE shared additional data from the Phase 2/3 EPIC-SR study of Paxlovid (nirmatrelvir and ritonavir tablets) in patients at standard risk for developing severe COVID-19.
  • In previously reported interim analyses, the novel primary endpoint of self-reported, sustained alleviation of all symptoms for four consecutive days was not met.
  • Non-significant 70% relative risk reduction was observed in the key secondary endpoint of hospitalization or death.

Alibaba Goes Amazon Way To Develop In-House Silicon

  • Alibaba Group Holding Limited BABA offered a glimpse at its in-house silicon called Cloud Infrastructure Processing Units (CIPUs) at its annual summit this week, the Register reports.
  • Alibaba has deployed the data processing units (DPUs) in some of the Chinese giant’s data centers.
  • “The rapid increase in data volume and scale, together with higher demand for lower latency, call for the creation of new tech infrastructure,” Alibaba Cloud Intelligence President Jeff Zhang said.

Joe Biden Could Ease Trump-Era Tariffs On China To Tame Inflation

  • President Joe Biden is considering rolling back some tariffs imposed on Chinese goods during the term of former President Donald Trump as the United States grapples with inflation.
  • Tariff reductions, under consideration by Biden, would reduce the overall inflation rate by an estimated quarter of a percentage point, according to economists of the administration, The New York Times reported on Tuesday.
  • Officials are considering at least partial relaxation on the tariffs, which could have side effects such as companies keeping their supply chains in China.

Ahead of FOMC Decision, Bill Ackman Has This Advice For The Fed

  • Hedge fund investor and Pershing Square Capital Management CEO Bill Ackman has a word of advice for the U.S. Federal Reserve, which is due to announce its interest rate decision on Wednesday after a two-day meeting of its monetary policy arm.
  • Ackman’s Call: As financial markets get hammered on fears that higher rates will stifle already-fragile economic growth and bring about a recession, Ackman said on Twitter the Fed should get aggressive.
  • The central bank is left with the unenviable task of controlling sky-high inflation without hurting growth.

Elon Musk’s First Reaction To Latest Crypto Bloodbath Is Here

  • Tesla Inc. TSLA CEO Elon Musk on Wednesday reacted to a tweet from Dogecoin DOGE/USD creator Billy Markus, where the latter highlighted the ongoing crash in financial markets by way of a meme.
  • “It’s end of the world as we know it,” Markus said in the tweet. “And I feel fine.” The tweet included a meme where death is supposedly going after real estate after taking care of stocks and cryptocurrencies. Musk responded to the post, saying, “true.”

Bitcoin Crashes To $21,000: 5 Tips To Survive Crypto Bear Market

  • Top crypto contrarian investor Mr. Whale last year shared tips on surviving the crypto bear market that remain just as relevant.
  • Bitcoin has tanked significantly since, inching near the $20,000 level, with other cryptocurrencies following suit.
  • Ethereum was badly affected, briefly inching below the $1,000 mark earlier this week.

Apple Supplier Foxconn Breaks Ground On First EV Battery Plant

  • One of Apple Inc’s AAPL oldest and largest suppliers, Foxconn, has forayed into the electric vehicle segment.
  • The key iPhone assembler, whose official name is Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., Ltd HNHPF, broke ground on its first battery cell plant on Wednesday, the latest move by the company to make inroads into the booming EV industry.
  • “We plan to build a localized ecosystem for the battery supply chain, from materials to battery cells and battery packs, in Kaohsiung,” Foxconn Chairman Young Liu said at the groundbreaking ceremony in the southern Taiwanese city, according to Nikkei Asia.

BREAKING: South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace Beats Trump-Backed Primary Challenger

  • South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace beat back a primary challenge from a former state legislator and Pentagon official Katie Arrington, according to AP, which called the race at 11:13 p.m. ET Tuesday night.
  • Former President Trump had endorsed Arrington as part of his crusade to stamp out perceived disloyalty within the Republican Party. Arrington’s loss “adds to a growing list of failed Trump-backed candidacies,” noted Axios.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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