Apple’s latest quarterly earnings were viewed positively on balance. Revenue from the iPhone continued to slow, falling by 17% in the first three months of the year compared with the same quarter in 2018; the device accounts for an ever-smaller share of Apple’s revenues. And overall sales from China, where Apple faces stiff competition, were down by a fifth. But compensating for the bad news the company’s revenues from services—apps, music-streaming and the like—grew by 16%. See article.
By contrast, Alphabet’s earnings were interpreted negatively. Although revenues at Google’s parent company grew by 17%, that was the slowest pace in three years. Booking its latest antitrust fine from the EU caused net income to plunge, to $6.7bn. The company also announced that Eric Schmidt, who was Google’s boss for ten years until 2011, is to step down from the board. See article.
“The future is private”
Stung by accusations of ethical shortcomings, Facebook held a conference to discuss its new “privacy-focused vision”. It also rolled out a programme whereby research academics will gain access to user data. Facebook stressed that privacy was being protected, and that it had consulted privacy experts. If anyone had private doubts about its new-found devotion, it is also testing a “differential privacy” application. All this comes as Facebook negotiates with regulators about beefing up its oversight of privacy, which reportedly may mean it appoints a privacy tsar. See article.
Uber offered an initial price range for its forthcoming IPO of between $44 and $50 a share. That is a bit lower than had been expected, and would value the ride-hailing firm at up to $92bn when it lists (it may alter the price range).
In another highly anticipated stockmarket flotation, Beyond Meat priced its IPO at $25 a share, the top end of its price range. The startup is totemic of the market’s current taste for plant-based food companies. See article.
Occidental appeared to have scuppered Chevron’s deal to take over Anadarko, when the latter said that it now considers Occidental’s offer to be superior. Occidental has valued the transaction at $57bn; its proposal includes a $10bn capital injection from Warren Buffett. Anadarko has huge shale assets in America’s Permian Basin, making it an attractive partner for energy firms.
In an unprecedented show of no confidence in the management of a German company, 56% of shareholders in Bayer voted against a measure supporting its business conduct. Investors are peeved at the collapse of the German conglomerate’s share price following costly litigation related to a glyphosate-based weedkiller made by Monsanto, which Bayer took over last year. The vote has no legal force, but it is the first time that a big German company has been censured by a majority of its shareholders. See article.
Boeing’s annual general meeting was also a testy affair. Following the grounding of the 737 MAX aircraft after two fatal crashes, Dennis Muilenburg survived an attempt to split his dual role as chief executive and chairman, though 34% of shareholders voted for the proposal. Meanwhile, American Airlines cut its profit forecast for the year, in part because of the grounding of the 737 MAX, which has caused it to cancel hundreds of flights.
The euro zone’s economy grew by 1.5% in the first quarter at an annual rate, a much improved showing on the last three months of 2018. That was still some way behind America, which chalked up a growth rate of 3.2% in the quarter. See article.
The John Bates Clark Medal, awarded annually by the American Economic Association to an economist under the age of 40, was won by Emi Nakamura. A professor at Berkeley, Ms Nakamura won the award in part for her “distinctive approach” to a “painstaking analysis of data”. See article.
A judge approved a new agreement between the Securities and Exchange Commission and Elon Musk that restricts what he can say on Twitter about Tesla. Mr Musk has fallen foul of the regulator for tweeting what it says are misleading statements. Under the new deal, Mr Musk has to seek approval from lawyers before tweeting about Tesla’s finances, potential deals, production or any venture the company is considering. Mr Musk may also want to think twice before poking fun at the SEC on Twitter.
It’s a marvel
“Endgame” is a fitting title to an all-dominating film franchise. The 22nd film in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe took a record-breaking $357m in its opening weekend in America. Less than a week into its run, it is already the fourth-most successful in the brand. The first, “Iron Man”, took a comparatively puny $680m worldwide during 2008. Including “Avengers: Endgame”, total revenue for the series is expected to top $22bn. With box office like that, it is not surprising that plenty more Marvel films are in the pipeline. See article.