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(Reuters) – Litigation funding provider IMF Bentham Ltd (IMF.AX) said on Tuesday it was funding a representative complaint against social networking website Facebook Inc (FB.O) over alleged breaches of the Australian Privacy Principles.
The company said it would fund the complaint made to the Australian Information Commissioner against Facebook Australia, Facebook Inc and Facebook Ireland. The complaint is being handled by Sydney-based law firm Johnson Winter & Slattery.
The Australian Information Commissioner has also commenced a separate investigation into the matter, IMF Bentham said, adding a class action may follow depending on the Commissioner’s findings.
Facebook has come under intense scrutiny after it admitted in March to making mistakes in letting 50 million users’ data get into the hands of political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.
The company lost more than $ 50 billion in market value in the week after the allegations emerged that Cambridge Analytica improperly accessed data to build profiles on American voters and influence the 2016 presidential election.
Facebook had said in April that a little more than 311,000 Australian users may have had their information improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica. (bit.ly/2Ejpktb)
Facebook’s Australian arm was not immediately available for a comment.
Reporting by Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru; Editing by Himani Sarkar
HONG KONG/SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China’s Meituan-Dianping, an online food delivery-to-ticketing services platform, is bringing its sizable initial public offering (IPO) to Hong Kong, where it aims to raise over $ 4 billion, three people with knowledge of the deal said.
The firm filed plans late on Friday for the city’s second multibillion-dollar tech float this year after smartphone maker Xiaomi Corp’s blockbuster IPO of up to $ 6.1 billion. Meituan-Dianping is also – after Xiaomi – the latest company with a dual-class share structure to file for a Hong Kong listing, under the city’s new rules designed to attract tech companies.
The Beijing-based firm, backed by gaming and social media company Tencent Holdings Ltd (0700.HK), was valued at around $ 30 billion in a fundraising round last year.
It is aiming for a $ 60 billion valuation with the IPO, though industry insiders said it may have difficulty reaching that target as it is still money-losing and relies on a cash-burning business model to boost growth.
The firm is likely to list in October, said the people, who declined to be identified as the information was not public.
Meituan-Dianping did not detail the amount of funds targeted or a time frame. It declined to comment on its planned IPO when contacted by Reuters.
Founded in 2010 by serial entrepreneur Wang Xing, Meituan, likened to U.S. discounting platform Groupon Inc (GRPN.O), in 2015 completed a $ 15 billion merger with Dianping, akin to U.S. online review firm Yelp Inc (YELP.N). It offers a broad range of services including movie ticketing, food delivery, hotel and travel booking as well as ride-hailing.
Competitors include food-delivery platform Ele.me, backed by e-commerce firm Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (BABA.N), and leading ride-hailing firm Didi Chuxing, backed by Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp (9984.T).
In its draft prospectus, which gave investors the first detailed look at its financial health ahead of the IPO, the company disclosed a 19 billion yuan ($ 2.9 billion) loss for 2017, steeper than in the previous two years.
Its adjusted net loss – which excludes the impact of fair value changes of convertible redeemable preferred shares and other items – was 2.85 billion yuan, smaller than losses of 5.35 billion yuan in 2016 and 5.91 billion yuan in 2015, the prospectus showed.
Revenue rose to 33.9 billion yuan in fiscal 2017, sharply higher than the 12.99 billion yuan made in the prior year.
Meituan-Dianping’s other backers include venture capital firms Sequoia Capital and DST Global, Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC Pte Ltd and state-owned investment company Temasek Holdings (Private) Ltd, as well as the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.
Currently, Chief Executive Wang Xing owns 11.4 percent of the company, while Tencent owns 20.1 percent and Sequoia Capital 11.4 percent. Wang will remain controlling shareholder after the listing, the prospectus showed.
Being holders of Class A shares, Wang and two other co-founders, Mu Rongjun and Wang Huiwen, will be beneficiaries of a weighted voting rights structure, or dual-class shares, which give greater power to founding shareholders even with minority shareholding. Each Class A share has 10 votes while each Class B share has one vote.
Reporting by Adam Jourdan in Shanghai, Julie Zhu and Fiona Lau of IFR in Hong Kong, Aaron Saldanha in Bangalore, and Matthew Miller in BeijingEditing by Christopher Cushing and Edwina Gibbs
HONG KONG (Reuters) – Leshi Internet Information & Technology Corp Beijing has been formally asked whether its assets, which have fallen 98 percent over the past year, are at risk of turning negative and triggering a share trading halt and possible eventual delisting.
The Shenzhen Stock Exchange’s website on Wednesday showed the bourse had sent Leshi 33 questions, including about its assets. Under its rules, a year of negative net assets results in “suspension from being a listed company”, with two years ending in delisting.
Leshi, a video-streaming company that also makes internet-connected television sets, has seen revenue and profit dwindle since mid-2017 amid a funding crisis involving parent conglomerate LeEco and its founder Jia Yueting.
Net assets attributable to shareholders stood at 304 million yuan ($ 47.70 million) at the end of March, from 13.6 billion yuan a year earlier. It reported a net loss of 307 million yuan for January-March 2018 and a loss of 13.9 billion yuan for all of 2017.
The Shenzhen bourse also questioned Leshi about its operations, asset impairment and auditing. It asked the firm to detail its debts, explain slumping performance at subsidiaries, and disclose ownership relations with other companies as well as whether units conduct transactions with other group companies.
It also asked for an update on Jia and his related parties’ repayment of debt to Leshi, and whether there has been a change in the company’s decision-making personnel.
Leshi, which since July has been managed by second-largest shareholder Sunac China Holdings Ltd, in January said Jia and LeEco owed it 7.5 billion yuan. LeEco disputed the figure.
Jia, who remains Leshi’s largest shareholder, has been residing in the United States to work on his electric vehicle start-up company, though Chinese regulators have requested his return.
The Shenzhen exchange has also asked Leshi to explain how its salary expense rose in 2017 though headcount dropped.
It has requested a reply from Leshi by May 18.
A Leshi spokeswoman said the company had no immediate comment when contacted by Reuters.
Leshi’s shares were down 2.6 percent in morning trade in a flat broader market.
Reporting by Sijia Jiang and Hong Kong newsroom; Editing by Christopher Cushing
The United Kingdom’s Information Commissioner’s Office issued an order Friday requiring SCL Elections, the British affiliate of the controversial data mining firm Cambridge Analytica, to turn over all of the data it collected about a United States-based academic named David Carroll. Carroll filed a request for this data in January of 2017 under British data protection law, and received a response in March of that year that the Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham describes in the order as “wholly inadequate.” Now, Denham is requiring SCL to comply with the request, or face criminal charges.
The enforcement order comes just days after Cambridge Analytica, which worked for Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, announced that it would shut down and declare bankruptcy, along with its international affiliates, following revelations that the companies had harvested the data of up to 87 million Americans without their knowledge. The company’s former CEO Alexander Nix was also recorded this year on undercover video, appearing to brag about using tactics like bribery and entrapment on behalf of Cambridge Analytica’s clients.
Long before the name Cambridge Analytica became notorious in households across the country, though, Carroll, a professor of media design at Parsons School of Design in Manhattan, became suspicious about the way the company built its so-called psychographic profiles of US voters. These profiles, the company claimed, contained information not only about people’s demographics, but their personalities as well. Given that Cambridge Analytica originally spun out of a British company called SCL Group, Carroll filed a request under the UK’s Data Protection Act seeking access to all of the information the company had collected on him.
When SCL sent Carroll back his file, he was utterly unsatisfied. It ranked his interest in topics like immigration and gun control on a numeric scale, but offered no insight into what data was being used to generate those scores, or who actually used them. In mid-March, the same day Facebook announced it was suspending Cambridge Analytica and SCL Group from its platform as punishment for their transgressions, Carroll filed a request for disclosure in the UK in an attempt to force SCL to hand over the underlying data and answer a litany of questions about how they were being used.
Though that case is still ongoing, the ICO’s order does accomplish some of that work for Carroll. In the order, Denham describes the months-long battle between her office and SCL’s office over Carroll’s data request. According to the order, SCL repeatedly argued that as an US citizen, Carroll had no right to request his data under British laws, going so far as to write in one response that Carroll had no more data access rights in the UK “than a member of the Taliban sitting in a cave in the remotest corner of Afghanistan.”
Denham disagreed with that assessment. In March, after the undercover videos of Nix went public, the ICO stormed the company’s offices and seized its servers. Now, the regulator is giving SCL 30 days to provide descriptions of Carroll’s personal data, the purpose that data served, a list of all the recipients of that data, copies of the data itself, and the sources of that data.
“It’s quite exciting,” Carroll says of the order. “At the minimum, it’s the beginning of a victory and pointing toward winning.”
Still, he says, “It didn’t have to come to this. We’ve been trying for more than a year to do this out of court…It just kept escalating.”
SCL now has the opportunity to appeal the ICO’s order. Representatives for SCL didn’t immediately respond to WIRED’s request for comment.
Cambridge Analytica Exposed
Facebook’s recently introduced Messenger Kids app is getting an upgrade that lets parents set “off times” that blocks their children from using the service.
The new Sleep Mode, which debuted on Friday, also lets parents set different times for the app to shut off depending on the day of the week. During “off times,” the app is inaccessible, meaning children will be unable to send or receive messages or video calls, use the creative camera to take or send photos or receive notifications.
All Sleep Mode settings are controlled from the parent’s Facebook account and can be changed at any time.
Messenger Kids, which is aimed at children from 6 to 12, launched in December. While some parents have said that they appreciate having control over their children’s social media access, it’s still been met with controversy. Facebook itself recently faced a number of questions from Congress over how user data it collects is handled, especially when those users are minors.
So far, the word “unpredictable” seems to be one of the most-used descriptive choices when characterizing the events of 2018. And, broadly speaking, this appears to be an accurate term. Just a few months ago, if you were to suggest that the NASDAQ would be seeing “flash crash” activity while General Electric (NYSE:GE) was forming a long-term bottom in a multi-year decline, you might have been laughed out of the room. But this appears to be where we are, given the market’s positive reaction to GE’s April 20th announcements and the generalized lack of certainty in almost every aspect of this current financial environment. We have been saying that the stock declines below $ 13 per share would be the worst of it for holders of GE and we maintain this view in light of the company’s recent strategic moves. We are long GE with a bullish stance on the stock as a long-term hold for portfolio strategies.
Chart: CNN Money
Many analysts have argued that there are fundamental earnings problems within the company itself. But, since this is the most “mega” of the “mega-conglomerates” it is critical to assess the trends over at least three years before drawing any drastic conclusions. The earnings performance at GE has been erratic since 2015. But the revenue side of the equation has been much more stable over the same period.
This implies that GE’s problems are internal (fixable) rather than external (not fixable). This is good news, as long as the company is able to reduce operations and focus on the businesses. Currently, jet engines, power plants, and healthcare machines are GE’s biggest money-makers – and we would prefer to see more of the company’s attention (and resources) focused on streamlining these segments.
Earnings Trend Chart: Yahoo Finance
On the other side of the ledger, the power, oil, and gas markets are still presenting major challenges for General Electric, with revenue in those segments showing significant weakness in Q1. Operating losses in the power unit were lower by 38%, but the company has said that improvements have been made in service operation and cost execution for the segment. Operating losses in oil and gas fell by 30%. Other negatives were seen in the GE Capital unit, as it continues with its weaker trends.
For the first quarter, net losses came in at 14 cents per share (roughly in-line with last year’s performance for the period). On a continuing basis, net incomes came in at 4 cents per share (a solid increase from the in the 1 cent per share seen a year ago). On an adjusted basis, the company posted earnings of 16 cents per share (well above analyst estimates calling for 11 cents per share). Total revenues for the quarter gained by 7% (to $ 28.66 billion against expectations of $ 27.45 billion). In the accompanying statement, Flannery highlighted the fact that margins, industrial earnings, and free cash flows are all gaining on an annualized basis – and this is all good news for dividend investors.
What really matters here is the strategic direction, and the willingness within those in management to cut the fat and become a more modern company. There are still very real questions with respect to whether or not Flannery & Co. will be able to address those needs. But we do know that many of the correct moves have already been made. This includes the decisions to sell NBC, Universal Studios, and its real estate portfolio.
These were areas where the company could not reasonably hope to compete, and sacrifices needed to be made in order to preserve as much of the dividend as possible. Another example of a strategic move in the “right” direction was deal to sell GE’s appliance division for $ 5.6 billion. GE is still in recovery-mode, and this is the short-term outlook that should define the long-term outlook for quite some time.
GE Chart Analysis: Dividend-Investments.com
The key point here is that the word “recovery” implies gradual strengthening. In market terms, that equates to positive price movement, and we view GE as a long-term hold with an attractive yield offering for investors. GE cut industrial structural costs by $ 805 million, and they expect to beat prior goals to reduce costs by $ 2 billion for all of 2018. This is strong evidence of progress, and it has not yet been reflected in share prices.
Shorter-term, we have seen some upside and this is an indication that the market is liking what it sees (so far, at least). Since aviation, healthcare, and transportation divisions all experienced double-digit profit growth, these moves should be viewed as valid. Prior resistance under $ 14 should now be expected to act as price support and we believe that a long-term bottom has likely formed at $ 12.80.
What is your position on GE? We look forward to reading your comments. Stay tuned to Dividend Investors and receive our next alerts by clicking the “Follow” button at the top of the page.
Disclosure: I am/we are long GE.
I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.
OpenAI, a nonprofit research lab started by Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk released the salary details of it’s employees–and they are striking. The organization’s top researcher was paid more than $ 1.9 million in 2016, and another leading researcher who was only recruited in March was paid $ 800,000 that year, according to a recent article in the New York Times.
Salaries for top A.I. researchers have skyrocketed because there is high demand for the skills–thousands of companies want to work with the technology–and few people have them. So even researchers at a nonprofit can make big money.
It likely has more to do with competition than interest in the field itself, however. The Times points out that both of the researchers employed by OpenAI used to work at Google. At DeepMind, a Google-owned A.I. lab in London, $ 138 million was spent on the salaries of 400 employees, translating to $ 345,000 per employee including researchers and other staff, the Times reports.
OpenAI was started by Musk who recruited several engineers from Google and Facebook, two companies pushing the industry into artificial intelligence. People who work at major companies told the Times that while top names can expect compensation packages in the millions, even A.I. specialists with no industry experience can expect to make between $ 300,000 and $ 500,000 in salary and stock as demand for the skills continues to outstrip supply.
LONDON (Reuters) – London’s Transport Commissioner Mike Brown met Uber [UBER.UL]boss Dara Khosrowshahi in January, a freedom of information request revealed, as the Silicon Valley app fights to keep its cars on the streets of its most important European market.
Uber is battling a decision by the city’s transport regulator last September to strip it of its license after it was deemed unfit to run a taxi service, a ruling Uber is appealing.
Since then Uber has made a series of changes to its business model, responding to requests from regulators, including the introduction of 24/7 telephone support and the proactive reporting of serious incidents to London’s police.
Khosrowshahi flew to London in October for discussions with Brown after which Uber promised to make things right in the British capital city.
The pair had a second meeting in London in January, according to a response to a freedom of information request from Reuters.
“The Commissioner met with Dara Khosrowshahi on 3 October 2017 and 15 January 2018, both meetings took place in London,” Transport for London (TfL) said.
A TfL spokesman declined to provide an immediate comment on what was discussed at the meeting. Uber declined to comment.
Reuters had asked for a list of every meeting which had taken place between Uber and TfL’s private hire team and/or Brown since Sept. 22 but TfL declined to release such details.
“We are not obliged to supply the remainder of the information requested in relation to meetings as it … relates to information where disclosure would be likely to prejudice the exercise by any public authority of its functions ..,” it said.
A court hearing over Uber’s appeal is due this month before the substance of the appeal is heard in June.
Reporting by Costas Pitas; editing by Stephen Addison
NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Indian ride-hailing firm Ola, backed by Japan’s SoftBank Group will launch 10,000 electric three-wheelers in the country over the next 12 months as part of a broader electrification plan, the company said in a statement on Monday.
The move is part of a broader push by Ola to launch 1 million electric vehicles on its platform by 2021, it said in the statement, adding that it will work with various state governments, vehicle manufacturers and battery companies to meet its target.
Reporting by Aditi Shah; Editing by Swati Bhat
BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) – In China, a platform for risqué jokes is no laughing matter.
Toutiao, a hugely popular news and online content portal that is luring investors, was forced to pull its joke sharing “Neihan Duanzi” app, literally meaning “implied jokes”, after a watchdog said it included “vulgar and improper content”.
The move comes amid a broader clamp-down targeting online content from livestreams and blogs to mobile gaming, as the country’s leaders look to tighten their grip over a huge and diverse cultural scene online popular with China’s youth.
China’s State Administration of Radio and Television ordered the app to be taken down permanently in a post on Tuesday for low values that had “caused strong disgust amongst netizens”. It urged Toutiao to regulate similar content on its other sites.
Toutiao, one of the country’s fastest-growing tech start-ups which was valued at around $ 20 billion last year, has been in hot water with regulators lately. Earlier this week, its main mobile app was also removed from a number of Chinese smartphone app stores following reports of increased censorship.
In a public letter titled “Apology and Introspection”, Toutiao founder Zhang Yiming pledged to raise the number of in-house censors – referred to as content auditors – to 10,000 people from 6,000 currently to keep its content wholesome.
“This product walked the wrong path and had content in deviation of socialist core values,” he wrote in the letter posted on his official microblog account on Wednesday.
Reporting by Pei Li and Adam Jourdan; Editing by Michael Perry