Tag Archives: U.S.

Baidu earnings beat forecasts, eyes U.S. listing for video unit iQiyi
February 14, 2018 6:00 am|Comments (0)

SHANGHAI/BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese internet search firm Baidu Inc posted a forecast-beating quarterly revenue increase and unveiled a U.S. listing plan for its Netflix-like video platform iQiyi as it looks to rev up new drivers for growth.

Baidu posted on Tuesday fourth quarter revenue of 23.6 billion yuan ($ 3.72 billion), up 29 percent against the same period a year ago and topping analysts’ forecasts of 23.05 billion yuan and the company’s own guidance.

The strong results are a major fillip for Baidu as it looks to ramp up spending on riskier gambles in autonomous driving and fend off cashed-up rivals such as Tencent Holdings Ltd and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd in online video content.

A U.S. listing would bring extra financial muscle for its popular iQiyi platform as it ramps up spending. Baidu said the size of any IPO was not yet set, but that it would likely remain iQiyi’s controlling shareholder. iQiyi could be worth $ 8 billion or more, according to Reuters Breakingviews.

“An IPO will bolster iQiyi’s position in the market and give it more cash to buy content or make content on their own,” said Ni Shuang, Beijing-based Pacific Securities analyst, adding it would help Baidu keep pace with rivals in the space.

The strong quarterly showing – driven by the core search and news feed businesses – is also key to generating cash flow “to fund our new AI businesses”, Baidu chief executive Robin Li told a post-earnings conference call.

The company’s shares rose nearly 5 percent in extended trading after the results, overturning a nearly 4 percent fall since the start of the year.

Herman Yu, the firm’s chief financial officer, said content costs rose 70 percent last year to 13.4 bln yuan as iQiyi acquired content. These costs would rise at a similar pace this year.

The firm will also raise R&D spending in areas like its Apollo open-source software platform for autonomous driving, which executives said would eventually become a “very material and significant revenue source for the company”.

“Having said that, a key caveat is that this market will take time to build,” chief operating officer Qi Lu told the conference call.

Strong results in its more traditional businesses were central to Baidu’s success, with revenue from its core online marketing – including its search platform and news feed – jumping 26.3 percent to 20.4 billion yuan.

The results will help soothe Baidu investors as the company looks to turn around its fortunes after a series of missteps sparked steep losses in 2016 and hit its advertising revenue from internet searches.

Baidu, part of China’s trinity of tech giants along with Alibaba and Tencent, posted net income of 4.16 billion yuan in the quarter ended Dec. 31, up from 4.13 billion yuan a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items, the company earned 14.9 yuan per ADS, above forecasts.

Baidu pegged its guidance for first-quarter revenue growth, between 19.86 billion yuan and 20.97 billion yuan, a 25-32 percent increase against the same period of 2017. That compared with analysts’ average estimate of 21.18 billion yuan.

Reporting by Adam Jourdan in SHANGHAI, Pei Li in BEIJING and Arjun Panchadar in BENGALURU; Editing by Eric Meijer and Muralikumar Anantharaman

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Canada's Trudeau to meet Amazon CEO Bezos during U.S. visit
February 7, 2018 6:24 pm|Comments (0)

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will meet Amazon.com (AMZN.O) Chief Executive Jeff Bezos on Thursday during a tour of three major U.S. cities this week to bolster support for the North American Free Trade Agreement, which is being renegotiated.

Amazon is in the process of identifying a location to build a massive new second headquarters and has shortlisted 20 cities, including Toronto, the only non-U.S. city to make the list.

Trudeau will meet Bezos in San Francisco, the government said on Wednesday.

During his trip, Trudeau will also meet with other technology executives, including eBay Inc (EBAY.O) chief executive officer Devin Wenig.

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos gives some closing comments after opening the new Amazon Spheres with some help from Alexa during an opening event at Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle, Washington, U.S., January 29, 2018. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson

“The point of those meetings is to portray Canada as a good place to invest … and to explore opportunities related to job growth with those prominent business leaders who may be interested in expanding their operations in Canada,” said spokesman Cameron Ahmad.

Ahmad declined to comment specifically on the meeting with Bezos.

Amazon’s decision on where to locate its second headquarters is expected this year. The tech giant has promised to invest $ 5 billion and create 50,000 jobs in the city it chooses. The 19 U.S. cities on the list include Chicago, Boston and New York.

Trudeau’s trip also comes as Canada and Mexico strive to address U.S. demands for NAFTA reform, with the fate of the trade pact uncertain. Last week, Trudeau reiterated a tough stance, saying Canada could walk away if he was not happy with talks to modernize the agreement.

Trudeau is due to give a speech in Chicago on Wednesday to sell the merits of bilateral trade.

Reporting by Leah Schnurr and David Ljunggren; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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U.S. announces arrests in $530 million cyber identity fraud scheme
February 7, 2018 6:15 pm|Comments (0)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department on Wednesday announced indictments of 36 people in a global internet identity theft scheme that caused more than $ 530 million in losses to consumers, businesses and financial institutions.

International law enforcement authorities arrested 13 defendants from the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Kosovo and Serbia.

“Today’s indictment and arrests mark one of the largest cyberfraud enterprise prosecutions ever undertaken by the Department of Justice,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Cronan.

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Writing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by David Alexander

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Wall Street Breakfast: U.S. Aims For 3% Growth Hat Trick
January 26, 2018 6:05 pm|Comments (0)

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AT&T to launch 5G in U.S. by late 2018
January 4, 2018 6:00 am|Comments (0)

(Reuters) – AT&T Inc, the No. 2 U.S. wireless carrier, said it would launch fifth-generation (5G) mobile network service in a dozen cities in the United States by late 2018, after international wireless standards for the network were finalised last month.

The 5G technology is expected to provide higher speed and response times than 4G networks used today.

Reporting by Rama Venkat Raman in Bengaluru; Editing by Amrutha Gayathri

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Spotify makes confidential filing for U.S. IPO: source
January 3, 2018 6:00 pm|Comments (0)

NEW YORK/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Music streaming service Spotify has filed confidentially for an initial public offering with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and is moving ahead with a direct listing in the first half of the year, a source familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

If Spotify, with was valued at as much as $ 19 billion last year, goes ahead with its plans, it would make it the first major company to carry out a direct listing, an unconventional way to pursue an IPO without raising new capital.

It also mainly eliminates the need for a Wall Street bank or broker to underwrite an IPO along with many associated fees and could change the way companies approach selling shares to the public.

The confidential filing was initially reported by news outlet Axios.

Spotify is the biggest global music streaming company and counts Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) as its main rivals. Reuters has previously reported Spotify was aiming to file for an IPO in late 2017 and list with the New York Stock Exchange early this year.

Spotify could not be reached for comment.

Spotify was sued by Wixen Music Publishing Inc last week for allegedly using thousands of songs, including those of Tom Petty, Neil Young and The Doors, without a license and compensation to the music publisher. It was unclear what the lawsuit’s effect would be on its IPO plans.

Wixen, an exclusive licensee of songs such as “Free Fallin’” by Tom Petty, “Light My Fire” by the Doors, “(Girl We Got a) Good Thing” by Weezer and works of singers such as Stevie Nicks, is seeking damages worth at least $ 1.6 billion along with injunctive relief.

Spotify still intends to proceed with a U.S. direct listing in the first half of 2018, despite the lawsuit, according to a source familiar with the matter. It has filed for the listing confidentially with the SEC, with Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Allen & Co helping arrange it, the source added.

Reporting by Greg Roumeliotis in New York and Liana B. Baker in San Francisco; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli

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U.S. experts resign from monitoring China’s ZTE Corp: sources
December 22, 2017 12:56 pm|Comments (0)

(Reuters) – Two consulting firms hired to help the United States police ZTE Corp’s compliance with trade sanctions have resigned, according to four people familiar with the matter.

China’s second-largest telecommunications company agreed earlier this year to pay a nearly $ 900 million penalty – the largest in a U.S. export controls case – and open its books to a U.S. monitor as part of a guilty plea for illegally shipping goods to Iran and North Korea. To read the Reuters report that exposed the practice, click goo.gl/rvNwr6

Guidepost Solutions and Larkin Trade International were hired in June by the U.S. monitor in charge of the oversight regime – Texas lawyer James Stanton – to help assess the company’s compliance with U.S. export control and sanctions laws, and reduce its risk of future misconduct, said the people, who wished to remain unnamed because the matter is not public.

In late August, the two firms parted ways with the monitor after clashing over his approach to the job, the people said. Although Reuters was unable to determine the exact reasons for the departure , Stanton initially restricted the consultants’ access to ZTE documents and officials, hindering their ability to help monitor the company, one of the people said.

Stanton did not respond to multiple phone calls and emails seeking comment. 

Tina Larkin, the chief financial officer of Larkin International, declined to comment, as did a spokeswoman for Guidepost Solutions.

A lawyer for ZTE declined to discuss the departure of the consulting firms, or the company’s relationship with the monitor.

“We’re looking to be cooperative and have a successful monitorship,” said Matthew Bell, the head of compliance for ZTE in the United States.

The problems with efforts to monitor ZTE, unreported to date, are rooted in how a U.S. judge set up the policing program in March, according to interviews with more than half a dozen people familiar with the matter and a review of court documents related to the plea deal between ZTE and the U.S. government. 

U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade presided over the ZTE sanctions case because the Justice Department filed the plea agreement between the United States and ZTE in his court in Texas, where the company’s U.S. headquarters are located.

Before signing off on the plea deal, Kinkeade took the unusual step of having the agreement rewritten to put Stanton, a civil and personal injury lawyer, in charge of monitoring ZTE’s compliance with U.S. export controls, several people familiar with the matter said. 

The appointment was made despite the Dallas-based attorney’s lack of experience in U.S. trade controls. The order naming him was sealed, leaving additional details about the judge’s decision unclear.  

Generally, the Department of Justice chooses an independent monitor in a corporate criminal case from candidates proposed by the company, which is how the deal was originally set.

But ZTE and the Justice Department felt compelled to agree to Kinkeade’s choice and the changes to the monitorship agreement, sources said, because the plea had already been negotiated and filed in the judge’s court and a temporary license allowing ZTE to obtain U.S. made goods – crucial for the company’s output – was about to expire.   

While courts have been weighing in more often on monitors, John Hanson, president of the Virginia-based International Association of Independent Corporate Monitors, said it was extremely rare for a judge to modify a major part of a plea agreement between a company and the government to select his own monitor.

Kinkeade and his courtroom deputy did not respond to inquiries about the monitorship and requests for comment.

A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice, which negotiated the guilty plea with the company, declined to comment. A spokesman for the Commerce Department referred questions to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Texas, which also declined to comment.

Stanton has to issue three reports, the first of which is due in January, on ZTE’s compliance with U.S. trade rules. The reports will help determine whether the company is liable for an additional fine of $ 300 million or, worse, should lose its access to the U.S. market.

Both Washington and Beijing have a lot riding on the reports and the success of the monitorship, which is set to last three years. The agreement allows the company continued access to the U.S. market, which provides 25 to 30 percent of the components used in its networking gear and smart phones. It is also part of a wider push by the United States to get China’s cooperation in combating nuclear proliferation and marks the first time that a Chinese company has submitted to such scrutiny.

Kevin Wolf, a former Commerce Department official who worked on the ZTE case, said the first few months of a monitorship do not always determine success or failure.  

“With any monitorship involving a complex situation, inevitably there will be start-up problems but in my experience the issues work out in the long run,” said Wolf, who is now a lawyer in Washington D.C.

“MY MENTOR, ED KINKEADE”

Kinkeade has known Stanton for over a decade. Both graduates of Baylor law school in Waco, Texas, Stanton dedicated a 2016 book, titled “What Judges Want” to Kinkeade, who he described as his mentor.

“He guided me with grace and judgment as I became a lawyer, a husband, a father and a judge,” Stanton wrote of Kinkeade in his book.  Stanton was appointed as a Texas state civil judge in 2009 and lost the election the following year.

In the modified ZTE plea agreement, references to required qualifications and experience were removed, and a clause about professionals assisting the monitor was added, according to a review of the original and modified documents.   

To compare the plea agreements, click tmsnrt.rs/2BV5Duq

Kinkeade also gave his own court a key role in overseeing the monitorship, including replacing the Justice Department as the arbiter in any dispute, and the monitor’s description was changed in one paragraph from “independent third-party” to ”judicial adjunct.” In an unusual move, the judge used a civil rule to make the monitor a judicial adjunct, despite it being a criminal case.

“Anyone who looked at this scratched his or her head,” said Washington lawyer Jacob Frenkel, who specializes in government investigations at Dickinson Wright and has represented monitors. “How do you appoint someone without requisite qualifications to the monitorship?”

While monitors are not always subject experts, they generally are not appointed in major cases without some relevant experience, Frenkel added.

With the original consultants out, Stanton turned to Ernst & Young in August to advise him, two people familiar with the monitorship, said.

Since Ernst & Young has been ZTE’s auditor since 2004, some ethics experts including University of Virginia law professor Brandon Garrett said the hiring raised conflict of interest concerns about how independent the firm would be in assessing the company’s adherence to U.S. trade rules.

A spokeswoman for Ernst & Young declined to comment, as did a lawyer for ZTE.

Editing by Carmel Crimmins and Edward Tobin

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U.S. to blame North Korea for 'WannaCry' cyber attack: sources
December 19, 2017 12:50 am|Comments (0)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration is expected on Tuesday to publicly blame North Korea for unleashing a cyber attack that crippled hospitals, banks and other companies across the globe earlier this year, said two sources familiar with the matter.

The accusation that the North Korean government was behind the so-called WannaCry attack comes as worries mount about North Korea’s hacking capabilities and its nuclear weapons program.

The U.S. government has assessed with a “very high level of confidence” that a hacking entity known as Lazarus Group, which works on behalf of the North Korean government, carried out the WannaCry attack, a senior administration official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details not yet public.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The public condemnation will not include any indictments or name specific individuals, the official said. But the shaming is designed to hold North Korea accountable for its actions and “erode and undercut their ability to launch attacks,” the official said.

North Korean government representatives could not be immediately reached for comment. The country has repeatedly denied responsibility for WannaCry and called other allegations about cyber attacks a smear campaign.

Lazarus Group is widely believed by security researchers and U.S. officials to have been responsible for the 2014 hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment, which destroyed files, leaked corporate communications online and led to the departure of several top studio executives.

Sony also suspended release of a comedy film that portrayed North Korea’s ruler, Kim Jong Un, because of threats issued by the hackers.

Then-U.S. President Barack Obama condemned Pyongyang for the Sony hack, vowing at the time to “respond proportionally.” No indictments have been brought in the Sony case.

Reporting by Dustin Volz; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Peter Cooney

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U.S. entrepreneur bets on new Silicon Valley in west France
December 6, 2017 12:28 pm|Comments (0)

PARIS (Reuters) – When Rob Spiro left San Francisco to settle in France with his wife and kid in 2016, the family chose a mid-sized city on France’s west coast over Paris’ burgeoning start-up scene.

Rob Spiro, American entrepreneur and Director of Imagination Machine, poses in Nantes, France, November 30, 2017. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

At 32, the Yale-educated entrepreneur and former Google product manager had already co-founded two start-ups, including one sold to Google for $ 50 million in 2010.

In Nantes, France’s sixth largest city, known for its mediaeval castle and whimsical mechanical creatures, he sees the potential for a smaller version of America’s Silicon Valley, home to tech giants Apple, Facebook and Google.

Quality of life, not money, is the key, he says.

“What everybody in Nantes sees and experiences is that there are thousands of people who move here from Paris,” he said at his start-up accelerator, Imagination Machine.

“They’re looking for a better quality of life, but they want to remain in a city that is active and dynamic.”

His “incubator”, financially backed by the region’s biggest companies, opened its doors in June to support the launch of selected start-ups with seed funding and mentoring.

Nantes itself is part of the promotional picture. The city was ranked second after Bordeaux among cities where Parisian executives would wish to move, according to an August poll for recruiting website Cadremploi.fr.

“Here’s the strategy to become the next Silicon Valley: become a place where people, especially young people, want to live,” Spiro said.

With venture capital investments reaching new records in Europe, the competition to lure new tech companies goes beyond the three usual metropolises – London, Paris, Berlin – and now includes smaller cities that bet on their own mix of schools, research centers, investors and culture to lure hotshots.

RECORD INVESTMENTS

Gregoire Monconduit, Atelier Rosemmod CEO, poses in Nantes, France, November 30, 2017. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

Venture capital firms invested 8.7 billion euros ($ 10.3 billion) in European tech companies in the first half of 2017, up 21 percent from the year before, according to Dealroom. Such investments jumped 18 percent to 1.3 billion over the same period in France, putting it third after Britain and Germany.

The trend is now gaining further momentum, driven by high expectations for business-friendly policies under new President Emmanuel Macron and the uncertainties caused by the British vote to leave the European Union.

Nantes-based iAdvize has benefited from the boom. The company, which offers a marketing platform connecting customers to experts, closed a 32-million-euro fundraising in October.

It is one of the prime examples of Nantes’ success in the tech field, along with Akeneo, which makes software for retailers, and Lengow, which does the same for e-commerce sites.

Slideshow (2 Images)

French venture capital fund Alven has shares in all three.

Part of Spiro’s plan for boosting Nantes’ profile is inviting former U.S. colleagues to come and check it out. Julian Nachtigal, who worked as head of Spiro’s second start-up, signed up for the “French tech visa” available since January.

“I never imagined it would be so easy to get a four-year residential visa to the EU,” Nachtigal said, comparing Europe favorably to the U.S. approach under President Donald Trump.

“There’s a growing trend of people leaving Silicon Valley to live elsewhere,” he added, citing the high cost of living.

Within France, too, a similar trend can be seen. Gregoire Monconduit, co-founder of Atelier Rosemood, an online maker of personalized birth announcements and wedding invitations, chose to move to Nantes years ago from Paris.

“We hesitated between three cities: Lyon, Aix and Nantes,” he said. “We thought we’d be out of Paris for three years, it’s been six years already and it’s the best decision we made.”

A long road lies ahead, however, if Nantes is to catch up with Paris, where a 34,000-square-metre megacampus for start-ups, called Station F, opened in June.

The Parisian region drew three quarters of all venture capital investments in the first half of this year, according to accounting firm EY. The region that includes Nantes got less than 3 percent of the total.

Editing by Luke Baker and Gareth Jones

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Canadian charged in Yahoo hacking case to plead guilty in U.S.
November 25, 2017 12:08 am|Comments (0)

(Reuters) – A Canadian accused by the United States of helping Russian intelligence agents break into email accounts as part of a massive 2014 breach of Yahoo accounts is expected to plead guilty next week, according to court records.

A photo illustration shows a Yahoo logo on a smartphone in front of a displayed cyber code and keyboard on December 15, 2016. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

Karim Baratov, who earlier this year waived his right to fight a U.S. request for his extradition from Canada, is scheduled to appear in federal court in San Francisco on Tuesday for the plea hearing, according to a court calendar seen on Friday.

Baratov, a 22-year-old Canadian citizen born in Kazakhstan, was arrested in Canada in March at the request of U.S. prosecutors. He later waived his right to fight a request for his extradition to the United States.

Andrew Mancilla, Baratov’s lawyer, declined to comment. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Francisco did not respond to a request for comment.

The U.S. Justice Department announced charges in March against Baratov and three other men, including two officers in Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), for their roles in the 2014 theft of 500 million Yahoo accounts.

Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N), the largest U.S. wireless operator, acquired most of Yahoo Inc’s assets in June.

Prosecutors said that the FSB officers, Dmitry Dokuchaev and Igor Sushchin, directed and paid hackers to obtain information and used Alexsey Belan, who is among the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation’s most-wanted cyber criminals, to breach Yahoo.

When the FSB officers learned that a target had a non-Yahoo webmail account, including through information obtained from the Yahoo hack, they worked with Baratov, who was who paid to break into at least 80 email accounts, prosecutors said.

The individuals associated with the accounts they sought to access included Russian officials, the chief executive of a metals company and a prominent banker, according to the indictment.

At least 50 of the accounts Baratov targeted were hosted by Google, the indictment said.

Tuesday’s proceedings before U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria are scheduled as a “change of plea” hearing.

Baratov, the only person arrested to date in the case, previously in August pleaded not guilty to conspiring to commit computer fraud, conspiring to commit access device fraud, conspiring to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Tom Brown

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