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Wednesday, January 27, 2021
Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine will likely protect people from the deadly bug for up to two years, CEO Stéphane Bancel said Thursday. While the Massachusetts biotech firm needs to conduct more research to determine how long its shot wards off the coronavirus, Bancel said the “nightmare scenario” of the vaccine only working for a month or two is “out of the window.” “The antibody decay generated by the vaccine in humans goes down very slowly,” Bancel said at an event sponsored by Oddo BHF, a financial services group. “We believe there will be protection potentially for a couple of years.” The US Food and Drug Administration cleared Moderna’s vaccine for emergency use last month along with a similar shot developed by Pfizer and BioNTech. FDA officials acknowledged that Moderna’s 30,000-person clinical trial of the shot had not yet produced enough data to determine whether it would remain effective for longer than two months. Companies seeking emergency clearance for COVID-19 vaccines should continue their research “to assess long-term safety and efficacy,” the agency has said. Bancel also said Moderna was close to proving that its vaccine would work against new coronavirus variants that have emerged in Britain and South Africa. Both are
The 10-minute shows Quibi made for your smartphone could come back to life on your TV. Roku is reportedly negotiating a deal to take over the library of short-form streaming content Quibi produced before it collapsed after just six months. The deal would give Roku — which makes a popular device for streaming video through TV sets — a slate of exclusive programs for its own free-to-watch app called the Roku Channel, which currently broadcasts other companies’ movies and shows along with ads, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday. The terms would give Roku rights to Quibi shows that feature big names such as Chrissy Teigen, Anna Kendrick and Liam Hemsworth and include titles like “Murder House Flip,” “Most Dangerous Game” and “Dummy,” according to the paper. While the companies are in advanced discussions, the financial terms of the deal are unclear and the talks could still fall apart, the Journal says. Roku’s stock price jumped about 2.5 percent on the news to $340.50 in premarket trading as of 8:49 a.m. Monday. A deal with Roku could allow Quibi to save some face after its failed bet on short-form video content. Founded by media mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg, Quibi raised more
THANKS FOR contacting me for an update on the international corporate-tax landscape. For global tech firms like yours, the headlines make worrying reading. A fragile transatlantic truce has been shattered. France has resumed collecting the digital-services tax it introduced in 2019, targeting tech firms (and catching others in the net). The outgoing Trump administration has lined up retaliatory tariffs on $1.3bn of posh French handbags, cosmetics and more, ready to pull the trigger. If America acts, the European Union may strike back against American products of equivalent value. America complains that national tech taxes unfairly target its digital giants. It had better get used to them. Such levies, typically 2-3% of local sales, are spreading as governments try to claw back taxing rights lost in a dysfunctional global system. Among those joining France in implementing or mulling a digital tax are Brazil, Britain, India and Italy. An EU-wide version has been mooted. You don’t need me to tell you that this is just one front on which big tech is being assailed, alongside alleged anticompetitive behaviour, the handling of user data and the policing of speech. Employees are growing restless, too. I imagine you
Ticketmaster has agreed to cough up $10 million to avoid prosecution on charges that it repeatedly accessed a smaller rival’s computer systems in order to “choke off” the competition. Ticketmaster will escape prosecution on a litany of federal raps — ranging from wire fraud to computer intrusion — for three years. It also agreed to implement controls to better protect against employee hacking, according to the deal finalized Wednesday before Brooklyn federal court Judge Margo Brodie. Prosecutors said the alleged spying occurred between 2013 and 2015 when a Ticketmaster executive offered his boss access to his old company’s computer systems. That employee, who sources say is Stephen Mead, joined Ticketmaster’s Artist’s Services division in Aug. 2013 after working for two years at UK-based startup Songkick, whose assets were later purchased by Ticketmaster’s parent company, Live Nation Entertainment. The feds say that Mead, who could not be immediately reached for comment, shared his old Songkick passwords with his new boss at Ticketmaster, Zeeshan Zaidi, and others at the company. “Screen grab the hell out of the system,” he allegedly told Zaidi and another exec in 2014.   Zaidi pleaded guilty in October 2019 and is awaiting sentencing on charges of conspiring
Impulse purchases — gum, mints and snack bars tossed into a shopping basket as one snakes through the supermarket checkout line — are falling as more people get groceries delivered or pick them up curbside. US sales of mints are down 30 percent year-on-year at stores tracked by market researcher Nielsen in the 11 weeks ending on May 16, while sales of gum are down 28 percent. The pandemic has prompted many people to switch to online grocery shopping rather than visiting stores, where snacks and other so-called “impulse purchases” are placed strategically near checkout lines. “Sales in our gum and mint category have also been significantly impacted by social distancing protocols,” Hershey, maker of Ice Breakers mints, said in a filing on Wednesday. Mondelez International last month forecast “material declines” in its gum business, which includes Trident and Stride, in the second quarter, describing that category as “the most impulse in nature.” Gum, which is mostly consumed when people go out, is often bought in convenience stores, many of which are closed, it added. Consumers are not, however, abandoning oral care amid social distancing measures. Toothpaste and mouth wash sales are up 12 percent and 13 percent, respectively, for the 11-week period, according to Nielsen. In general, packaged food makers, including Nestle, Kraft Heinz and General Mills have seen a huge boost since the pandemic forced the closure of restaurants, bars and hotels, leading people to eat more at home. The shaky economy in the US could be another factor in the decline in sales of the “to-go” snack items, because they’re not seen by consumers as necessities, according to Amy Goldsmith, a food marketing consultant in Los Angeles. “With the economy, snacking is probably going to take a hit, if it hasn’t already,” she said. “If you’re not on-the-go, you can make yourself a sandwich or have leftovers from last night, so you’re not wasting.” Performance nutrition bars, which many companies pitch as healthy snacks, are down 19 percent in the 11 weeks ending on May 16, according to Nielsen. Cereal and granola bars, sometimes marketed to replace breakfast, fared better, up 3 percent. Daniel Lubetzky, founder and executive chairman of KIND Snacks, said there remained a lot of uncertainty. “It’s very difficult to plan,” he told Reuters. “People aren’t working out — they’re not on the go as much,” Jon Nudi, General Mills’ head of North America retail, told Reuters on Wednesday, noting that diet-focused bars with low calories or sugar were particularly affected. General Mills, owner of Nature Valley and Larabar snack bars, is the biggest player in a global snack bar market worth $16.7 billion at retail, according to market researcher Euromonitor International. “People, at least for the time-being, have put off dieting … to embrace more indulgent things,” Nudi said, noting his company’s Betty Crocker dessert mixes saw sales jump more than 100 percent in the early days of the pandemic. Nudi said snack bar sales should improve as lockdown rules ease, and noted that recessions usually cause people to seek out value brands, where most of its bars play. Share this:
HABITS CAN be slow to form. But when they do, they can become entrenched. When workers headed home during the first lockdown of March 2020, they probably thought the break would last for a month or so. Had that been true, old routines would soon have resumed. It is now ten months since many employees have made a regular commute into the office. New routines have taken root and those will be much harder to break. Some of these new habits are bad, and they may stem as much from managers as from workers. Asana, a maker of office software, commissioned a survey of more than 13,000 knowledge workers (defined as those who mostly work at a computer) across eight countries. It found that, on average in 2020, employees were working 455 hours a year more than their contracted requirement, or around two hours a day. That overtime had almost doubled relative to 2019. And much of the excess may not have been necessary; workers complained about the amount of time they spent in meetings and video-calls, or in responding to messages. Perhaps this forced communication is the result of manager anxiety. Fearful that remote
Parler went offline early Monday after Amazon booted the controversial social network from its servers — and it might not be back soon. Parler’s official website was inaccessible Monday morning after Amazon Web Services said it would stop supporting the fledgling company’s operations because of the violent content that proliferated on the platform. Apple and Google also pulled Parler’s app from their respective stores this weekend over similar concerns. Users who still had the app downloaded on their smartphones were unable to load pages on Monday, according to The Verge. Parler CEO John Matze initially said the site would be offline for “up to a week” as the company searched for a new web host. But he gave a less rosy outlook Monday, saying the tech titans’ crackdown was discouraging other companies from working with Parler. “We will likely be down longer than expected,” Matze reportedly wrote on his Parler profile. “This is not due to software restrictions — we have our software and everyone’s data ready to go. Rather it’s that Amazon’s, Google’s and Apple’s statements to the press about dropping our access has caused most of our other vendors to drop their support for us as well. And
The GameStop investor pushing for changes at the video-game retailer has netted himself a more than $300 million gain in less than six months. Chewy.com founder Ryan Cohen has snapped up some 9 million shares in the Texas-based chain since last August for an average price of about $8.40 apiece, according to Business Insider. The value of Cohen’s 13 percent stake has exploded by more than 440 percent thanks to a staggering rally in GameStop’s stock price — fueled partly by last week’s announcement that Cohen had joined the company’s board. The shares surged another 28 percent on Tuesday to an intraday peak of $45.52, a price that made Cohen’s stake worth nearly $410 million. That gives him a paper profit of about $334 million on his estimated investment of roughly $76 million. Cohen amassed the bulk of his GameStop stake last August but added another 2.5 million shares in mid-December, Securities and Exchange Commission filings show. Cohen’s investment firm, RC Ventures, appeared to shore up Wall Street’s confidence in GameStop last week by striking a deal with the retailer to add him and two other former Chewy executives to the company’s board. The shakeup came on the heels of
Wall Street’s main indexes hit record highs in early trading on Monday as President Donald Trump’s signing of a long-awaited $2.3 trillion pandemic aid bill bolstered bets on an economic recovery, helping financial and energy stocks. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 83.4 points, or 0.28 percent, at the open to 30,283.23. The S&P 500 rose 20.0 points, or 0.54 percent to 3,723.03, while the Nasdaq Composite rose 109.9 points, or 0.86 percent, to 12,914.641 at the opening bell.
Tech tycoon Jack Dorsey is fighting a federal proposal that would force one of his companies to more carefully track cryptocurrency transactions. The Twitter co-founder slammed the US Financial Crimes Enforcement Network’s proposed rules in a lengthy open letter on behalf of Square, the digital payments giant that he leads as CEO. The regulations would require Square and other financial institutions to collect the name and physical address of anyone who sends or receives more than $3,000 worth of cryptocurrency in a single transaction. The companies would have to report that information to the feds for transactions larger than $10,000. Dorsey argues the rules would create an onerous requirement for financial firms to collect personal information for people who haven’t signed up to use its service. That could give consumers an incentive to use their own cryptocurrency wallets instead of relying on established companies like Square, he says. “By adding hurdles that push more transactions away from regulated entities like Square into non-custodial wallets and foreign jurisdictions, FinCEN will actually have less visibility into the universe of cryptocurrency transactions than it has today,” Dorsey wrote in the Monday letter. Dorsey noted that there are not such strict record-keeping requirements for
Instacart will lay off its only unionized workers as part of a plan to ax nearly 1,900 employees stationed in supermarkets across the country. The grocery delivery firm employs several thousand shoppers who pack grocery orders at stores for pickup or delivery. That’s unlike the roughly 500,000 independent contractors who pick up items from various locations and deliver them to customers. Instacart revealed plans this week to lay off some 1,877 of those in-store shoppers as part of a shift in how grocery retailers use its services. The affected staffers work at stores that will start using their own employees to fulfill pickup orders placed through Instacart, the company says. Among them are 10 shoppers at a Mariano’s grocery store in Skokie, Illinois, who became the only Instacart employees to join a union last year. Instacart says the cuts had nothing to do with the fact that the workers are unionized. But the move outraged the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which represents the Mariano’s staffers and has pushed for stronger protections for grocery workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Instacart firing the only unionized workers at the company and destroying the jobs of nearly 2,000 dedicated frontline workers
Tyson Foods said Wednesday it will pay $221.5 million to settle litigation by three groups of plaintiffs that accused it of illegally conspiring to inflate chicken prices. The settlements with so-called “end-user” consumers, commercial purchasers, and purchasers that bought chickens directly from Tyson require approval by a federal judge in Chicago. Tyson did not admit liability in agreeing to settle, and said the payments will be reflected in its first-quarter financial statements. The Springdale, Arkansas-based company still faces price-fixing claims by some large restaurant chains, supermarket operators and food distributors such as Chick-fil-A, Kroger, Walmart and Sysco. Tyson’s settlements resolve all class claims against the company in litigation that began in 2016 over alleged collusion in the $65 billion chicken industry. Restaurants, supermarkets, distributors and consumers accused chicken producers of having conspired since 2008 to inflate chicken prices, through tactics such as restricting production and sharing nonpublic data about supply and demand. Pilgrim’s Pride, owned mainly by Brazil’s JBS SA, agreed on Jan. 11 to pay $75 million to settle claims by direct purchasers of chickens. Perdue Farms and Sanderson Farms are among the other defendants in the litigation. A few smaller producers have settled related claims. The US Department of Justice last year