News Archive


Vodafone says in Indian merger talks with Idea Cellular


LONDON Vodafone (VOD.L) said on Monday it was in talks to merge its Indian operations with rival Idea Cellular (IDEA.NS) in an all-share deal that would create a new market leader better able to cope with the brutal price war convulsing the industry.

India’s three leading mobile operators, Bharti Airtel BRTI.NX, Vodafone and Idea, have all been hammered by the arrival of Jio Infocomm, a new operator owned by the billionaire Mukesh Ambani which has shaken up the market by offering free voice and data to customers.

Vodafone confirmed growing media speculation that it was in talks with Idea’s parent, conglomerate Aditya Birla, over a deal that would result in Idea issuing new shares to Vodafone.

Vodafone’s stock jumped 3 percent after it said a deal would enable it to deconsolidate the asset, or take it off its books, and receive a dividend from the combined group.

Bharti and other local rivals, including Vodafone’s India unit, have slashed prepaid tariffs and unveiled cheaper data plans to compete against Jio.

But analysts warn that the strategy will extract a cost, with Vodafone forced into a $5 billion writedown of its India business last year because of competition in the country.

Vodafone has been looking to spin off its Indian business but said on Nov. 15 it would wait for market conditions to stabilize before listing Vodafone India’s shares.

(Reporting by Kate Holton in London and Sankalp Phartiyal in Mumbai; editing by William Schomberg and Louise Heavens)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/2e-AlzN3Rg4/us-vodafone-m-a-idea-cellular-idUSKBN15E0MB

Oil extends declines on rising U.S. output


TOKYO Oil prices extended declines on Monday, dragged down by signs of growing production in the United States that could partly offset output cuts by OPEC and other producers.

Uncertainty over the outlook for U.S policy also broadly weighed on financial markets after President Donald Trump introduced immigration curbs that sparked criticism at home and abroad.

But oil trading was quiet with several Asian countries, including China, on holiday for the Lunar New Year.

London Brent crude for March delivery had dropped 28 cents to $55.24 a barrel by 0657 GMT, after settling down 72 cents on Friday.

NYMEX crude for March delivery was down 23 cents at $52.90 a barrel.

The U.S. weekly oil and gas rig count from Baker Hughes showed that U.S. drillers added 15 oil rigs last week, bringing the total count to 566, the most since November 2015. [RIG/U]

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other producers, including Russia, agreed to cut output by almost 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) in the first half of 2017 to relieve a two-year supply overhang.

“We are in wait-and-see mode, I suspect at the moment. Oil has reached a fair value equilibrium level given the current supply and demand outlook,” said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney.

“Until we get anything to really disrupt that, we may not see too much change,” he said, adding the market may draw some comfort from official OPEC figures for January output.

Spooner said that, as with other financial markets, Trump’s ban on entry to the U.S. for refugees and citizens from seven Muslim countries had contributed to a “risk-off” attitude. [MKTS/GLOB]

U.S. oil production has been rising, with the International Energy Agency forecasting total U.S. output growth of 320,000 bpd in 2017 to an average of 12.8 million bpd.

“The rise in U.S. output should not be unexpected,” ANZ bank said in a note.

“However, we expect the reductions being made by OPEC will far exceed any rise in the U.S. and quickly reduce the global inventory that has been built up over the past two years,” it added.

Hedge funds and money managers boosted bullish wagers on U.S. crude oil to the highest level since mid-2014, Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) data showed on Friday, as the output cuts agreed by the world’s top producers began to eat into a global glut.

(Additional reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Joseph Radford)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/qcDZOeK2tTc/us-global-oil-idUSKBN15E00Q

Asian shares, dollar retreat on Trump travel ban, U.S. GDP


SINGAPORE Asian share markets and Wall Street stock futures fell on Monday after immigration curbs introduced by U.S. President Donald Trump heightened concerns about the impact of the new administration’s policies on trade and the economy.

European markets were also poised for a sluggish start, with financial spreadbetter CMC Markets expecting Germany’s DAX to start the day 0.3 percent lower, Britain’s FTSE 100 to open down 0.4 percent, and France’s CAC 40 to fall 0.5 percent.

The U.S. president on Friday put a 120-day hold on allowing refugees into the country, an indefinite ban on refugees from Syria and a 90-day bar on citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

The executive order led to huge protests in many U.S. cities and a raft of legal challenges amid confusion over its implementation. It has also raised worries about the potentially destabilizing impact of Trump’s policies.

“Trump always stated these were policies he would implement,” said James Woods, global investment analyst at Rivkin Securities in Sydney. “Quite a lot of it was brushed off as ‘campaign rhetoric’ but he is following through.

“This renews concerns about a trade war with China that would significantly affect both Asian and the global economy,” Woods said.

“The biggest threat to markets at the moment is if Trump continues down the path of protectionism without focusing on economic policies.”

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan lost 0.4 percent in holiday-thinned trade.

Australian shares closed down 0.9 percent, while New Zealand ended the day 0.7 percent lower.

Japan’s Nikkei was down 0.5 percent for the day as demand for the safe-haven yen weighed on exporters.

Pointing to a weaker opening on Wall Street, SP Nasdaq and Dow Jones futures all pulled back around 0.2 percent.

Trump’s immigration orders have created legal uncertainty domestically and drawn criticism from abroad.

Several countries, including long-standing American allies, criticized Trump’s directive as discriminatory and divisive.

U.S. judges in at least five states blocked federal authorities from enforcing Trump’s executive order, but lawyers representing people affected said some authorities were unwilling on Sunday to follow the judges’ rulings.

Separately, a shooting in Canada on Sunday added to wider geopolitical concerns. Six people were killed when a gunmen opened fire at a Quebec City mosque during evening prayers, in what Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called a “terrorist attack on Muslims.”

U.S. 10-year Treasury yields were last at 2.4752 percent, after falling to as low as 2.462 percent earlier and down from Friday’s close of 2.481 percent.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of trade-weighted peers, dipped about 0.2 percent to 100.34 in Asian trade, after touching a session low of 100.17.

The dollar also weakened 0.4 percent to 114.6 yen on Monday, pulling away from a one-week high hit Friday.

“If price action is any guide it would appear that (Trump’s) new executive order regarding immigration signed over the weekend appears to have gone down less well with financial markets as early weakness in the U.S. dollar and Asia stocks suggest that markets fear some significant economic blowback,” Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in London, wrote in a note.

Adding to pressure on markets, data on Friday showed U.S. economic growth slowed more than expected in the fourth quarter, with gross domestic product rising at a 1.9 percent annual rate, below the 2.2 percent rise expected by economists and the 3.5 percent growth pace logged in the third quarter.

Earnings disappointments also weighed, led by Chevron, whose quarterly profit missed expectations, and Starbucks, which trimmed its full-year revenue forecast.

But the impact across Asia may be delayed, with China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam shut on Monday for the Lunar New Year holidays.

While U.S. policies and data are causing some nervousness, investors in Asia will focus on the Bank of Japan’s policy meeting on Tuesday as well as manufacturing and services activity surveys out of China on Wednesday.

Markets will also be watching U.S. inflation data later on Monday, manufacturing data and the Federal Reserve meeting’s outcome on Thursday, and Friday’s non-farm payrolls figure.

In commodities markets, oil started the week on a negative note, extending declines on signs of growing output in the U.S. that looks set to offset supply cuts by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and other producers.

U.S. crude retreated 0.45 percent to $52.93 a barrel, adding to Friday’s 1.1 percent slide.

Global benchmark Brent crude also dropped 0.45 percent to $55.27, after losing 1.3 percent on Friday.

Gold shone amid the pullback in risk markets, but pared gains. Spot gold added 0.1 percent to $1,192.66 an ounce.

(Reporting by Nichola Saminather; Additional reporting by Devika Krishna Kumar and Megan Davies; Editing by Kim Coghill and Sam Holmes)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/G1QGYXfKYyM/us-global-markets-idUSKBN15D17N

Toyota relinquishes top global sales spot to VW in 2016


TOKYO Toyota Motor Corp’s (7203.T) four-year run as the world’s top-selling automaker has ended as the Japanese company said on Monday its global sales for 2016 fell short of Volkswagen AG’s (VOWG_p.DE).

Toyota said global sales across its Toyota, Lexus, Daihatsu minicar and Hino Motors Ltd (7205.T) truck brands rose 0.2 percent to 10.18 million last year from 2015. This was less than the 10.3 million sold by Volkswagen, which posted record high global sales despite its diesel emissions scandal.

Toyota’s overall global sales were supported by a 5.5 percent rise in domestic sales for the Toyota brand following new launches for models including the Prius, while overseas sales slipped 0.6 percent as demand eased in North America, in and around the Middle East and Africa.

Toyota, which had been the world’s top-selling automaker on an annual basis since 2012, estimates global sales to increase to around 10.23 million vehicles in 2017.

(Reporting by Naomi Tajitsu; Editing by Amrutha Gayathri)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/wncfCxPm_Z0/us-toyota-sales-idUSKBN15E0F4

Starbucks CEO Schultz plans to hire 10,000 refugees after Trump ban


NEW YORK Starbucks Corp Chief Executive Officer Howard Schultz said on Sunday that the company planned to hire 10,000 refugees over five years in 75 countries, two days after U.S. President Donald Trump’s executive order banning refugees from certain countries.

Trump on Friday put a four-month hold on allowing refugees into the United States and temporarily barred travelers from Syria and six other Muslim-majority countries, saying the moves would help protect Americans from terrorist attacks.

The order sparked widespread international criticism, outrage from civil rights activists and legal challenges.

Starbucks in a letter from Schultz told employees it would do everything possible to support affected workers. (bit.ly/2kIFjLE)

The hiring efforts announced on Sunday would start in the United States by initially focusing on individuals who have served with U.S. troops as interpreters and support personnel in the various countries where the military has asked for such support, Schultz said.

Schultz has been outspoken on various issues and has put Starbucks in the national spotlight, asking customers not to bring guns into stores and urging conversations on race relations.

Schultz said on Sunday that if the Affordable Care Act is repealed and employees lose healthcare coverage, they would be able to return to health insurance through Starbucks.

Trump and a Republican-controlled legislature are seeking to undo much of the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.

Schultz will step down as CEO in a few months to focus on new high-end coffee shops, handing the top job to Chief Operating Officer Kevin Johnson, a long-time technology executive. He will become executive chairman in April.

Schultz also affirmed the company’s commitment to trade with Mexico, another subject that has been front and center of Trump’s campaign.

(Reporting by Devika Krishna Kumar in New York; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/1Kl0DGtKTbQ/us-usa-trump-immigration-starbucks-idUSKBN15E05X

Trump travel ban stirs faint corporate outcry beyond Silicon Valley


NEW YORK/BOSTON Most U.S. corporate bosses have stayed silent on President Donald Trump’s immigration curbs, underscoring the sensitivities around opposing policies that could provoke a backlash from the White House.

While the leaders of Apple Inc APPL.O, Google (GOOGL.O) and Facebook Inc (FB.O) emailed their staff to denounce the suspension of the U.S. refugee program and the halting of arrivals from seven Muslim-majority countries, many of their counterparts in other industries either declined comment or responded with company statements reiterating their commitment to diversity.

The difference in response shows the pressure large swathes of corporate America faces to avoid tussling publicly with the new administration.

Companies such as aircraft maker Boeing Co (BA.N) and automakers Ford Motor Co (F.N) and General Motors Co (GM.N) have already had run-ins with Trump over other issues, and they have much at stake in policy decisions that the administration will make on tax, trade and regulatory matters.

Before office, Trump attacked Boeing over the cost of the future Air Force One program. Boeing Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg met with him earlier this month and said he and Trump had made progress on the Air Force One issue and the potential sale of fighter aircraft.

Representatives from Boeing, General Motors and Ford declined to comment on Trump’s immigration curbs.

Wall Street, meanwhile, is hoping the new administration will ease some of the regulations introduced in the wake of the 2007-08 financial crisis and adopt a lighter touch in their enforcement.

Industries including banking, healthcare and auto manufacturing “see themselves on the cusp of a new era of deregulation, and they do not want to do anything that would offend the new emperor,” said Cornelius Hurley, director of Boston University’s Center for Finance, Law Policy.

Trump had targeted both the tech industry and Wall Street during his presidential campaign, but once elected, he tapped former investment bankers, hedge fund managers and private equity investors to join his administration.

With friends in high places, Wall Street may have less reason to be as outspoken about the new restrictions.

“Bankers have direct access to this White House,” said Erik Gordon, who teaches at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. “They don’t have to protest publicly.”

Representatives of Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N), Citigroup Inc (C.N), Bank of America Corp (BAC.N) and Morgan Stanley (MS.N) declined to comment on Trump’s immigration order.

Wells Fargo Co (WFC.N) said in a statement that it was reviewing the executive order and its implications for staff and its business.

JPMorgan Chase Co’s (JPM.N) Operating Committee, which includes CEO Jamie Dimon, sent a note to staff saying it was reaching out to all employees affected and noted that the country was, “strengthened by the rich diversity of the world around us.”

To be sure, some CEOs were more outspoken.

Nike Inc (NKE.N) CEO Mark Parker said the company did not support the executive order.

“Nike believes in a world where everyone celebrates the power of diversity,” he said in a statement. “Those values are being threatened by the recent executive order in the U.S. banning refugees, as well as visitors, from seven Muslim-majority countries.”

Brent Saunders, CEO of U.S. drugmaker Allergan Plc (AGN.N), tweeted: “Oppose any policy that puts limitations on our ability to attract the best diverse talent.”

But many boardrooms kept quiet. Representatives for some energy companies, including Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N), for example, declined to comment.

GOOD CORPORATE CITIZENS

As the idea of corporate social responsibility has taken root, so companies have increasingly championed a range of causes, including gay rights, diverse workplaces and a global view.

Many in corporate America are still trying to work out how to deal with a new government that takes a more conservative stance on some social issues and has an anti-globalization platform.

Those non-tech companies that did issue statements over the weekend tended to emphasize their role as good corporate citizens rather than openly criticize Trump’s policies.

Starbucks Corp (SBUX.O) CEO Howard Schultz has put the coffee chain in the national spotlight before, asking customers not to bring guns into stores and urging conversations on race relations.

In a letter to employees, he said Starbucks was developing plans to hire 10,000 refugees over five years across dozens of countries, but he did not directly criticize Trump’s order.

“I am hearing the alarm you all are sounding that the civility and human rights we have all taken for granted for so long are under attack,” he wrote.

In his statement, General Electric Co (GE.N) CEO Jeff Immelt told staff that the company would engage with the U.S. government.

“We will continue to make our voice heard with the new administration and Congress, and reiterate the importance of this issue to GE and to the business community overall,” he wrote.

One of the most immediate ways for corporate bosses to communicate with Trump about the immigration order will be the first meeting of his advisory panel of business leaders next week.

Of the 19 leaders on that panel, only two, Elon Musk, who founded Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA.O) and SpaceX, and Travis Kalanick, CEO of Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL], have spoken out against Trump’s immigration curbs.

A spokeswoman for Stephen Schwarzman, the billionaire chief executive of Blackstone Group LP (BX.N) whom Trump tasked to set up and chair the panel, declined to comment.

(Additional reporting by Olivia Oran, Dan Freed, Lauren Hirsch, Lawrence Delevingne and Gui Qing Koh in New York, Joe White in Detroit and David Shepardson in Washington; Writing by Carmel Crimmins; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/5ZVqi01mgE8/us-usa-trump-immigration-companies-idUSKBN15E0CJ

Back to zero: Companies use 1970s budget tool to cut costs as they hunt for growth


BOSTON The number of U.S. companies using a budgeting tool made famous in the 1970s by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is surging as they turn their spending habits upside down to boost profits and to re-invest in their businesses.

The upswing in zero-based budgeting (ZBB) signals that a broader cross-section of U.S. companies anticipate turbulence in their revenue growth. They face more pressure on profits, too, as wages and interest rates increase, and a stronger dollar makes their products more expensive overseas.

In consumer staples, where sales growth is often capped in the low-to-mid single digits, Campbell Soup Co (CPB.N), Kellogg Co (K.N), and Oreo cookie maker Mondelez International Ltd (MDLZ.O) have already rolled out ZBB programs that promise billions of dollars in savings.

Other industries, including finance, energy and manufacturing, are now following suit. Use of ZBB in 2017 is expected to increase dramatically in the United States and around the globe, according to consulting experts. Bain Company reported last year in a survey of 406 North American companies that 38 percent of that group would use ZBB, up from just 10 percent in 2014.

“ZBB has taken on a life of its own,” said Greg Portell, a partner at consulting firm A.T. Kearney.

A ZBB approach requires corporate managers to justify each line item of spending in their budgets, or even build their budgets from scratch. That is a departure from the typical process of using the previous year’s budget as a starting point and adjusting it based on revenue and inflation projections, for example.

It often cracks down on the size of a company’s real estate footprint, corporate travel, terms of international assignments, redundant technology and outside consultants. Employees get cut, too.

But there are risks. One is that companies focus too keenly on restraining spending and not on reinvestment that promotes new products and revenue growth.

“You continuously have to ask what are strategic costs and how can we invest behind the things that drive the highest volume,” said Jason Heinrich, a partner in Bain Company’s Chicago office.

FEELING THREATENED

ZBB first gained widespread attention in the late 1970s, when Carter, as president, said he would apply the budgeting principles to federal spending. It never fully got off the ground, however, and Ronald Reagan abandoned it when he became president in 1981.

Its recent resurgence is due in part to Brazilian buyout firm 3G Capital, which used ZBB when it combined H.J. Heinz with Kraft Foods in 2015.

The combined Kraft Heinz (KHC.O) now has the best profit margins among its peers with an estimated year-over-year gross margin expansion of 258 basis points, better than twice the average among rivals, according to Morgan Stanley. Kraft Heinz’s stock sports a 2.5-point price-to-earnings-multiple premium over its peers.

3G’s success is one reason the highest adoption rate of ZBB is in the consumer staples sector, which has banked on cost cutting to offset weak sales growth. In the current fourth quarter reporting season, the consumer staples sector is on track to report profit of 6.3 percent off revenue growth of just 3.2 percent, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Contrast that with the consumer discretionary sector where sales are seen rising 5 percent but profit just 1.1 percent.

Greg Kuczynski, a consumer staples analyst at asset manager Janus Capital, said ZBB is also being used by some to head off agitation from activist shareholders or even takeovers, like the Kraft Heinz deal.

“So many of them feel threatened,” he said. “They’re desperately implementing ZBB packages.”

Now the approach is spreading to energy, finance, health care and manufacturing. Cheniere Energy Inc (LNG.A), Huntington Bancshares Inc (HBAN.O), Baxter International Inc (BAX.N) and Ford Motor Co (F.N) are some of the latest devotees.

“If a company uses zero-based budgeting, I have more confidence it can take out cost faster than peers who do not,” said Marc Scott, who helps run the $1 billion American Century All-Cap Growth Fund (TWGTX.O).

TOUGHER THAN IT LOOKS

Not everyone is sold on it. It can be an uncomfortable adjustment for managers and companies have to be careful not to alienate customers and business partners, according to analysts.

The biggest risk is that companies concentrate only on cutting costs, and don’t put some of that money back to work behind businesses with the potential for growth. One unintended consequence is cutting a product’s marketing budget only to see a rival boost spending for their product and grab market share.

“It’s not so simple as some of our other competitors out there make you believe, which has been roughly translated into, ‘Let’s cut all the costs as long as we can get away with it to show you better margins for a short period of time. But I can’t promise you any growth along the way,'” Unilever (ULVR.L) Chief Executive Paul Polman told investors in November.

Even Kraft Heinz has had trouble generating consistent growth. Its organic net sales, which excludes the impact of currency fluctuations and other items, declined by 1 percent in the three-month period that ended Oct 2.

Still, the cost cutting has caught the attention of investors, particularly when companies scrap product lines that add little value.

American Century’s Scott said ZBB was a factor when he evaluated kidney dialysis provider Baxter International, which has used ZBB principles to cancel several programs that added little value.

He began building a position in late 2015 when Baxter traded below $35 a share, according to Thomson Reuters data. The fund now owns about 540,000 shares and the stock trades around $46.

“It was just another feather in their cap,” Scott said about Baxter’s use of ZBB. “It’s not a huge growth play, but we expect their profit margins to nearly double in a couple of years.”

(Reporting by Tim McLaughlin; Editing by Dan Burns and Paul Thomasch)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/rBm6Vd_IQg8/us-usa-companies-budget-idUSKBN15E0CF

Trust banks plan to sue Toshiba over 2015 accounting scandal


TOKYO Japanese trust banks are preparing to sue Toshiba Corp over its 2015 accounting scandal, a fresh headache for the conglomerate as it scrambles to offset a separate imminent multi-billion dollar writedown.

The news follows an announcement by the struggling conglomerate on Friday that it will sell a minority stake in its memory chip business to raise funds and that its overseas nuclear division – the cause of its current woes – was now under review.

Chairman Shigenori Shiga is ready to step down to take responsibility for the upcoming charge – estimated at around $6 billion, local media have also reported.

The announcements on Friday failed to clear up much of the uncertainty surrounding Toshiba and its shares lost 4 percent in Monday morning trade.

“No explanations were offered as to the ultimate scale of the impairment losses to be recorded in the business or how the company intends to control risk going forward,” Takeshi Tanaka, an analyst at Mizuho Securities, wrote in a note to clients.

Mitsubishi UFJ Trust and Banking Corp said on Monday it is preparing to seek 1 billion yen ($8.7 million) in damages on behalf of its client pension funds after Toshiba’s shares slid in the wake of the accounting scandal two years ago. The bank is a unit of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group.

Two other trust banks, Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank Ltd and Mizuho Trust Banking Co are also preparing similar suits, said sources with direct knowledge of the matter, declining to be identified as they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Representatives for the two banks declined to comment.

In October, Toshiba said 45 overseas institutional investors filed a suit seeking 16.7 billion yen in damages since it first admitted to reporting inflated profits going back to 2008. That is in addition to suits from 15 groups and individuals in Japan that total 15.3 billion yen.

($1 = 114.5400 yen)

(Reporting by Makiko Yamazaki and Taiga Uranaka; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/G4vmduKEjds/us-toshiba-accounting-idUSKBN15E03A

Silicon Valley puts money and muscle into fighting Trump immigrant curbs


SAN FRANCISCO Silicon Valley took the lead over the weekend in corporate resistance to President Donald Trump’s clampdown on immigration, financing legal opposition, criticizing the plan, as well as helping employees ensnared by his executive order.

In an industry that has long depended on immigrants and celebrated their contributions – as well as championing liberal causes such as gay rights – there was little initial consensus on exactly how to respond to Trump’s move on Friday.

But, while most in the tech industry stopped short of directly criticizing the new Republican president, they went much further than their counterparts in other sectors, who were mostly silent over the weekend. Most of the major U.S. banks and auto companies, for example, declined to comment in response to Reuters inquiries.

Trump ordered a temporary ban on travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries and a 120-day halt to refugee resettlement. The action triggered a global backlash, and sowed confusion and anger after immigrants, refugees and visitors were kept off flights and left stranded in airports.

Bigger companies such as Apple Inc (AAPL.O), Google (GOOGL.O) and Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) offered legal aid to employees affected by the order, according to letters sent to staff. Several Silicon Valley executives donated to legal efforts to support immigrants facing the ban.

And Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk and Uber head Travis Kalanick both said on Twitter that they would take industry concerns about immigration to Trump’s business advisory council, where they serve.

Kalanick has faced opposition on social media for agreeing to be part of the advisory group. Kalanick in a Facebook post on Sunday called the immigration ban “wrong and unjust” and said that Uber would create a $3 million fund to help drivers with immigration issues.

 Among those affected by the ban was Khash Sajadi, the British-Iranian chief executive of San Francisco-based tech company Cloud 66, who was stuck in London. Like many tech workers, he holds an H1B visa, which enables foreigners with special expertise to work for U.S. companies.

Sajadi said he hoped big tech companies such as Google and Facebook would take legal action to protect affected employees. That could help set a precedent for people in similar situations – but at smaller companies.  

“Ultimately, I think them simply speaking up is not going to move the needle with people” who are not wealthy and do not live on the East or West Coasts, he said.

‘TECH AGAINST TRUMP’ PROTEST

The response from tech companies has been “as forceful as it possibly can be,” said Eric Talley, a corporate law professor at Columbia Law School.

“One of the difficult aspects of reaction to the Trump administration in its first couple of weeks is trying to balance the interest of expressing legitimate concern … against the potential cost of being out too far ahead of everyone else,” he said.

The tech industry also has other issues where it may find itself opposed to Trump, including trade policy and cyber security.

The president of Mountain View, California-based startup incubator Y Combinator, Sam Altman, wrote a widely read blog post urging tech leaders to band together against the immigration order. He said he has spoken with a variety of people about organizing but remains unsure about the best course of action.

“The honest answer is we don’t know yet,” he said. “We are talking with legal groups and tech groups, but this is so unprecedented that I don’t think anyone has a manual.”

At Lyft, co-founders John Zimmer and Logan Green pledged on the company’s blog to donate a million dollars over the next four years to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which won a temporary stay of part of Trump’s executive order on Saturday night.

Slack collaboration service co-founder Stewart Butterfield and Union Square Ventures partners Albert Wenger and Fred Wilson promised to match contributions to the ACLU.

Michael Dearing, founder of venture capital firm Harrison Metal, started an effort called Project ELLIS, short for Entrepreneurs’ Liberty Link in Silicon Valley, to help startups and smaller tech companies with immigration issues. “ELLIS” is a also a reference to New York Harbor’s Ellis Island, where millions of immigrants arrived.

In less than a day, the group has handled two cases, he said.

Dearing said the idea was to “get people in touch quickly with the … resources they would have access to if they were in a Google or an Apple or a Microsoft.”

Dave McClure, the founding partner of 500 Startups and an outspoken critic of Trump, said his venture capital firm will soon open its first fund in the Middle East and will shift its attention to supporting entrepreneurs in their native countries, if bringing them to the United States proves impossible.

“Investing in entrepreneurs in other countries is probably one of the best things we can do to promote international awareness and understanding,” he said.

Rank-and-file employees were already prodding executives to go further over the weekend.

Shortly after learning of Trump’s order, Brad Taylor, a 37-year-old engineer for web analytics firm Optimizely, began organizing “Tech Against Trump,” a protest scheduled to take place on March 14.

In addition to holding a rally in Palo Alto, California, organizers of the event were urging tech workers at companies that have remained silent on Trump to walk out of their offices.

Taylor said he was heartened by tech leaders’ statements over the weekend but wants to see the industry go further.

“The purpose of this is not to be against tech, but to urge them to be on the right side of history,” he said.

(Writing by Jonathan Weber and Peter Henderson; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Mary Milliken)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/xeK0j1eBk3A/us-usa-trump-immigration-siliconvalley-idUSKBN15E02V