News Archive

Prime hike gives Amazon warchest for fight over postal costs

(Reuters) – Inc’s (AMZN.O) 20 percent hike in the cost of Prime membership should deliver more than $1 billion in extra revenue this year and cover any “rational” hike in United States Postal Service delivery fees, Wall Street analysts said on Friday.

President Donald Trump has been laying into the Seattle-based online shopping firm in recent weeks for what he says is a deal with publicly-owned USPS which effectively lumps much of the cost of thousands of daily deliveries onto U.S. taxpayers.

Trump has said that if USPS raised parcel rates, Amazon would face $2.6 billion in extra cost, although equity analysts who follow billionaire Jeff Bezos’ company estimate a much lower number and say the deal may actually be keeping USPS afloat.

Several said that Thursday’s move by the company to raise Prime fees to $119 a year from $99 starting June 16 would not faze many of Prime’s estimated 60-65 million U.S. members.

  • First brokerages predict Amazon will top $1 trillion in value

“The incremental $20 membership fee could result in an incremental $1.2 billion to $1.3 billion of revenue which should more than offset any rational USPS price increase,” Deutsche Bank analyst Lloyd Walmsley said.

Shares of the company were up 7.4 percent to a record high of $1630 in premarket trading on Friday as investors lauded another blockbuster quarter that delivered profits of $1.6 billion and revenue of $51 billion.

FILE PHOTO:’s logo is seen at Amazon Japan’s office building in Tokyo, Japan, August 8, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo

“Amazon delivered a humongous quarter, with faster growth and higher profitability than Street projections and followed up with a one-two punch by announcing it was raising annual Prime membership fee,” Deutsche Bank Lloyd Walmsley said.

The 20 percent hike was the second time Amazon had increased its Prime subscription fee since the launch of the service in 2005.

The service, crucial in driving purchases of both goods and digital media on Amazon, gives members free delivery, access to movies and original series through Prime Video, on-demand music streaming and free books on Prime Reading.

That appears to put it on a collision course with Netflix and Apple in the streaming market – but analysts say Bezos is more interested in how the appeal of the service props up his retail empire.

Amazon disclosed last week it now has more than 100 million Amazon Prime members globally and commentators said it would likely raise prices outside of the United States as well.

“So far there is no word on international price hikes but with the expansion of shipping services and content worldwide, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to see them,” Canaccord Genuity analyst Michael Graham said.

Writing by Patrick Graham; editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty

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Nasdaq asks regulators to let companies decide where they trade

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Nasdaq Inc (NDAQ.O) has asked regulators to allow it to give small companies a choice of trading on a single U.S. stock exchange, rather than all 13 of them, in an effort to make it easier for buyers and sellers of the stocks to find each other.

FILE PHOTO: The Nasdaq logo is displayed at the Nasdaq Market site in New York September 2, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

Currently, regardless of where a stock is listed, it can be traded across exchanges. While that fragmented model works well for high-volume stocks, promoting competition and price discovery, it does not have the same effect on less liquid stocks, which become harder to trade, Nasdaq said.

“Nasdaq believes that consolidating displayed liquidity for smaller companies onto a single trading venue would help those companies and their investors by facilitating capital formation and improving investors’ ability to source liquidity,” it said in an April 25 U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

In October, the U.S. Treasury Department endorsed the idea of letting companies decide how many stock exchanges their shares trade on as part of a broader regulatory review.

But the president of Nasdaq rival Cboe Global Markets Inc (CBOE.O) cautioned last week at an SEC roundtable that giving exchanges a monopoly on trading certain stocks could lead to higher market data and exchange connectivity fees, due to the absence of competition.

The move could also create a single point of failure. Currently, if a glitch at one stock exchange prevents trading in certain stocks, those stocks can still trade on other exchanges, as happened on the NYSE on Wednesday in stocks including Inc (AMZN.O) and Google parent Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O).

On the positive side, the change would potentially reduce complexity and increase market stability efficiency, while making it easier for brokers to ensure they are getting the best prices for their clients.

Under Nasdaq’s proposal, the new rule would apply to companies with an initial market capitalization of less than $700 million, or with a continued market capitalization of $2 billion or less; have an initial average daily trading volume of 100,000 shares or less; and have a bid price greater than $1.

There are 789 Nasdaq-listed companies with less than $700 million in market capitalization that would qualify based on trading volume and share price, Nasdaq said.

The move would make it easier for the exchange to offer new financial incentives or market models, such as periodic auctions, for those names, which could encourage more trading, it added.

Reporting by John McCrank; Editing by Matthew Lewis

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Exclusive: U.S. considers tightening grip on China ties to corporate America

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The U.S. government may start scrutinizing informal partnerships between American and Chinese companies in the field of artificial intelligence, threatening practices that have long been considered garden variety development work for technology companies, sources familiar with the discussions said.

So far, U.S. government reviews for national security and other concerns have been limited to investment deals and corporate takeovers. This possible new expansion of the mandate – which would serve as a stop-gap measure until Congress imposes tighter restrictions on Chinese investments – is being pushed by members of Congress, and those in U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration who worry about theft of intellectual property and technology transfer to China, according to four people familiar with the matter.

Artificial intelligence, in which machines imitate intelligent human behavior, is a particular area of interest because of the technology’s potential for military usage, they said. Other areas of interest for such new oversight include semiconductors and autonomous vehicles, they added.

These considerations are in early stages, so it remains unclear if they will move forward, and which informal corporate relationships this new initiative would scrutinize.

Any broad effort to sever relationships between Chinese and American tech companies – even temporarily – could have dramatic effects across the industry. Major American technology companies, including Advanced Micro Devices Inc, Qualcomm Inc, Nvidia Corp and IBM, have activities in China ranging from research labs to training initiatives, often in collaboration with Chinese companies and institutions who are major customers.

Top talent in areas including artificial intelligence and chip design also flows freely among companies and universities in both countries.

The nature of informal business relationships varies widely.

For example, when U.S. chipmaker Nvidia Corp – the leader in AI hardware – unveiled a new graphics processing unit that powers data centers, video games and cryptocurrency mining last year, it gave away samples to 30 artificial intelligence scientists, including three who work with China’s government, according to Nvidia.

For a company like Nvidia, which gets a fifth of its business from China, the giveaway was business as usual. It has several arrangements to train local scientists and develop technologies there that rely on its chips. Offering early access helps Nvidia tailor products so it can sell more.

The U.S. government could nix this sort of cooperation through an executive order from Trump by invoking the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. Such a move would unleash sweeping powers to stop or review informal corporate partnerships between a U.S. and Chinese company, any Chinese investment in a U.S. technology company or the Chinese purchases of real estate near sensitive U.S. military sites, the sources said.

“I don’t see any alternative to having a stronger (regulatory) regime because the end result is, without it, the Chinese companies are going to get stronger,” said one of the sources, who is advising U.S. lawmakers on efforts to revise and toughen U.S. foreign investment rules. “They are going to challenge our companies in 10 or 15 years.”

James Lewis, a former Foreign Service officer with the U.S. Departments of State who is now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said if the emergency act was invoked, U.S. government officials including those in the Treasury Department could use it “to catch anything they want” that currently fall outside the scope of the regulatory regime.A White House official said that they do not comment on speculation about internal administration policy discussions, but added “we are concerned about Made in China 2025, particularly relevant in this case is its targeting of industries like AI.”

Made in China 2025 is an industrial plan outlining China’s ambition to become a market leader in 10 key sectors including semiconductors, robotics, drugs and devices and smart green cars.

Last month, the White House outlined new import tariffs that were largely directed at China for what Trump described as “intellectual property theft.” That prompted Chinese President Xi Jinping’s government to retaliate with sanctions against the United States.

FILE PHOTO: The People’s Republic of China flag and the U.S. Stars and Stripes fly on a lamp post along Pennsylvania Avenue near the U.S. Capitol during Chinese President Hu Jintao’s state visit, in Washington, D.C.,U.S., January 18, 2011. REUTERS/Hyungwon Kang/File Photo

(For a graphic, click

Those moves followed proposed legislation that would toughen foreign investment rules overseen by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), by giving the committee – made up of representatives from various U.S. government agencies – purview over joint ventures that involve “critical technology”.

Republican and Democratic lawmakers who put forth the proposal in November said changes are aimed at China.

Whereas an overhauled CFIUS would likely review deals relevant to national security and involve foreign ownership, informal partnerships are likely to be regulated by revised export controls when they come into effect, sources said.

To be sure, sources said the Trump administration could change its mind about invoking the emergency act. They added that some within the Treasury Department are also lukewarm about invoking the emergency act as they preferred to focus on passing the revised rules for CFIUS.


Chinese and U.S. companies are widely believed among analysts to be locked in a two-way race to become the world’s leader in AI. While U.S. tech giants such as Alphabet Inc’s Google are in the lead, Chinese firms like Internet services provider Baidu Inc have made significant strides, according to advisory firm Eurasia Group.

As for U.S. chipmakers, few are as synonymous with the technology as Nvidia, one of the world’s top makers of the highly complex chips that power AI machines.

There is no evidence that Nvidia’s activities represent a threat to national security by, for instance, offering access to trade secrets such as how to make a graphics processing unit. Nvidia also said it does not have joint ventures in China.

In a statement, Nvidia said its collaborations in China – including training Chinese scientists and giving Chinese companies such as telecom provider Huawei Technologies Co Ltd early access to some of its latest technology – are only intended to get feedback on the chips it sells there.

“We are extremely protective of our proprietary technology and know-how,” Nvidia said. “We don’t give any company, anywhere in the world, the core differentiating technology.”

Qualcomm did not respond to requests for a comment, while Advanced Micro Devices and IBM declined to comment.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping shake hands after making joint statements at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, November 9, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj/File Photo

Nvidia is far from being the only U.S. tech giant, much less the only chipmaker, that lends expertise to China. But it is clearly in the sights of the Chinese. When the country’s Ministry of Science and Technology solicited pitches for research projects last year, one of the listed objectives was to create a chip 20 times faster than Nvidia’s

“Five years ago, this might not be a concern,” said Lewis, “But it’s a concern now because of the political and technological context.”

Additional reporting by Diane Bartz in WASHINGTON; Editing by Lauren LaCapra and Edward Tobin

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Refining margins hurt Exxon, Chevron quarterly results

HOUSTON (Reuters) – Weak refining margins hurt Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) and Chevron Corp’s (CVX.N) first-quarter profit, cutting into overall gains from rising oil prices.

FILE PHOTO: A Chevron gas station sign is shown in Cardiff, California, January 25, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

It was the second consecutive quarter that refining weakness, especially outside the United States, clipped improved profit.

Strength in the Chevron division that pumps oil and gas helped overcome the refining weakness and beat Wall Street profit expectations for the quarter.

Exxon, though, has struggled in recent quarters to boost oil and gas output, and its overall first-quarterly results badly lagged expectations.

Shares of Exxon fell 3.7 percent to $77.88 in afternoon trading while Chevron rose 1.9 percent to $126.64. Exxon is off about 6.6 percent in the last two years while Chevron has soared 24.5 percent.

“While the fourth quarter was a disaster for both, Chevron got back on track” in the first quarter, said Brian Youngberg, an oil industry analyst at Edward Jones. “Exxon’s still trying to get back on the road.”

Both Exxon and Chevron have consistently touted the benefits of owning businesses that produce and refine oil, saying they better balance earnings as commodity prices rise and fall.

U.S. oil prices CLc1 fell slightly to $67.98 per barrel. [O/R]

An airplane comes in for a landing above an Exxon sign at a gas station in the Chicago suburb of Norridge, Illinois, U.S., October 27, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young

Rising oil prices typically harm refiners by squeezing their margins on products, but they also boost profit at divisions that produce crude.

The strategy worked for Chevron during the quarter, helping the company top Wall Street expectations. At Exxon, weak refining results were coupled with lower oil production, fueling concern about Chief Executive Officer Darren Woods’ turnaround plan for the world’s largest publicly traded oil producer.

Refining margins in Europe BRT-ROT-REF, for instance, fell more than 14 percent in the quarter and were on track for a 38 percent drop in the second period, the biggest quarterly decline since the fourth quarter of 2015.

Profit fell 12 percent in Exxon’s downstream refining unit, and 14 percent in its chemical unit.

At Chevron, earnings in refining and chemical operations dropped 21 percent to $728 million.

Both companies have sought to bolster refining operations. Reuters reported earlier this month that they have asked U.S. regulators for exemptions to U.S. biofuels rules that are typically only given to small companies in financial distress.


Both companies said they are accelerating shale drilling in the Permian Basin of west Texas and New Mexico, the largest U.S. oilfield, helping to lift the nation’s output so far this year to more than 10 million barrels per day, a new record.

(To view a graphic on Exxon’s quarterly results, click here:

Exxon’s U.S. production swung to a $429 million profit from a year-earlier loss. But Exxon has continued to invest heavily in projects that will not produce oil or gas for years. In contrast, Chevron is benefiting from past investments that have boosted output, especially in liquefied natural gas.

Exxon also has struggled in the past 16 months to unwind some of the biggest bets taken by former CEO Rex Tillerson, who left to become U.S. secretary of state in early 2017 before being fired by President Donald Trump last month.

“The Exxon strategy right now is not what the market wants,” said Mark Stoeckle, portfolio manager of Adams Natural Resources Fund (PEO.N), which holds Exxon shares.

“The market wants the cash back. They want what Exxon can’t give them today because of the mismatch between investment and production.”

Exxon and Chevron told investors on Friday that it was too soon to begin buying back shares, something Wall Street has pushed for.

Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe

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Deutsche Bank likely to axe 1,000 U.S. investment bank jobs: source

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) is expected to cut around 1,000 jobs or 10 percent of its workforce in the United States, a person familiar with the matter said on Friday, as the German lender scales back its global investment banking ambitions.

The headquarters of the Deutsche Bank is pictured in Frankfurt, Germany, March 19, 2018. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski

The bank has already axed 400 U.S.-based employees this week – of which around three quarters worked in its trading business and the rest in corporate finance, according to a second source who is a senior U.S.-based Deutsche Bank official.

“I can tell you that the people who make money here will continue to get paid and be supported, because Deutsche Bank needs the revenue,” the banker said. “The challenge now is to keep our people.”

Both sources spoke on condition of anonymity.

On Thursday, the bank announced that it would make “significant” cuts at its investment bank, scaling back its corporate finance operations in the United States and Asia, U.S. government bond trading, and equities.

It did not provide specific numbers or a timeframe.

“We do not see increased fluctuation in the core areas of the bank,” the bank said in a statement emailed to Reuters on Friday. “Europe is the region in which we want to expand our market position. Here we want to grow and gain market share. Especially in Europe, we are the first choice for many investment bankers.”

The credit ratings agency Moody’s on Friday changed its outlook to “negative” on some of its Deutsche Bank ratings. The ouster of CEO John Cryan, his replacement with Christian Sewing, and changes in focus at the lender “highlight the strategic turmoil,” Moody’s said.

“It is not clear how management will create an investment bank more focused on European clients that can compete effectively against more diversified global peers, while also earning acceptable returns,” the agency said.

A spokesman for Deutsche Bank declined to comment on the change in Moody’s rating outlook.

The bank’s shares fell 3.4 percent on Friday. Credit Suisse analysts said they had cut their estimates for Deutsche Bank’s revenue in 2020 by 20 percent.

Credit ratings agency Standard Poors, which had placed the bank on “credit watch” after the abrupt CEO change earlier this month, said late on Thursday that the bank’s new direction “lacks the specificity that we need to assess the credibility of this adjusted approach.”

Deutsche Bank’s investment banking unit has been losing market share in recent years. In Europe so far this year, the bank has a 4 percent market share in investment banking fees, down from 6 percent of the market in 2013, according to ThomsonReuters data. Its ranking fell from second to sixth place.

In the United States during that same period, Deutsche’s share of fees dropped to 3.3 percent from 4.9 percent. It ranks ninth, behind all the Wall Street power houses but also European rivals such as Barclays (BARC.L) and Credit Suisse (CSGN.S).

A large Deutsche investor called on the bank’s leadership to explain its plans. “Deutsche Bank must quickly create clarity so that business doesn’t evaporate,” the person said.

Reporting by Tom Sims, Hans Seidenstuecker, and Gregory Roumeliotis; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle

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Using analytics to drive batch haulage effiiciency

Smart Solutions uses data and analytics to optimize our customers’ operations, but for those operating a room and pillar mine that relies on batch haulage (such as shuttle cars and battery haulers) things can get tricky. Until recently, the only information available for the entire system was coming from one machine: the continuous miner. While those figures are useful, they don’t provide a complete picture of how the equipment interacts, making it difficult to identify the best ways to increase efficiency and productivity.

To combat this, the team at Komatsu created JoyConnect, which is a package of hardware and software that can be installed on most Joy equipment, as well as equipment from other providers. The package provides valuable insights into the complete value stream of the operation by recording voltages, currents, temperatures, pressures, flows and operational information. Data from this system goes directly to the Smart Solutions Center, allowing the service group to utilize the information and deliver an enhanced service program, as well as understand the product’s performance and its interaction with other equipment. This information can help savvy mine sites create a healthier bottom line

JoyConnect has been operating in South Africa on Joy shuttle cars, as well as on various roof bolters and feeder breakers since 2012. Thanks to the combined efforts of several teams across the Komatsu organization, the platform has been successfully applied to the BH20AC battery hauler, a product used primarily in coal and potash applications throughout North America.

One of the most interesting and innovative applications of JoyConnect is taking place in Prairie State, Illinois, U.S. Four battery haulers have been equipped with the system and the information collected is being uploaded to the Komatsu Analytics Platform in order to it to create algorithms capable of producing key performance indicators (KPIs) to help mines gain a better understanding of their operations, enabling them to make informed decisions based on actual data.

You need a complete view of a fully connected mining unit to maximize productivity and produce at the lowest cost. JoyConnect provides you with the pertinent information you need to identify the dynamic nature of bottlenecks, some of which can change on an hourly basis. After all, the more you know, the more you can

This innovative platform is something all mines that utilize batch haulage should consider. Gaining access to this vast amount of information is an incredible advantage for operations that are looking to improve performance and use real-time data to make quick, game-changing decisions. Implementing JoyConnect could be just the thing you need to drive results that lead to improved productivity and increased profitability.

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WPP digital boss Read prepares to step into Sorrell’s shoes for first quarter results

LONDON (Reuters) – WPP’s digital boss Mark Read will get the chance to stake his claim to the top job at the world’s biggest advertising company when he helps to present its first set of results without founder Martin Sorrell on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: Martin Sorrell, when CEO of WPP, attends the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland January 17, 2017. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich/File Photo

Sorrell, who built a two-man business into one of Britain’s biggest companies with operations in 112 countries, never missed a quarterly results presentation and routinely appeared on TV and radio shows to discuss everything from advertising trends to global economic events and politics.

He stood down two weeks ago after the board opened an investigation into allegations of personal misconduct, sparking a hunt for a replacement after 33 years and at a time when the company is facing challenges on every front.

Sorrell denied the allegations and the company has said they will not be made public.

Read is seen as the leading internal candidate to become chief executive after he spent almost nine years on the WPP board from 2006 to 2015. He has also worked on strategy, acquisitions and digital operations since he wrote to Sorrell and secured a job in 1989.

On Monday, he will join his co-chief operating officer Andrew Scott, Finance Director Paul Richardson and Executive Chairman Roberto Quarta in presenting the first-quarter results, while Read will also speak to the media.

“I’ve spent as much time as possible speaking to our people and clients,” Read wrote in a memo to staff last week. “There’s universal admiration for Martin’s achievements, and sadness about his departure.

“At the same time, there’s a huge amount of support and goodwill for the company, and no shortage of confidence about the future.”

The company will consider internal and external candidates.

Whoever takes over the top job will face a difficult task, however, after the group published in March its weakest results since the financial crash due to lower spending from consumer goods groups like Unilever and PG and competition from Google and Facebook.

It forecast no growth in net sales in 2018 and analysts are expecting a first-quarter figure of down 1 percent or worse.

“Despite the change of CEO, other things are unlikely to change at WPP near term,” Morgan Stanley said in a note. “We expect WPP to stay with its guidance which is for organic flat net sales growth in 2018 and a flat underlying margin in constant currency.”

The sudden departure of Sorrell has also sparked speculation as to whether the holding group can remain in its current form of employing 200,000 people in more than 400 agencies now that clients want a more joined-up offering.

Read told colleagues he did not believe breaking the business up made sense. “In a world where clients need faster, more agile, integrated solutions, we need to get closer together, not further apart,” he said.

WPP is the last of the big four advertising agencies to update the market after Omnicom (OMC.N), Publicis (PUBP.PA) and IPG (IPG.N) all reported strong first-quarter results.

Reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by Mark Potter

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Copper Mountain CEO retires

Founding shareholder O’Rourke will leave the company on June 1, although will remain as non-executive chairman and a director on the board.

Clausen will join Copper Mountain after he finishes working on the acquisition of Brio by Leagold Mining.

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He has more than 30 years’ experience in the base and precious metals industry, most recently as CEO of Brio Gold (from 2014) and before that as CEO of Augusta Resources from its birth in 2005 until it was taken over by HudBay Minerals in 2014.

Prior to this he also held senior positions at Washington Group International and Stillwater Mining.

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Polyus decides on US$311m dividend

The dividend of Rb147.12, or US$2.35, per ordinary share was recommended by the board of directors and is subject to shareholder approval at an annual general meeting on May 31.

The dividend record date will be June 10 and will bring the total pay-out for 2017 to US$550 million, including the $239 million paid out in October for the first half of the year.

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Polyus’ current dividend policy requires a total dividend payouts for 2017 and 2018 to be either higher than 30% of the company’s EBITDA for the reporting year or $550 million.

The company had a strong March quarter and aims to produce 2.375-2.425 million ounces of gold in 2018.

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