DALLAS (Reuters Breakingviews) - Elizabeth Holmes doesn’t blink. At least that’s one of the claims made in the HBO documentary “The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley,” released this month. The young founder of blood-testing upstart Theranos, who is set to appear in court later next month to defend criminal charges of fraud, just five years ago sat at the helm of a healthcare technology company worth some $9 billion in the private market. Alex Gibney’s film documents her swift rise and fall. It’s a tale of extremes, yet it underscores Silicon Valley’s proclivity for tolerating – and funding – overambitious, self-aggrandizing dreamers.
DALLAS (Reuters Breakingviews) - What’s the cost of the U.S. shutdown for businesses? Delta Air Lines has taken a guess: $25 million of revenue for every month the government stays closed. Big deal. Like the market plunge that hit bank earnings in the last financial quarter, the shutdown has high visibility but little lasting impact. Investors are focused on risks that are bigger and harder to visualize.
DALLAS (Reuters Breakingviews) - Investors aren’t giving U.S. retailers an inch. Macy's shares fell by nearly a fifth on Thursday after weak December sales prompted it to cut forecasts. Target and Kohl's also felt the downdraft despite more upbeat numbers. Online disruption and the decline of old stalwarts Sears and J.C. Penney have made investors justifiably jittery.
DALLAS (Reuters Breakingviews) - The world’s richest have long been prepared for the worst, be it financial meltdown, long-term power outages, cyber attacks or pandemic flu. Silicon Valley entrepreneur Sam Altman has an arrangement with billionaire investor Peter Thiel to take a private plane to New Zealand in the event of a systemic collapse, the New Yorker has reported.
LONDON/DALLAS (Reuters Breakingviews) - Even by his own standards, Donald Trump has been contradictory on oil. The U.S. president spent much of 2018 berating the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries for keeping crude prices high by undersupplying the market. At the same time, he exacerbated the problem by reinstating export sanctions on Iran. An early December cut by OPEC and fellow producers including Russia is an irritant, but relatively low prices still look attainable.
WASHINGTON/DALLAS (Reuters Breakingviews) - Tough talk by the United States on Iran sanctions is butting up against oil economics. Eight countries can temporarily keep importing Iranian oil without defying the restrictions set to go into effect next week. Top U.S. diplomat Mike Pompeo says the aim is still to go to zero. With a domestic election and Saudi Arabia in a mess, it’s a way to keep acting tough while limiting the risk of oil price spikes.
NEW YORK (Reuters Breakingviews) - The New York attorney general wants Exxon Mobil to pay. After several years investigating the company’s communications with shareholders, Barbara Underwood unveiled a suit that claims the $340 billion oil giant has misled investors about how climate change regulation would affect its business. Shareholders weren’t dupes, though. Their revolt last year forced the company to start addressing the issue. Legal heat should prod Exxon's owners to demand more than baby steps.
DALLAS (Reuters Breakingviews) - Company bosses' shelf lives are getting shorter. Thomas Falk is stepping down as chief executive at Kimberly-Clark after 16 years, following in the recent footsteps of longstanding bosses at PepsiCo and Campbell Soup. It’s a sign of accelerating executive turnover at consumer-goods and industrial companies.
DALLAS (Reuters Breakingviews) - Nike is putting a politically divisive foot forward. The sneaker group will feature Colin Kaepernick, the first U.S. National Football League player to kneel in protest during the national anthem, in its “Just Do It” 30th anniversary ad campaign. Companies often shy away from politics, but in the commoditized sneaker trade, it’s a risk worth taking.
DALLAS (Reuters Breakingviews) - Campbell Soup’s lukewarm sales pitch is begging for a real cook. The $12 billion canned food and snack company is trying to sell its fresh and international brands while stepping up cost cuts on its stagnant core business. It is leaving the door open for a sale, but that’s unlikely to appease activists like Third Point’s Dan Loeb.