Microsoft Wants To Rival Amazon Go With Cashier-free Solution In Development

Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) showcased its cashier-less Amazon Go store in Seattle last year, giving the world a glimpse at the potential future of the retail store. It looks like the showcase posed a challenge to rival tech firm Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) because new reports suggest that the software giant is also working on a similar project.

Microsoft has reportedly poached a computer vision specialist that was involved in the development of Amazon Go. Sources claim that Microsoft is working on a project that will involve cashier-less shopping experiences. The ongoing experiment tracks items through cameras that are mounted on the shopping carts.

Unlike Amazon, Microsoft’s approach involves partnerships with retail companies to build automated checkouts that will be powered by the Microsoft Cloud services. Amazon currently dominates online retail but it has been planning on spreading its influence in the brick and mortar domain by launching its own stores. The sources which have remained anonymous told Reuters that Microsoft has been demonstrating the technology to retailers all over the world and that it has also engaged Walmart Inc (NYSE:WMT) about the possibility of working together on the project.

One of Microsoft’s main selling points with its new cashier-less retail project is that it will help retailers to keep up with Amazon Go. The latter is on track to launch in San Francisco and Chicago. It is a disruptive technology which analysts believe will soon become a trend, thus the need for retailers to be prepared.

Microsoft wants to compete indirectly with Amazon in retail

Microsoft’s involvement in such projects is advantageous for retailers. The company’s involvement in big partnerships in different industries in the past has proven to be good for business and its contribution to the retail market using an automated checkout system should be no different.

“This is the future of checking out for convenience and grocery stores,” stated Gene Munster, the executive in charge of a research at a Minneapolis firm called Loup Ventures.

Microsoft has not revealed how it plans to roll out automated checkout services to the retail market. In fact, there is no confirmation whether the company plans on making the project a reality but that is most likely going to be the case if it is working on teaming up with retail giants like Walmart.

From an operations standpoint, such a solutions would eliminate the need for cashiers, thus saving space and money that would have been used to pay cashiers. On the flip side, there are concerns about the possibility of such technology eliminating a lot of jobs, thus adding to the unemployment problem. It is also not clear whether shoppers want such technology.

Loup Ventures estimates that the automated checkout market in the U.S is worth roughly $50 billion. Meanwhile, cashier jobs are the most common jobs in the U.S. One thing that is clear is that artificial intelligence is rapidly changing the landscape for many industries and the retail sector is one of the industries that are on a collision path with API. Neither Walmart nor Microsoft has responded to requests for comments.

Comcast Wants To Buy A Large Share Of 21st Century Fox For $65 Billion

Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCSA) is reportedly interested in purchasing a large portion of assets belonging to Twenty-First Century Fox Inc Class A (NASDAQ:FOXA) at a hefty price of $65 billion.

The company has announced on Wednesday that it is willing to pay as much as $65 billion in order to acquire most of the businesses owned by Fox, particularly its film and TV assets. The announcement means the company is planning to battle it out with Walt Disney Co (NYSE:DIS). Fox is owned by Rupert Murdoch and is one of the biggest media companies in the U.S.

Comcast is currently the largest provider of broadband and cable services in the U.S. and its bid for Murdoch’s company comes just one day after a merger between Time Warner Inc (NYSE:TWX) and AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) was approved by a Federal Judge. Comcast executives had reportedly been waiting for a ruling on the merger before announcing their bid for Fox.

The move highlights the increasing competition between traditional media companies as they face pressure from Silicon Valley giants such as Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) and Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX). The content streaming companies have not only been stealing audiences, they have also been poaching Hollywood talent for their original content.

Comcast’s bid outshines Disney’s bid

Disney offered a $52.4 billion bid to acquire Fox’s TV and film assets and the fact that Comcast is now offering a better deal makes it even more interesting. The company that will win the bid will be in a better position to weather the effects of cord cutting. Most people, especially the millennial generation are opting to use streaming services like Netflix rather than paying for traditional cable, thus threatening the profitability of cable companies.

The winner of the bid will also get to scale up its production through Fox since the firm will acquire the Fox movie studio which is responsible for major movie franchises such as “X-men” and “Avatar.” The sale will also include cable channels such as “National Geographic” and “FX” as well as regional sports networks owned by Fox.

The winning bid will also acquire Fox’s stake in the Hulu streaming platform which boasts of more than 20 million subscribers. Disney and Comcast also have stake in Hulu and the company with the winning bid will get control of the majority stake.

Comcast wants to acquire Fox’s stake in the streaming platform but sources familiar with the dealings have revealed that it will most likely be required to part with the stake in order to meet regulatory requirements. Fox is also planning to let go of its stake in European Broadcasting giant Sky.

An acquisition of the stake in Sky by Disney or Comcast would be strategic because it would allow the winner of the bid to expand its footprint. Mike Cavanagh the CFO of Comcast told investors On Wednesday that his company might even end up sharing the stake in Sky with Disney. Fox is planning to keep some of its properties but it plans on divesting a large share of its assets.

More Than 3,000 Workers To Be Laid Off By Electric Carmaker Tesla

Employees of electric carmaker Tesla Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) have been informed that around 9% of the company’s workforce will be laid off. This is the largest layoff in the history of Tesla and it comes as the car maker burns through cash with a view of meeting production goals for the Model 3 sedan. Around 3,600 employees are expected to be declared redundant out of a total workforce of 40,000.

According to the founder and chief executive officer of Tesla, Elon Musk, the staff cuts will not compromise the ability of the automaker with regards to meeting the company’s goals. No factory workers will be affected. Per Musk there has been a duplication of some job functions and roles and while this could have been justified in the past that is not the case presently. Tesla did not however reveal the amount of money that would be saved by the layoffs.

No annual profit

In the one and a half decades that Tesla has been in existence the electric car maker has not turned an annual profit and it is only in two quarters that it has registered a net profit. Tesla has focused on investing heavily in an extensive EV-charging network, manufacturing plants and technology. During an annual shareholder meeting which was held earlier in the month the CEO of Tesla indicated that the firm would post a profit for the July to September quarter.

This is not the first time that Tesla is laying off employees. Last fall Tesla sent home between 400 and 700 employees following annual performance reviews. A decade ago Tesla also declared a smaller number of employees redundant. According to Musk it would be impossible for the electric car maker to promote the adoption of cleaner energy across the globe if it couldn’t become sustainably profitable.

Flat management structure

The reorganization at Tesla was first telegraphed last month when Musk indicated that the management structure of the company would be flattened. Among the employees who are expected to be affected include those who are based at Home Depot and who are involved in Tesla’s solar business which came into being after the acquisition of SolarCity. Some of these workers will get a soft landing as they will be offered a chance to work in the retail business of Tesla.

According to an analyst at CFRA, Efraim Levy, the announcement of the impending layoffs at Tesla is a sign that the electric car maker is maturing and making profitability a priority.

“There is a normal ebb and flow of hiring and firing in a business. Nine percent is a big chunk to do at once, but there comes a time when a company grows up and they have to cut out the fat to become more efficient,” said Levy.

In the recent past Tesla has faced a lot of criticisms for failing to meet production targets despite revising the goals severally. At the moment the electric car maker has set a target of producing 5,000 Model 3 vehicles per week before this month ends. Some analysts are of the view that Tesla needs to raise additional capital before next year’s first quarter.

Apple Does Not Want Cryptocurrency Mining On Its MacOS and iOS Devices

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has announced that it will no longer be allowing the use of its devices to mine digital currencies according to new review guidelines on the App Store.

The technology giant claims that the ban will be instituted across all of its devices including iOS and MacOS devices. However, the ban will not affect crypto mining done off-devices, especially cloud-based mining. Apple’s decision to ban the use of its devices for cryptocurrency mining is partly motivated by its plans to employ strict restrictions for apps that are power-intensive. The rationale is that such devices put a lot of strain on its devices and even cause overheating.

“Apps, including any third party advertisements displayed within them, may not run unrelated background processes, such as cryptocurrency mining,” stated Apple.

The process of mining cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH) can be quite resource-intensive even on mining equipment. It is well known that the process consumes a lot of electricity and these are some of the reasons why Apple is concerned about the overall user experience. The tech giant stated in one of the clauses of the new guidelines that apps posted on the App Store should not put unnecessary strain on resources, drain the battery or generate a lot of heat.

Apple wants to promote proper use of its devices

Apple has been focusing a lot on preserving battery performance and that even got the company in trouble. A while ago it was reported that the tech giant was sacrificing performance to preserve battery life. Apple, however, seems to be waging war over cryptocurrency mining especially since this is not the first time that it has gone on the offensive against crypto mining apps. A few months ago, Apple pulled down an app called Calendar 2 from the Mac App Store because it was offering cryptocurrency mining services in exchange for premium features. The company also cited excessive heat and battery drain as one of the reasons why it banned the app.

The new guidelines for the App Store seem to be going for a complete ban on cryptocurrency apps on iOS devices. Despite the cryptocurrency mining ban, Apple will still allow cryptocurrency apps on the App Store although developers have to be registered as organizations.

Apple will also allow cryptocurrency that let users to make payments, receive payments or even trade digital currencies. However, such apps have to be owned by cryptocurrency exchanges. Apple also seems to be taking an approach that will protect investors. For example, one of the new guidelines states that Apple will only allow apps related to initial coin offerings (ICOs) on the App Store only if they belong to banks, financial institutions, and registered companies.

Cryptocurrency apps will also not be allowed to offer virtual coins to users in exchange for tasks such as downloading other apps. These moves seem to be aimed at preventing scammers from using Apple’s platforms to take advantage of unassuming users. As usual, Apple’s intent is to provide the best user experience to its customers and thus the need to address such issues.

KKR & Co. L.P. Unit (NYSE:KKR) Draws Closer To The Conclusion Of Its Envision Healthcare Corp (NYSE:EVHC) Acquisition

The sources revealed that the value of the acquisition deal between the two companies will be $5.5 billion which is equivalent to $46 per share. This makes it one of the largest leveraged buyouts to take place recently. The announcement also comes months after Envision Healthcare announced that it was open to a buyout after being plagued by controversy due to its billing practices.

Envision Healthcare is based in Nashville, Tennessee and it offers physician services to healthcare facilities including hospitals. The company announced a strategic review in the second half of 2017, revealing that it was open to the idea of a buyout. The sources who sought anonymity due to the private nature of the deal also revealed that a deal will most likely be announced this week.

The value of the deal

The acquisition of Envision Healthcare by KKR will be one of the biggest acquisition deals involving a company from the private equity sector. It also highlights Wall Street’s growing involvement in the healthcare sector. The price of the acquisition will be a 5 percent premium on Envision Healthcare’s closing price which was reported at $43.64 on Friday. The price also represents a 70 percent surge in price compared to the value of the company’s stock ever since it announced the review.

Despite the surge in the value of the stock as a result of the announcement last year, Envision shares have also dropped by a significant margin due to the controversy over its healthcare billing services. The value of the acquisition will be roughly 10 million if the debt is included, making it one of the biggest private-equity firm buyouts to take place recently. However, this is not the first time that KKR and Envision have done business together. The private equity firm struck a deal in August last year to acquire Envision Healthcare’s ambulance business through its subsidiary, company Air Medical Group Holdings.

KKR is expanding its portfolio

The report about KKR possibly acquiring Envision Healthcare highlights the private equity company’s decision to expand its portfolio. Just a few weeks it announced plans to acquire BMC Software Inc. for roughly 8.3 million. BMC Software is currently owned by private equity firms Golden Gate Capital, and Bain Capital, whereas the acquisition, will also include debt.

“Our customers can expect the BMC team to remain focused on providing innovative solutions and services with our expanding ecosystem of partners to help them succeed across changing enterprise environments. We are excited to embark on our next chapter with KKR as our partner,” stated BMC CEO, Peter Leav.

KKR is also making other investments in the healthcare industry and this means it has been establishing long-term growth opportunities within the health sector. Further details pertaining its acquisition of Envision Healthcare are expected to be revealed during the official announcement.

Employee Layoffs Planned At McDonald’s Corporation (NYSE:MCD) In Turnaround Effort

Reports indicate that U.S. burger chain McDonald’s Corporation (NYSE:MCD) is planning to lay off employees as it seeks to shrink the corporate structure with a view to turning around the business in its domestic market. According to an email which was sent to franchisees, employees and suppliers, the president of McDonald’s USA, Chris Kempczinski, stated that regional offices across the country would be restructured.

In the email Kempczinski indicated that layers within the organization would be eliminated and consequently leading to loss of jobs. Per a source the layers that exist between the burger chain’s chief executive officer and field consultants would be cut from eight to six. More details are expected to be revealed next week during a scheduled town hall meeting.

More decentralization

Per a spokesperson for McDonald’s the new structure which is being instituted in the United States is meant to offer improved support to franchisees with a view to assisting the burger chain become more competitive, nimble and dynamic. Going forward McDonald’s aims to become more decentralized with a view to quickening the pace at which decisions are made.

By the close of next year McDonald’s intends to cut administrative costs by approximately $500 million. Though the figures haven’t been disclosed several corporate jobs have already been eliminated. The cost-savings are expected to be reinvested in technology.

For over three years now the burger chain has been involved in efforts aimed at turning around its U.S. business which has been struggling. For instance in the first quarter the number of store visits in the United States fell by around 5% and this was attributed to intense competition from rivals. Growth in foreign markets was however better.

Touch-screen ordering kiosks

Earlier this week the fast food chain disclosed that touch-screen ordering kiosks would be introduced to thousands of outlets across the United States with a view to supplementing in-store employees. According to the restaurant chain there is a tendency by customers to purchase more when they order on a screen compared to when they are interacting with a restaurant employee.

In an interview with CNBC the chief executive officer of McDonald’s, Steve Easterbrook, touch-screen ordering kiosks will be added to around 1,000 outlets every quarter. This will translate to approximately 10 outlets a day for the next 24 months. The development is coming late to the U.S. business of McDonald’s as the touch-screen ordering kiosks have already been fully installed in Canada and the United Kingdom for instance. The first country to have the touch-screen ordering kiosks installed was France.

Besides investing in technology McDonald’s has also embarked on other initiatives aimed at turning around its business fortunes. This includes remodeling stores and menu changes. The introduction of higher prices for the menu items and new high-end offerings saw sales in the United States increase by close to 3% despite a decline in store visits. Menu changes have included offering all-day breakfast items. The burger chain has also improved food quality by introducing quarter-pound burgers which are made using fresh beef instead of frozen beef.

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (NYSE:BABA) Cloud Takes AI Technologies To The Farming Sector

Already a number of agricultural enterprises including pig farms and vegetable and fruit farms have adopted the AI program. According to Alibaba the goal of the AI program is to assist in monitoring the activity of pigs for instance and cutting expenses at the agricultural enterprises.

ET Agricultural Brain is building on the Alibaba Cloud’s success with regards to the artificial intelligence technology which has seen use cases in aviation, manufacturing, transportation and urban planning. Some of the AI technologies which have been applied in ET Agricultural Brain include environmental parameter monitoring, voice recognition, and visual recognition.

Hog farming

In the case of pig farming, for instance, health conditions, pregnancy, growth indicators and the daily activity of hogs is monitoring with a view to providing more insight in the chain. This allows real-time monitoring of farms as well as animals by farm managers.

As an example, it is possible for ET Agricultural Brain to propose an action plan for pigs aimed at improving their health and yield. Detection of sick hogs and minimization of accidents at the farm will also be possible with the ET Agricultural Brain since the risk of human errors will be reduced.

With ET Agricultural Brain it is estimated that the annual production of a sow could be raised by three additional piglets. The AI technology is also expected to reduce the rate of unnatural deaths in pigs by 3%. The industry efficiency of China’s pig farming sector is also expected to be increased to reach the level that has been achieved by more advanced pig farming nations.

Higher efficiency

“We believe enhanced operating efficiency will help ensure pork supply and maintain a stable market price that will benefit enterprises and consumers alike in China. In the future, ET Agricultural Brain can be adopted across many other sectors,” said Alibaba Cloud’s president and Alibaba Group’s senior vice president, Simon HU.

Alibaba is however not the only tech firm developing advanced agricultural technologies. salesforce.com, Inc. (NYSE: CRM) is, for instance, developing Software as a Service solution for farming groups. This includes availing predictive technologies which detect when a tractor’s part is about to develop mechanical faults. Additionally, a dairy farming cooperative based in New Zealand, Fonterra, is making use of data analytics in milk collection and delivery.

Logistics Hubs

This comes in the wake of Cainiao Network, an affiliate of Alibaba, announcing that a joint venture will be formed with a view of building a logistics center which will be located at HKIA – Hong Kong International Airport. The airport is one of the six international hubs for logistics that Cainiao Network has.

This is all part of fulfilling the commitment Alibaba has made of investing billions of yuan in building a logistics network which will ensure that deliveries in China are made within a period of 24 hours and inside 72 hours across the globe. Cities that Cainiao is looking to launch logistics hubs include Moscow, Liege, Kuala Lumpur, Hangzhou, and Dubai.

Facebook, Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) In Trouble For Sharing Data With Chinese Company

The social media giant has data partnerships with four electronic manufacturers from China including Huawei which has been flagged as a security threat by U.S Intelligence officials. Huawei is believed to have a close relationship with the Chinese government which is why it is seen as a national security threat by U.S officials who have been worried about Huawei devices being used to spy on American secrets.

Facebook entered into the data sharing partnerships as early as 2010 and the other Chinese companies involved are TCL, Oppo and Lenovo. The partnerships are still ongoing despite the concerns expressed by security officials in the U.S but Facebook reported in a recent interview that it will terminate its deal with Huawei.

Facebook also provides data access to other companies including Samsung Electronics, Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN), BlackBerry Ltd (NYSE:BB), and Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) among others. Most of the companies are smartphone manufacturers while others such as Amazon collect data to improve their digital and online services.

Such deals allowed Facebook to secure an early lead in the mobile market as early as 2007 even before mobile phone apps became popular. However, things really took off well when the onset of smartphones Facebook officials revealed that the deals with Chinese manufacturers granted provided it with access that is similar to what Blackberry had been offering. This means the company could collect detailed information on user devices and also on all their friends. The information collected includes relationship status, education history, work and interests.

The social media giant also told U.S intelligent officials that the data it provided to Huawei was stored on phones and not on its servers. According to Virginia’s Senator Mark Warner, this is not the first time that there has been concerns about Huawei. He stated that there was a previous report by the House Intelligence Committee in 2012 regarding the close relationship between electronic manufacturers such as Huawei and China’s Communist Party.

Huawei reportedly received millions of dollars in funding from China’s policy banks in order for it to expand its business across Africa, Europe, and South America. Huawei’s founder Ren Zhengfei also happens to be a former engineer for the People’s Liberation Army.

Warner stated that he was eager to know more about how Facebook made sure that user information was not sent to Chinese servers. Facebook vice president Francisco Varela defended the company stating that all of the integrations between Facebook and the four Chinese companies were controlled from the beginning and that the company made sure that it approved everything that was constructed.

The recent concerns about how Facebook has been handling data come just a few weeks after its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg was questioned by government officials about the firm’s involvement with Russians who are believed to have meddled with the U.S Presidential elections. However, the company managed to get out of that situation although Zuckerberg had to answer a lot of questions.

Dell Technologies Inc (NYSE:DVMT) Announces The Q1 Financial Results For Its Financial Year 2019

The company revealed that its revenue for the first quarter came in at $21.4 billion thus marking a 19 percent rise, with the non-GAAP revenue hitting $21.5 billion. This was a 17 percent rise compared to the figure reported in the previous quarter. Dell Technologies also reported a $153 million operating loss while its non-GAAP operating income for the quarter was $2.0 billion, a 42 percent rise compared to the previous quarter.

“We had a strong first quarter with balanced growth across all business units, regions, and customer segments. Our broad set of capabilities, enhanced by our targeted investments over the last year, drove strong top-line momentum and improved profitability, allowing us to generate good operating cash flow and make progress paying down our core debt,” stated Dell Technologies CFO, Tom Sweet.

The cash and debt situation

Dell had a cash and investments balance of $21.7 billion by the end of Q1 2019 which was a $1.4 billion compared to the previous quarter and a $6.7 billion boost compared to Q1 2018. The company also demonstrated strong cash generation which is impressive considering that it has been kicking things into high gear.

The company managed to slash $600 million from its core debt within the first quarter, thus bringing down core debt balance to $39.8 billion. The firm also settled $2.5 billion of the core debt towards the end of Q1, thus further lowering its debt figure especially after the EMC transaction was finalized.

Dell Technologies Vice Chairman Jeff Clarke stated that the company has worked hard and succeeded towards maintaining the momentum that it demonstrated towards the end of 2017. The momentum has particularly been evident in the commercial and server clients and has gone on throughout the first quarter of YY19. Clarke also revealed that the company gained more customers in the servers and PC markets and it also expects positive performance from the company’s storage business.

Strategic focus and building towards strong performance in the future

Clarke also added that despite being pleased with its Q1 performance, Dell is still not satisfied and will continue working towards investing its resources and energy towards the things that matter to its clients. The company’s performance in Q1 marks an overall forward step in the right direction but one that needs to be maintained especially with the ever-competitive market. Dell executives are confident in the company’s ability to deliver better performance in the future and that is what the company is currently working towards.

The Q1 financial results are also important for the firm because they set the tone for the next three financial quarters. The results will also help investors determine whether to invest in Dell or not.

The announcement of Dell’s financial results for Q1, FY19 resulted in a slight uptick in the company’s shares on Monday morning although the shares had a slight decline by noon of the same day.

Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) Strikes Deal To Acquire Github

Sources familiar with the matter revealed that Microsoft and GitHub have been holding acquisition talks and that the deal is courtesy of the internet giant’s CEO, Satya Nadella. GitHub executives claim that they were impressed by the support and encouragement he has offered to coders and their initiatives ever since he took over the helm at Microsoft in 2014.

Nadella has been very vocal about the positive impact that developers make on the society through coding and this is a point that he stressed in 2017 during the Build conference. Meanwhile, Microsoft’s acquisition of GitHub is a strategic move that aligns with the company’s pursuit of securing more developers. Its acquisition would allow it to access roughly 27 million developers. However, it seems some developers are not excited about the acquisition of GitHub by Microsoft.

Microsoft has not made any official announcement although sources familiar with the dealings claim that the company will most likely make the announcement this week. The financial terms have not been announced although they will most likely be publicized when the software and tech giant announces the deal.

What does the acquisition mean for developers and the rest of the world?

Nadella’s mission has been to invest more in open-source technologies. Microsoft has already put Visual Studio Code, PowerShell and the JavaScript engine of Microsoft Edge on the open-source domain. The firm has also teamed up with acquired Xamarin for mobile app development and Canonical to make Ubuntu available on Windows 10.

Microsoft has also been leveraging the open source Git version control system to facilitate further development of Windows along with the acquisition of the SQL Server to Linux. Developers have over time become more interested in the company’s Visual Studio Code. The latter allows developers to create, as well as debug cloud and web applications.

The acquisition of GitHub by Microsoft will thus allow it to go deeper as far as providing open source software. It also means the company is working on further integration between its developer tools and GitHub. Microsoft announced during the Build conference in May that it will continue working closely with GitHub so as to integrate it into the Microsoft App center for developers.

The partnership should provide more opportunities and also more resources to developers which will allow them to push their creativity and achieve more. It will also allow developers to expand their scope of influence on the society. It also means more open source software will be available in the market although these are just some of the many benefits that are expected to come from the GitHub acquisition.

Developers should expect to get a better picture of Microsoft’s plan with the acquisition of GitHub once the deal is announced. Microsoft has so far not released any comments pertaining to the matter although there is a lot of excitement pertaining to the deal.

Box Inc (NYSE:BOX) Slips Despite Surpassing Wall Street Expectations

Cloud storage provider Box Inc (NYSE:BOX) recently announced its Q1 earnings revealing that it managed to outperform the expectations of Wall Street analysts. However, the company’s shares took a downturn after the company revealed its earnings forecast for the second quarter.

The cloud storage firm’s shares dropped by 5 percent during Wednesday’s trading session after publicizing its forecast for the second quarter. Box expects its Q2 revenue to come in at around $146 million to $147 million in comparison to the average revenue expectation of $146.1 million. However, it seems that investors expected the company to announce a higher earnings expectation for the second quarter and they lost confidence when that failed to happen.

Aaron Levie, the CEO of Box told Reuters that he thinks investors are always expecting the company to keep raising its guidance. He stated that it made sense for the firm to do that but also revealed that Box wants to provide forecast figures that it is confident with.

Meanwhile, Box’s Q1 revenue came in at roughly $140.5 million and managed to outperform the $139.7 million revenue figure that was estimated by analysts. The revenue figure also marked a 20 percent improvement compared to the revenue that the company reported in Q1 of the previous year.

Box’s billings revenue surged to $116.7 million in the first quarter and managed to outdo Wall Street’s $113.1 million consensus estimate. FactSet revealed that the company managed to gain 3,000 paying customers and some of them are high-profile clients such as Komatsu and Dubai Airports. This means that the company has a total of 85,000 customers.

The cloud storage firm expects its adjusted loss for the second quarter of 2018 to come in between 5 and 6 cents per share. The expected figures are most likely based on how the company has been performing within the first few weeks of Q2 although Box did not go into specifics.

Box revealed that it has been doubling down on its investment in key areas such as administrative technology, compliance, and cybersecurity. The company also revealed that it plans to employ more sales personnel in line with its mission of expanding into more markets such as Canada, Germany, and Australia. The expansion is part of the company’s plan to compete more effectively with rivals such as Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG), Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Dropbox Inc (NASDAQ:DBX).

Dropbox also managed to surpass analyst expectations as revealed in its quarterly report which revealed that it managed to outperform the estimates for paying subscribers in the first quarter. Meanwhile, the net loss for box shareholders dropped to $36.6 million from $40.1 million. The company lost 7 cents per share excluding some other items.

Despite the slight decline in the company’s performance, the company’s executives remain confident in its performance in the future, especially as it works on expanding into new markets. The cloud storage provider looks forward to more growth in the future as it seeks out more opportunities to expand its influence in a highly competitive space.

Second Quarterly Results Of HP Beat Estimates As Revenues Grows In Double Digits

These figures were better than expected and they were attributed primarily to successful product rollouts and strength in printing and personal computing segments.

“We delivered another quarter of double-digit year over year revenue and profit growth, strong EPS and impressive free cash flow and performed well across segments and regions. Our sharp focus on innovation, combined with operational excellence and driving profitable growth is paying off,” the president and chief executive officer of HP Inc, Dion Weisler, said.

Personal systems unit

In the personal systems, category revenues increased by 14% year-on-year to reach a figure of $8.8 billion and this was due to the strong demand that was experienced with regards to high-end products. Additionally, prices for products in this category were raised by 7%. Consumer revenues increased by 10% while commercial revenues rose by 16%.

Revenues in HP’s printing business increased by 11% year-on-year to reach a figure of $5.2 billion. This was attributed to an increase of 8% in supplies revenues as well as the integration of South Korea-based Samsung’s printing business, S-Print which was acquired recently. By acquiring S-Print HP got a boost in the premium copier machine market that is currently dominated by Xerox Corporation.

Consumer and commercial hardware

The total hardware unit revenues increased by 13% and this was as a result of a growth of 4% in the consumer hardware unit. The commercial hardware unit, on the other hand, saw growth of 88% year-over-year. The impressive growth recorded in the commercial hardware unit was as a result of the integration of S-Print.

In all the regions that HP operates in, there was double-digit growth in revenues with the exception of the Americas where year-over-year growth was 7%. In the Japan and Asia Pacific region, 13% year-over-year growth was recorded while in the EMEA region revenues grew by 21% year-over-year. EMEA is an acronym for Europe, Middle East, and Africa.

Net earnings, on the other hand, increased by 89.3% to reach a figure of $1.06 billion in the quarter. This translated to net earnings per share of 64 cents and this increase was partly as a result of the tax benefit amounting to $975 million.

Global leader

According to International Data Corp, a research firm, HP was the worldwide leader with regards to shipments of a personal computer in this year’s first quarter with a market share of 22.6%. Per analysts at International Data Corp major PC, vendors have been helped by rising demand for high-end notebooks.

At the same time, HP has named Steve Fieler, its current head of corporate finance and treasury as the incoming chief financial officer. He will be taking over from Cathie Lesjak starting July 1, 2018. In an interim capacity, Lesjak will take over as the chief operating officer of the company before she retires early next year. Lesjak is a veteran Hewlett Packard executive having worked at the company for more than three decades.

Bayer AG (ADR) (OTCMKTS:BAYRY) To Divest Assets Worth $9 Billion As A Result Of Antitrust Issues In The U.S

The plan to sell the assets worth $9 billion was announced on Tuesday by the Department of Justice, revealing that the assets would be sold to a chemical manufacturer called BASF. The sale will involve the German company’s agricultural businesses and other assets and Bayer reportedly agreed to go along with the sale so that it can pave the way for a regulatory approval of the planned acquisition of Monsanto Company (NYSE:MON).

The assets to be divested include Bayer’s vegetable seed, soybean, and canola businesses. The German firm will also sell its Liberty herbicide business and the interesting thing is that all the above businesses are rivals to products made by Monsanto. This means Bayer will still operate similar products to the ones that it is required to sell. Bayer pointed out in a statement that the sale would be advantageous to its competitors because it means less competition since Monsanto will now be part of Bayer.

Bayer will also sell off some of its research efforts including R&D projects that are currently in the pipeline. The firm will also let go of some of its intellectual property and other structural divestitures as revealed by the Department of Justice. The latter stated that the acquisition of Monsanto would be considered illegal or unlawful if the German company does not sell some of its assets. This is because Bayer would become too big and yield too much control over the market, thus resulting in unfair competition.

Bayer plans to acquire Monsanto for $66 billion, putting it right up there with some of the biggest mergers in history. The Justice Department has given the German company the green light for the acquisition although the approval came after Bayer agreed to sell some of its assets, meaning it is a conditional approval. If Bayer fails to divest the assets, then the Monsanto merger might not materialize. Fortunately, the German company has already secured a deal with BASF which has agreed to buy the divested assets according to the Justice Department.

The competition in the U.S market is important especially for farmers especially in terms of product pricing. This is one of the reasons that the Justice Department has been adamant about the need for Bayer to divest some of its assets

The Department of Justice stated that if Bayer opted not to divest some of its assets, then the Monsanto deal would result in fewer and lower quality choices as well as higher prices for crop protection and seed products.

Bayer’s CEO, Werner Baumann stated that the approval from the Department of Justice brings the company closer to its objective of becoming the market leader in the Agriculture sector. He also added that the company is determined to help farmers grow more sustainable foods in a manner that is sustainable.

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) To Push NFC Updates That Will Allow Users To Unlock Cars And Doors

U.S-based tech giant Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is reportedly planning to release updates for its iPhone handsets that are fitted with NFC chips and the updates will introduce the ability to unlock doors using the wireless technology.

The company has been fitting NFC chips in its handsets since the iPhone 6 to facilitate contactless exchange of information. Apple’s main use for the technology is making payments through Apple Pay. The latter is compatible with credit card readers that also feature NFC technology, making it possible for Apple Pay to work in stores.

Unlocking the NFC

Apple has not really pursued a lot of other uses through NFC and it has also not granted third-party access to its antenna so that they can develop their own NFC-enabled features. However, recent reports claim that the company will announce during this year’s WWDC that it will start allowing developers to access the antenna. This means they can finally come up with new features such as unlocking car doors, smart locks or accessing security systems in buildings among other applications.

However, this is not the first time that Apple will be using NFC to unlock doors. Its employees have already been using the technology to open doors at its Cupertino campus although the feature has not been expanded to other areas. Apple is reportedly working on giving developers access through iOS 12.

Recently rumored developments related to NFC

There are some rumors that developers are already working on an iOS-based application that will allow iPhone users to use the contactless technology to access the fare system on the Cubic Transportation Systems. This is courtesy of the recent contract that the company was awarded by the Metropolitan Transportation Agency. Cubit is reportedly planning to make a demonstration during the upcoming WWDC event.

Cubit has also teamed up with numerous firms from Boston, New York, and other regions to work on mobile –based systems that will eliminate tickets and proprietary cards. The company already has a working system in London and Chicago. It also acts as a vendor for a real-time active tracking software called NextBus.

The involvement of Cubit with Apple suggests that the tech giant might indeed be opening up it’s NFC antenna so that developers can use the wireless network come up with creative solutions. It will also allow the iOS ecosystem to catch up with Android device makers. If Apple does indeed open up to developers, it might result in a lot of applications that will really unlock the NFC chip. It might also encourage NFC hardware developers to start widening the scope of their technology by featuring NFC authentication in their connected devices.

Apple has so far not revealed any plans pertaining to the matter but this is not unusual since Apple is usually secretive when it comes to developments. However, the company is expected to reveal any developments during the WWDC event. However, the firm will most likely launch iOS 12 along with the launch of its latest devices in September this year.

Three Stocks To Buy On Fortnite Video-Game Craze

Very few people could have imagined how popular Fortnite, a third-person shooter video game would become on the release of free-to-play battle royale. As of the start of the month, over 45 million people had already played the game, and the trend appears to be gaining momentum by the day.

NVIDIA Corporation (NASDAQ:NVDA), Tencent Holdings Ltd (OTCMKTS:TCTZF), and Activision Blizzard, Inc. (NASDAQ:ATVI) have emerged as a must own stocks, as the Fortnite craze continues to hit higher highs.

So what makes the three stocks exciting picks on Fortnite’s fortunes?

Tencent

Tencent stands to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of more people playing the video game in part because of its 40% stake in Epic Games, the creator of the games. Even though the game is free to play, the creator is already reaping big from the sale of virtual items such as character costumes and emoticons used by gamers to express a thought or a feeling.

In addition to other merchandise sales tied to the game, there is growing belief that Fortnite craze could generate as much as $2 billion in revenue. Tencent being one of the majority shareholders in Epic Games thus remains to be the biggest beneficiary of soaring revenues.

Tencent has also developed and debuted two games in China that are somehow similar to Fortnite based on licensed IP from which it expects to generate significant returns. The company is also in the process of seeking regulatory approval to offer Fortnite in China.

Activision Blizzard

Concerned by the hype around Fortnite video game, publisher Activision Blizzard is reportedly planning to add a battle royale mode dubbed ‘Blackout’ to its billion-dollar franchise Call of Duty. The new model will allow Call of Duty enthusiast to compete against each other featuring iconic characters and locations to form all its four Black Ops Game

A battle royale mode where gamers are allowed to compete against 99 others with the winner being the last one left standing appears to be the new thing, in the gaming world. While it is not clear whether Activision Blizzard own mode in Call of Duty will be a success as Fortnite, its still presents an exciting opportunity given its success with previous releases that have ended up being blockbusters.

NVIDIA

Nvidia is one of the few companies that is not a video game developer but still poised to be one of biggest beneficiaries of the Fortnite phenomenon. The giant chip maker is better known for its industry-leading graphics processing unit, without which gamers will not be able to play their beloved games.

Growing demand and new players joining the ranks to play Fortnite or new games leveraging the ‘battle royale mode’ is thus expected to trigger an increase in demand for GPU’s to power hardware for playing such games.

NVIDIA’s gaming segment grew by 66% year-over-year in the recent quarter thanks to strong demand for graphics processing unit. Chief Executive Officer, Jen Hsun Huang has already acknowledged that increased adoption of the battle royale genre will continue driving sales in the company’s gaming segment.

Revenues At Tiffany & Co. (NYSE:TIF) Soar In The Wake Of Successful Turnaround

Luxury retailer Tiffany & Co. (NYSE:TIF) beat the estimates of analysts in its first quarter results resulting in the full-year profit and sales forecast being raised. This is a testament to the fact that a strategy rolled out with a view to targeting millenials as well as selling household items has turned out to be successful as it has increased foot traffic. Shares of the luxury retailer rose by 20% following the release of the Q1 results.

The results also marked the highest jump in same-store revenues in four years. Growth was particularly strong in China and generally in Asia as well as in the United States. In Q1 same store sales increased by 7% against estimates of 2.6%. In the Asia-Pacific region sales increased by 28% while in Europe sales were up by 13%. Across the globe net sales increased by 15% and this was responsible for contributing to a 53% rise in net earnings. While analysts had been expecting $959.4 million in net sales the actual figure was $1.03 billion.

Engagement jewelry category

Some of the categories that stood out included engagement jewelry despite the fact that sales had previously been sluggish. The stellar results have prompted the luxury retailer to not only raise forecasts for the year but also disclose that it will be buying back shares worth $1 billion. For the fiscal year that ends in January 2019 the luxury retailer has projected between $4.50 and $4.70 in earnings per share. The prior earnings-per-share forecast was between $4.25 and $4.45.

As part of the turnaround strategy championed by the retailer’s new CEO, Alessandro Bogliolo, the product lines have been revamped and cheaper items added in order to better compete with the likes of Blue Nile and Pandora. Bogliolo, who joined the luxury retailer last year in October, said the pace of introducing new products would be accelerated with a view to retaining the interest of shoppers.

“We are definitely committed to renewing our product offering. Newness should flow in every year in every single part of this jewelry ecosystem of Tiffany,” said Bogliolo in a conference call with Wall Street analysts.

Bigger marketing budget

Besides revamping the product portfolio Tiffany also made investments in the development of its website besides boosting its store and marketing presentations. This however did not hurt margins as they actually rose from 62.1% to 63% year-over-year. Under Bogliolo Tiffany is also expected to increase its marketing budget and is already running a new advertising campaign known as ‘Believe in Dreams’ which features Elle Fanning, an actress in both digital and print ads. Additionally Tiffany has launched a jewelry innovation and design workshop located in Manhattan and this is expected to accelerate the pace of development for new products.

Bogliolo was preceded as CEO of Tiffany by Frederic Cumenal who had to resign earlier last year after a string of lackluster results. Prior to joining Tiffany Bogliolo ran Diesel SpA, an apparel firm based in Italy. He has also had executive stints at Bulgari and Sephora.

Target Corporation (NYSE:TGT) Under Pressure Despite 28% Digital Sales Increase

Shares of Target fell by as much as 5%, despite the retailer reporting a 28% increase in online sales. The number of customers who visited the retailer’s outlets rose 3.7% in the three months ended May 5, the biggest surge in more than a decade. Overall sales, as a result, rose 3%.

Poor Weather Impact

Despite an increase in overall sales, the company reported disappointing earnings something that did not go well with investors, triggering a sell-off, of the stock. Earnings missed expectations both on the top and bottom lines, with the retailer blaming the underperformance on poor spring weather.

According to Target’s executives, everything went according to plan in the quarter other than the wet and cold weather recorded in April. Poor weather reportedly delayed sales of higher margin warm weather items as well as outdoor furniture and apparel.

“Strong sales growth in our home, essentials, and food & beverage categories offset the impact of delayed sales in temperature-sensitive categories, which accelerated rapidly in recent weeks as the weather improved across the country,” CEO Brian Cornell said in a statement.

Gross Margin Concerns

A sell-off of the stock came on growing concerns that the company is spending a lot to grow its digital sales. The retailer has had to spend a lot on this front, given that it is competing against heavyweights in the name of Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) and Walmart Inc. (NYSE:WMT).

The retailer has had to spend billions of dollars to promote its products and remodel stores. It has also had to spend a lot in keeping its grocery prices low, in a bid to compete against Walmart and Kroger Co (NYSE:KR). The company has also cut its next-day delivery fee for household essentials to $2.99 from $4.99 as it seeks to remain competitive in the business.

Higher spending saw the company’s gross margin, a key measure of profitability, drop to 29.8% from 30% as of last year. The Q1 gross margin was an improvement from 26.2% registered in the fourth quarter, which was the lowest in 20 years. The company has already confirmed plans to spend $3 billion in capital expenditure this year on its supply chain, online delivery as it also moves to merge its online and in-store shopping.

It remains to be seen if the company’s gross margins will spike higher given that Target needs to continue spending more if it is to become a true online retailing powerhouse. The company is expected to spend more given that digital sales, despite the impressive growth, still account for a little more than 5% of the overall revenue.

Q1 Financial Results

Target reported first-quarter earnings of $1.32 a share below consensus estimates of $1.38 a share. Net income came in at $718 million an improvement from $678 million reported a year ago. Operating income dropped to $1.04 billion from $1.16 billion reported a year ago. Revenue in the quarter was up 3.4% to $16.78 billion, beating estimates of $16.53 billion.

The retailer has since reaffirmed its full-year outlook whereby it expects earnings per share to range between $5.15 and $5.45. Wall Street, on the other hand, is expecting earnings per share of $5.28.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co (NYSE:HPE) Releases Its Q2 Earnings Report Surpassing Analyst Expectations

The tech company announced its Q2 earnings on Tuesday revealing that it secured a revenue of $7.5 billion during the quarter and its net earnings per share for the quarter was 34 cents. The company managed to surpass Wall Street’s revenue estimate of $7.38 billion and earnings per share estimate of 31 cents.

HPE’s CEO, Antonio Neri stated that the company has achieved growth in all of the company’s business segments. It also managed to complete all of its essential milestones in its HPE NEXT initiative, expanded its profitability and is continuously investing in innovative opportunities.

“Over the first half of this year, we have achieved some significant milestones across each of these areas. For example, we’ve reduced spans and layers between the CEO and the customer.  We’ve significantly streamlined our sales structure, empowering the frontline to make key decisions,” stated HPE CEO Antonio Neri in its earnings report.

A large percentage of HPE’s revenue was generated by Hybrid IT which made $6 billion in the second quarter, marking a 7 percent improvement compared to the revenue generated by the segment in Q2 of the previous year. Data networking revenue for the quarter surged by 2 percent, Compute revenue improved by 6 percent, Point next revenue grew by 1 percent and storage revenue by 24 percent.

The technology giant’s “intelligent edge” generated $710 million in revenue which marks a 17 percent rise compared to the revenue generated by the segment in Q2 of the previous year. Revenue from the HP Aruba Services improved by 10 percent while revenue from the HPE Aruba Product improved by 18 percent.

Revenue from HPE’s financial services grew by 5 percent year-over-year to $916 million. A technology analyst called Patrick Moorhead stated that the company has enjoyed four quarters of year-on-year growth. The announcement of the company’ Q2 2018 financial results promoted a positive outlook on the company’s performance HPE stated that it expects its earnings per share for the July quarter at 37 cents per share.

The company plans to focus its attention towards numerous initiatives such as creating a no-touch sales model for various product segments and also speeding up it’s IT transformation so that it can provide better services to partners and customers. HPE expects the changes that it is working on to provide a long-term competitive advantage and also to enhance the firm’s cost structure.

The CEO of HPE also reported that customers have been responding positively to new deals and actions that the company has been taking as far as innovation and operations are concerned. He pointed out that customers are confident in the company’s strategies as well as its strong product and services portfolio which the company is constantly working on.

Neri also added that he was pleased with HPE’s performance in the first half of the FY2018 and looks forward to a continued strong performance in the second half of the financial year.

Cheetah Mobile Inc. (ADR) (NYSE:CMCM) Under Pressure After Mixed Q1 Financial Results

The company reported earnings per share of 8 cents, a drop from earnings of 13 cents a share reported a year earlier. Despite the drop, the earnings met Wall Street expectations.

According to the Chief Executive Officer, Sheng Fu, the company started the year on a high depicted by revenue exceeding the upper end of the guidance. The company’s utility product business also experienced robust growth and in the process helped generate substantial profits and cash flow.

“We continued to expand our profits and margins in the first quarter of 2018 as a result of our strategic efforts to optimize the cost and expense structure for our utility products business and our initiative to dispose of News Republic,” said Mr. Vincent Jiang, Cheetah Mobile’s Chief Financial Officer.

Q1 Financial Results and Milestones

Cheetah Mobile reported revenues of $182.6 million for the first quarter, a drop from $186.53 million reported a year ago. However, it still topped analysts’ estimates of $180.34 million. Cost of revenues dropped 14.6% year-over-year to $62 million as a result of reduced bandwidth and IDC cost.

Net income came in at $11.84 million down from a net income of $14.19 million reported a year ago.

Operating profit, on the other hand, totaled $21.74 million an improvement over $4.12 million reported last year. Total operating expenses dropped 12.6% year-over-year to $98.5 million. Non-GAAP operating expenses, on the other hand, decreased 10.9% to $97 million.

During the quarter, the company served an average of 574 million global mobile monthly active users. Mobile active users from markets outside of China accounted for 75.4% of the total number of MAUs,

Beijing OrionStar Technology, an investee in Cheetah Mobile, achieved a record-setting 98.36% recognition rate, as part of a facial recognition test conducted by the Paul G Allen School of Computer Science.

Q2 Business Outlook

For the second quarter, the company expects revenues of between $163 million and $172 million. Wall Street, on the other hand, expects the company to post revenues of $193.30 million.

The company exited the first quarter with a cash and cash equivalent of $535 million.

 Fraud Detection Solution

Separately, Cheetah Mobile has implemented a new fraud detection and prevention solution to identify and mitigate in-app advertising fraud. Protected Media is the new solution that seeks to increase transparency when it comes to online advertising.

The new solution leverages AI technologies and methodologies to protect premium advertisers and the integrity of their market-leading applications. Protected media will provide a multi-layered ad fraud detection and prevention, to accurately identify the source of bad traffic. It is expected to offer both the advertiser and publisher trust and transparency.

According to Amichai Zuntz EVP Sales of Protected Media, add publishers should be able to regain control of the traffic with the new solution and in the process focus on creating applications and content that can attract premium advertisers.

AstraZeneca plc (ADR) (NYSE:AZN) Stock Drops After Announcement Of Q1 Results

The earnings report which was released on Thursday revealed that the company had earnings per share of 27 cents which was a noteworthy decline from the 48 cents EPS that the firm reported in Q1 of the previous year. Other than the declining earnings, the company also failed to beat the earnings per share estimate of 35 cents that had been projected by analysts.

AstraZeneca’s Q1 results also revealed that it made a profit of $316 million, a significant drop from the $512 million profit that the company reported in Q1 of 2017. The firm had an operating profit of $696 million in the recent quarter which was also miles below the $917 million operating profit it reported in the first quarter of 2017. Its overall revenue for the quarter was $5.18 billion which was lower than the $5.41 billion reported in Q1 of the previous year. The company attributes this year-over-year decline to lower Initial Externalization Revenue.

Poor Crestor sales contributed significantly to the poor performance considering that they had a 38 percent decline, coming in at $389 million compared to the figure reported in the previous year. Meanwhile, AstraZeneca also revealed its revenue expectations for the year during the announcement of its Q1 results. The firm expects its earnings per share for the financial year 2018 to be between $3.30 and $3.50. The company also anticipates a single-digit rise in its products sales for the year.

Despite the negative performance especially compared to figures reported in Q1 of 2017, AstraZeneca still had some positive announcements. For example, it revealed that there was positive growth in the emerging markets by 22 percent and most of this growth was driven by China. It was also the first time that growth for the company was reported above $1 billion. Meanwhile, AstraZeneca claims that pipeline opportunities are still intact. The firm also claims that there is also a lot of excitement about its new medicines as well as their launch trajectories.

Japan and the EU are some of the key markets especially when it comes to the launch of new products but sales in these markets took a hit especially because the company lost exclusivity in these markets. Unfortunately, the company expects the impact of that loss to continue in Q2 and this changed investor outlook, leading to a drop in the value of the company’s stock. So far AstraZeneca has 6 upcoming launches and it is also planning to invest heavily in China. The company also revealed that it recently put in more effort towards focusing on its main markets especially with its sale of Seroquel.

AstraZeneca also revealed that it wants to remain focused on its strategy and this involves boosting its focus in three major areas which include respiratory, CVRM and oncology markets. the company expects performance in the future to remain strong especially since it has a strong portfolio of products that it offers in multiple markets.