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FILE PHOTO: Apple CEO Tim Cook attends the China Development Forum in Beijing
FILE PHOTO: Apple CEO Tim Cook attends the China Development Forum in Beijing, China, March 18, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

March 23, 2019

BEIJING (Reuters) – Apple chief executive Tim Cook nudged China on Saturday to open up and said the future would depend on global collaboration, as the United States and China remained locked in a bitter trade dispute.

“We encourage China to continue to open up, we see that as essential, not only for China to reach its full potential, but for the global economy to thrive,” Cook said at a China Development Forum in Beijing.

Despite official pledges and repeated assurances that China would continue to open its markets, some analysts worry that its reform project has slowed or even stalled under President Xi Jinping, who has sought greater control over the economy and a bigger role for state-owned firms at the expense of the private sector.

Cook’s comments come as Apple weathers sinking sales in China because of a contracting smartphone market, increasing pressure from Chinese rivals, and slowing upgrade cycles. The company reported a revenue drop of 26 percent in the greater China region during the quarter ending in December.

Before those results came out, in a January letter to investors, Cook blamed the company’s poor China performance on trade tension between the United States and China, suggesting that pressure on the economy was hurting sales in China.

(Reporting by Brenda Goh; Writing by John Ruwitch; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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FILE PHOTO: The Viacom office is seen in Hollywood, Los Angeles
FILE PHOTO: The Viacom office is seen in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, April 24, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

March 23, 2019

(Reuters) – MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and other Viacom Inc channels were still available on AT&T Inc’s DirecTV satellite TV service on early Saturday morning as the companies continued to hash out a new carriage contract.

It was not immediately clear if a deal could be reached, sources briefed on the matter said. AT&T and Viacom declined to comment.

The previous contract, in which AT&T paid Viacom about $1 billion in fees annually, expired at midnight Friday. Failing to reach a deal means Viacom channels would not be available to AT&T’s 24.5 million customers.

These types of conflicts have become increasingly common amid waves of media consolidation and the migration of viewers from traditional pay television services to streaming TV services such as Netflix and Amazon.

The current discussions have weighed on any potential tie-up of CBS Corp and Viacom, both of which are controlled by the Redstone family’s National Amusements Inc.

Viacom had begun warning AT&T subscribers on Tuesday that its channels could stop being shown on the DirecTV service if it failed to reach a new contract by midnight on March 22.

Viacom, owner of MTV, Nickelodeon, BET and Comedy Central, accused AT&T of abusing its powers after buying Time Warner Inc, which owns the Warner Bros Hollywood studios and HBO premium cable network.

AT&T has said Viacom channels are no longer as popular as they once were and accused them of being a “serial bad actor” in contract renewal negotiations.

(Reporting by Kenneth Li; Editing by Tom Hogue)

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FILE PHOTO: Southwest Airlines Co. Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft at Midway International Airport in Chicago
FILE PHOTO: Southwest Airlines Co. Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft sit next to the maintenance area after landing at Midway International Airport in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Kamil Kraczynski/File Photo

March 23, 2019

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Southwest Airlines Co is sending experts from its technical pilot and training teams to review documentation and training associated with Boeing Co’s updated speed trim system on its 737 MAX aircraft, a spokeswoman told Reuters on Friday.

Southwest, the largest operator of 737 MAX in the world, is also preparing to park its 34 MAX jets at a facility in Victorville, California, while a global grounding remains in place following two fatal crashes of the new Boeing jets in five months.

The crashes involving an Indonesian Lion Air plane on Oct. 29 and an Ethiopian Airlines plane on March 10 killed 346 people.

(Reporting by Tracy Rucinski)

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FILE PHOTO: Packs of Benson & Hedges cigarettes are on display in a tobacco shop in Vienna
FILE PHOTO: Packs of Benson & Hedges cigarettes are on display in a tobacco shop in Vienna, Austria, May 12, 2017. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

March 23, 2019

(Reuters) – Philip Morris International Inc on Friday said its Canadian unit, Rothmans, Benson & Hedges Inc (RBH), was granted creditor protection, following a tobacco class action ruling in Quebec earlier this month.

The company said it would deconsolidate RBH from its financial statements, and it cut its full-year 2019 diluted earnings per share forecast to at least $4.90 at prevailing exchange rates, from at least $5.28 in the forecast it made on March 4, shortly after the ruling in Quebec.

The Court of Appeal of Quebec upheld the bulk of a 2015 decision that awarded around C$15 billion to smokers in the Canadian province, a blow to several big tobacco companies, including RBH.

(Reporting by Shubham Kalia in Bengaluru; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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FILE PHOTO: The Viacom office is seen in Hollywood, Los Angeles
FILE PHOTO: The Viacom office is seen in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, April 24, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

March 22, 2019

By Helen Coster, Liana B. Baker and Kenneth Li

(Reuters) – Viacom Inc’s bitter contract renewal talks with AT&T Inc’s DirecTV that could see the blackout of MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central by midnight Friday are weighing on a possible tie-up of CBS and Viacom, sources familiar with the discussions said.

Although the boards of CBS and Viacom have not discussed or decided on pursuing a merger, these sources say they are studying AT&T’s impact on Viacom and how it affects the company’s motivation to pursue a CBS merger. Viacom needs to resolve the AT&T contract before considering any other strategic moves including mergers and acquisitions, sources said.

Both companies are controlled by the Redstone family’s National Amusements Inc, which pushed for a merger last year but backed off as CBS explores other options before deciding on another run at Viacom.

Viacom would take a substantial financial hit without an AT&T deal. AT&T is Viacom’s largest distributor, representing 24.5 million total video subscribers, and was responsible for about 15 percent of Viacom’s 2018 revenue. At stake are about $2 billion annually in fees and advertising, which are seen declining in any new deal, according to Wall Street estimates.

The 2017 Viacom and Charter Communications Inc renewal resulted in a 15 percent rate decrease. A similar outcome with AT&T could lead to a $156 million drop in annual affiliate fees paid by AT&T to Viacom, although some analysts have estimated an approximate 10 percent decrease this time.

Viacom and AT&T declined to comment. Negotiations continued as of Friday afternoon, sources said.

Failure to reach a deal is seen emboldening CBS and Viacom’s controlling shareholder’s position to put the companies together to give them better leverage in future distribution contract talks.

“Viacom’s clear need for greater negotiating leverage after being dropped by AT&T might be the final factor necessary to drive the long-speculated CBS-Viacom merger given the common control of both companies by the Redstone-controlled National Amusements,” Credit Suisse analyst Doug Mitchelson said in a research note this week.

If AT&T and Viacom walk away from the table, the No. 2 U.S. telecoms company’s position could also be weakened, especially if it faces a combined CBS and Viacom by the end of June, when CBS’s contract with AT&T expires.

Dropping the CBS broadcast network and NFL games would be disastrous to AT&T, and they may end up paying more for Viacom channels through CBS, analysts have said.

Losing Viacom will also weaken AT&T’s leverage as it faces Walt Disney Co and Fox later this year.

(Reporting by Kenneth Li, Helen Coster and Liana B. Baker; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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A trader works at the post that trades Parsley Energy Inc. and Allergan Plc., on the floor of the NYSE
A trader works at the post that trades Parsley Energy Inc. and Allergan Plc., on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) April 5, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

March 22, 2019

(Reuters) – Allergan Plc plans to elect an independent board chairman, starting with the next leadership transition, the Botox maker said on Friday, as the drugmaker responds to calls from hedge fund Appaloosa LP to separate the roles of chairman and chief executive officer.

Appaloosa, led by billionaire David Tepper, has been pressing Allergan since last year to separate the roles, but the company has said it would do so only when the person who now holds the positions is replaced.

Brent Saunders currently holds the roles, and Allergan has said implementing Appaloosa’s recommendations would be “highly disruptive” to the company’s operations and impact his ability to continue to execute its current strategy.

Allergan also said https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1578845/000119312519083731/d633114d8k.htm in a regulatory filing on Friday that it had formed a committee to oversee mergers, acquisitions, divestitures and other transactions.

The company also named Thomas Freyman as the chair of the compensation committee, replacing Catherine Klema, who will not be standing for re-election.

A spokesman for Tepper did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The company in February had named former CEO of drugmaker Celgene, Robert Hugin, as a director, saying the appointment reflected its commitment to “active board refreshment”.

(Reporting by Saumya Sibi Joseph in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Sriraj Kalluvila)

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FILE PHOTO: Musk looks on at SpaceX Falcon 9 post-launch news conference in Cape Canaveral
FILE PHOTO: SpaceX founder Elon Musk looks on at a post-launch news conference after the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, carrying the Crew Dragon spacecraft, lifted off on an uncrewed test flight to the International Space Station from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., March 2, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake

March 22, 2019

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Lawyers for Elon Musk said on Friday that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission had failed to satisfy its heavy burden of showing that the Tesla Inc chief executive should be held in contempt of court.

In a Manhattan federal court filing, Musk’s lawyers also said their client “respects his obligations” to the electric car company, its shareholders and the court.

Musk is trying to avoid being held in contempt for violating his October 2018 fraud settlement with the SEC, for having tweeted on Feb. 19 to his more than 24 million Twitter followers that Tesla could build around 500,000 vehicles in 2019.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York, editing by G Crosse)

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FILE PHOTO: Company logo and trading information for Boeing is displayed on a screen on the floor of the NYSE in New York
FILE PHOTO: Company logo and trading information for Boeing is displayed on a screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

March 22, 2019

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FILE PHOTO: An illuminated Google logo is seen inside an office building in Zurich
FILE PHOTO: An illuminated Google logo is seen inside an office building in Zurich, Switzerland December 5, 2018. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

March 22, 2019

By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Czech search engine Seznam urged Google on Friday to disclose more details about its plan to boost rival search apps in Android smartphones, saying it continued to lose users due to what it said were Google’s anti-competitive practices.

Seznam, which attracts as much advertising spend as Google in the Czech Republic, took its grievance to the European Commission nearly three years ago.

It subsequently joined lobbying group FairSearch whose complaint triggered the European Commission’s investigation into Google’s mobile operating system Android which ultimately led to a record 4.34 billion euro ($4.9 billion) fine.

“Time is running out, every day makes a difference. Seznam is losing market share because of Google’s search engine installed by default on mobiles,” said Michal Feix, Seznam’s former chief executive and now a partner at a consultancy advising the company.

EU antitrust enforcers said Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc., had used its Android market power to hinder rivals.

Google’ senior vice-president of global affairs, Kent Walker, said in a blog this week that his company planned to prompt users to choose their preferred browsers and search apps, but he did not provide details.

Feix welcomed that idea in principle. “It is probably the solution we are looking at but it depends on the details. Walker’s blog lacked details,” he said.

Google spokesman Al Verney declined to comment.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Edmund Blair)

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FILE PHOTO: A Pinterest banner hangs on the facade of the NYSE in New York
FILE PHOTO: A Pinterest banner hangs on the facade of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., September 22, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

March 22, 2019

(Reuters) – Pinterest Inc, the owner of the image search website known for the food and fashion photos that its users post, filed for an initial public offering with U.S. regulators on Friday, looking to tap into a red-hot market for new issues.

The company, which plans to list under the symbol “PINS” on the New York Stock Exchange, set a placeholder amount of $100 million to indicate the size of the IPO. The final size could be different.

The filing comes a day after jeans maker Levi Strauss & Co’s blockbuster debut, and ahead of ride-hailing service providers Lyft Inc and Uber’s much-awaited listings.

(Reporting by Diptendu Lahiri in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)

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