Intel Inks Olympics Sponsorship Tech Deal

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Intel Corp. announced on Wednesday it would become a major sponsor of the International Olympic Committee, making the chipmaker the latest technology company to put marketing dollars behind the global sporting event.

Intel and the International Olympic Committee said on Wednesday the chip maker will become a world-wide sponsor of the Olympic Games through 2024 in a partnership to bring technologies, such as 5G wireless technology, virtual reality, 360 videos and artificial intelligence to the Olympic viewing experience.

The efforts will start with the next Olympics in Pyeongchang in 2018, and go through to 2024.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed but IOC sources have previously said that major sponsors pay about $100 million per four-year cycle, which includes one summer and one winter games. The IOC has been looking to increase the cost of those deals.

IOC President Thomas Bach said the partnership is part of the committee’s push for the Olympics to embrace and use new technologies to enhance viewers’ experience as well as the future of sports.

“We’ll allow people online to feel like they are there,” IOC chief executive officer Brian Krzanich said, speaking at a press conference in New York.

Intel’s announcement comes one week after McDonald’s Corp. announced it would be ending its Olympics partnership after the 2018 Winter Games, three years before the agreement was set to expire. The fast food giant, which has been an Olympics partner since 1976, expressed a desire to focus on other opportunities.

Intel joins about a dozen global Olympics sponsors such as Coca-Cola, Samsung and most recently, Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba, which signed on six months ago. The IOC has been trying to make the Olympics more technologically savvy and appeal to younger people through its internet-based TV network, the Olympic Channel.

The rise of digital networks and new media technologies have made up that opportunity exponentially, with more ways presenting those coverages, and more ways to reach more sports fans. Intel working on developing more of these services will directly feed into expanding that machine.

“Intel’s vision is that building a better world is our business. Our vision is building a better world through sport,” said Bach. “So bringing together these two visions will allow us to make great progress with regard to experience through games, as well as promoting the values we are sharing.”

Intel has made a number of moves in the arena of sports to ramp up its involvement in sports as a target vertical for the company’s efforts in emerging areas like VR. They have included acquisitions of Voke VR for immersive sports technology; Replay Technologies for 3D video tech; providing a March Madness experience in VR, and helping provide tech for the X-Games in Aspen and the NBA All-Star Weekend.

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Snap Strikes $100 Million Deal With Time Warner

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Snap, the owner of Snapchat, just struck a $100 million deal with Time Warner, the company that owns HBO and Warner Bros, which will see the entertainment company provide the platform with up to 10 original shows annually for the next two years.

Time Warner will produce original programming and advertising, as the newly public social media group tries to get a greater share of the ad dollars earned from marketing to younger audiences.

“This partnership is another exciting step as we continue to branch out into new genres, including scripted dramas, comedies, daily news Shows, documentaries, and beyond,” said Nick Bell, vice president of content for Snap, in a statement.

Gary Ginsberg, Time Warner executive vice-president, said Snap had driven the “evolution of media”.

“We’re confident this partnership will help drive larger audiences to our shows and to the new direct-to-consumer platforms we continue to roll out,” he said.

It is not clear how much of the $100 million deal will be spent on developing the new programs and how will be spent on advertising on the platform. Snap sells video ads that sit within collections of photos known as “stories”, original programming to appear on its Discover section, and sponsored filters and lenses which are visual overlays on people’s snaps. Time Warner will advertise HBO, Turner and Warner Bros. on Snap in the next two years.

Snap typically broadcasts one show a day in its app under a “Shows” header. They all are five to 10 minutes and made in participation with networks like NBC, ABC, BBC, A&E, Discovery, Vice, and others. The shows have collectively drawn “audiences of over 8 million,” Snap CEO Evan Spiegel said during the company’s latest earnings call.

By the end of 2017, Snap aims to have two to three shows air in its app every day.

Snap is one of many internet companies competing to be the future of TV. Facebook is investing in original content to encourage people to watch long-form video on the social network. YouTube launched a subscription service in 2016 as well as YouTube TV, a platform on which consumers can watch live broadcasting, earlier this year.

Shares of Snap are up 1.94% on Monday, to $17.88, after falling back to their IPO price of $17 late last week. It opened at $17.85, with a session high of $18.34 and a session low of $17.03. The stock currently has a market capitalization of $21.75 billion. Meanwhile, Time Warner shares settled at $99.90, up 0.7%.

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Amazon To Buy Whole Foods Market For $13.7 Billion

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Amazon announced on Friday that it would buy Whole Foods Market in a deal valued at $13.7 billion, and pay $42 a share for Texas-based grocery store chain in an all-cash deal that includes the group’s debt.

Whole Foods CEO John Mackey will stay as the CEO of the grocery store chain after the deal closes, and the store, the organic grocer that was founded in 1978, will keep operating under the Whole Foods brand as the deal is expected to be done in the second half year.

“This partnership presents an opportunity to maximize value for Whole Foods Market’s shareholders, while at the same time extending our mission and bringing the highest quality, experience, convenience and innovation to our customers,” Mackey said in a statement.

The deal sent a shocking reaction across both the online and brick-and-mortar industries, uniting two brands that weren’t seen as clear partners. But Whole Foods came under pressure to find a buyer this year after activist investor Jana Partners LLC acquired a stake and started pushing for a deal. Jana’s move annoyed Mackey, who has stated Whole Foods as his “baby.” With Amazon in the play, he gets to keep his job as CEO of the grocery chain.

In Whole Foods, it is acquiring a company that has recently come under pressure from investors for its lagging performance. Whole Foods, whose stores now numbers more than 430 locations, has struggled to appeal more mainstream consumers as Walmart and other large chains have stepped up their sales of natural and organic products.

“Millions of people love Whole Foods Market because they offer the best natural and organic foods, and they make it fun to eat healthy,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO. “Whole Foods Market has been satisfying, delighting and nourishing customers for nearly four decades – they’re doing an amazing job and we want that to continue.”

Mackey said the he agreed to the deal because it is “an opportunity to maximize value” for the company’s shareholders.

Moreover, Amazon’s biggest acquisition so far came in 2014, when it agreed to buy video-game service Twitch Interactive Inc. for $970 million in cash. The Seattle-based company had about $21.5 billion of cash and equivalents at the end of March, the data show.

Whole Foods closed at $33.06 on Thursday. It opened at $34.85, with a session high of $34.97 and a session low of $32.97. Shares were halted in pre-market trading. Meanwhile, Amazon opened at $958.7 and closed at $964.17, with a session high of $965.73 and a session low of $950.86. Shares of Amazon rose 1.5% to $978.88 in pre-market trading.

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Nokia Rolls Out The World’s Fastest Routers

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Nokia rolled out the world’s fastest routers on Wednesday, giving its existing network business a boost and marking a breakthrough into the core router market dominated by rivals Juniper and Cisco.

The new traffic routers can handle the greater demands of virtual reality programming, cloud-based internet services and next-generation mobile communications, the Finnish company said.

They will also serve Nokia’s existing base of telecom operator customers who want speed, but still must contend with legacy gear needed to run existing services, as they are backward compatible with older products.

Nokia’s new products, which grew out of its 15.6 billion-euro ($17.5 billion) 2016 acquisition of Alcatel and its IP network gear business, should help it win business from companies such as Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon, for whom transmission speed is everything and who are still increasing spending on network gear, unlike its traditional base of telecoms customers.

“With this announcement, Nokia will have the highest-performance system capacity in the market, and a lot of those web-scalers, they just want speed,” said Ray Mota, a principal analyst, in an interview. “That gives them an opportunity to approach the core network market with more credibility and gain some traction there.”

Telecom operators’ capital spending is increasing by just 2-3% a year which means Nokia is turning to web-scale players whose spending on new network gear is rising by double-digits.

The former Alcatel IP networks business is already the world’s No. 2 player in edge routers behind Cisco, having displaced Juniper Networks, which is now No. 3.

Nokia’s Petabit-Class Routers

Nokia’s latest FP4 silicon chipset is capable of processing data at 2.4 terabits per second. It’s based on the FP3 chip Nokia already uses, but combines several of them into a single package. The new chipsets will be shipped in the fourth quarter, with routers running FP4 chips ready in the first quarter of next year.

These will be built into routers to operate both ultra high-speed “core” networks at the heart of the biggest internet services and also “edge” networks that connect datacenters to front-line customer services on mobile or fixed-line networks.

Pack several of these on the same circuit board and the end result is a line card capable of 12 Tbps. In a new router, these cards can handle six times the traffic of the model they replace, but according to Steve Vogelsang, CTO for Nokia’s IP and optical business, they can be put into routers up to 10 years old as well.

FP4 chips, which are manufactured for Nokia by Taiwan’s TSMC are designed using circuits as narrow as 16 nanometers apart, skipping 22- and 28-nanometer-sized circuits compared to the prior FP3 processor built at 40-nanometer scale, Nokia said.

Nokia is introducing the 7950 petabit-class router aimed at the core routing market to help it win business from customers such as Apple and Facebook. A petabit can transmit 5,000 two-hour-long high-definition videos every second. For edge network customers, Nokia is introducing its 7750 router, offering the highest traffic capacity on the market.

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Time Inc. To Lay Off 300 Jobs In Shift To Digital

 

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Time Inc. announced on Tuesday that it is set to lay off 300 jobs in the U.S. and abroad through layoffs and buyouts as the U.S.’s largest magazine publisher shapes up its focus on digital media and video opportunities.

The cuts were being made as the New York-based media company, which publishes dozens of magazines including Time, Sports Illustrated and Fortune magazines, is looking to cut costs and reinvest in growth areas.

The job cuts and buyouts will affect 4% of the company’s workforce, or roughly 7,500 at the end of December. The streamlining will include print magazines, corporate and sales, with more than half of the employees affected based in the U.S. However, no details were provided about where the specific job cuts would be happening.

“Time Inc. is a company in rapid transformation in an industry undergoing dynamic change,” Time CEO Rich Battista said in the e-mail. “Transformations do take time and patience, but I am encouraged by the demonstrable progress we are making as we implement our strategy in key growth areas, such as video, native advertising and brand extensions.”

Time Inc. said it hired a consultant to help evaluate the next round of cuts, and that the company, while no longer considering a sale, would consider selling titles or partnering on them with other interested parties, for instance. “We’re seeing some real demonstrable progress,” said Battista.

The streamlining comes less than two months after Time Inc.’s board decided not to sell the company and ended talks with potential suitors.

“We’re re-engineering our entire cost structure,” said Battista. “We’re trying to be as nimble and efficient as possible, and get this process moving.”

Battista also said the next six to 12 months will be critical in terms of the company’s streamlining as it is looking to become more efficient in terms of legacy systems in place. “This isn’t only about cutting employees.”

Time Inc. already has begun hiring more staffers in video, digital products and digital sales, all growth areas, said a company spokesman.

Time Inc. shares were slightly higher at 0.36% to $13.98 per share. It opened at $13.95, with a session high of $14.10 and a session low of $13.85. The stock has a market capitalization of $1.39 billion, and a dividend yield of 1.15%.

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RBS Closes In On $4.5 Billion Over U.S. Mortgage Bond Settlement

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Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) is closing in on a multi-billion pound settlement with a U.S. regulator over the mis-selling of toxic mortgage bonds that will get rid of one of the long-standing obstacles to the government returning the lender to the private sector.

It was reported that RBS and the Federal Housing Finance Agency are on the verge of agreeing a deal that could cost the bank as much as $4.5 billion (£3.5 billion), allowing the bailed out lender to put some of its mortgage backed securities legacy behind it.

Such an agreement would draw a line under one of RBS’ largest legal challenges and potentially pave the way for the government selling down its stake. Apparently, the discussions made progress sufficiently far to leave both sides hopeful that an announcement can be officially made in the next few weeks.

RBS is the last of 18 banks to settle with the FHFA, although a number of other banks are also yet to settle with the DoJ, including Barclays, which is involved in a legal battle with the agency.

The settlement with the FHFA relates to the mis-selling of mortgages to the US government-backed loan firms Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac prior to the 2008 financial crisis, when RBS was among the biggest players on Wall Street.

RBS executives are keen to come to an agreement as soon as possible as they continue their efforts to return the bank, which is more than 70%-owned by British taxpayers to profit for the first time since 2007.

However, a settlement with the FHFA will not mean that RBS is completely out of the woods yet as it must still face formal settlement talks with the US Department of Justice about big penalty related to residential mortgage-backed securities, which are expected to cost it substantially more than any deal with the FHFA.

Meanwhile, RBS shares went up 1.7% to £254.35 on Tuesday after the news. It opened at £252.00, with a session high of £258.00 and a session low of £251.30, with a market capitalization of £30.19 billion.

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Pound Dives After UK Election Upset

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Britain’s pound took a battering dive on Friday, staying at its two-month lows, after Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party lost its parliamentary majority in elections, plunging the country into potential political chaos days before the start of Brexit negotiations.

Sterling fell 1.6% to $1.2748 after sliding as much as 2.5% to $1.2636 in early European trade , its weakest level since April 18.

With no clear winner emerging from Thursday’s election, Prime Minister Theresa May was fighting to hold on to her job on Friday as she faced calls to quit after her election gamble to win a stronger mandate she had sought to conduct exit talks with the rest of the European Union failed, leaving no single party with a clear claim to power just 10 days before the start of negotiations on Britain’s divorce from the European Union.

Lee, Hardman, a currency strategist in London, said the market wants more clearness now as far as who will be the next Prime Minister, what kind of form will the government take and eventually how all that feeds through into upcoming Brexit negotiations are concerned.

“In the near term the increased political uncertainty and the risk of more disorderly Brexit negotiations should enforce pound weakness.”

The surprise of a result that raised questions about how Britain will go on with its plan to leave the EU, and whether any party can form a stable government, sent the pound to eight-week lows against the dollar and its lowest levels in seven months versus the euro.

After falling sharply on an exit poll released when polls closed at 21:00 GMT, which showed Britain was set for a hung parliament, the pound had steadied a little in Asian trading. However, it fell sharply again as London traders arrived at their desks, as it became clear that no party had won a majority.

Another currency strategist in London, Viraj Patel, said that the pound’s nightmare scenario would always be the failure to have a safe political stability and the result of a hung parliament.

“Hopes that political uncertainty would decrease substantially under a more stable Conservative government…(have) been all but dashed,” said Patel.

“With the two-year Article 50 clock ticking, the passage of time is sterling-negative,” he added, referring to the formal Article 50 process by which Britain is set to leave the EU. “A working government is needed as soon as possible to avoid a further drop in the pound.”

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