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Apple, Netflix pull out of South by Southwest pageant amid

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The brand of U.S. expertise firm Apple is seen at a department workplace in Basel, Switzerland March 2, 2020. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

(Reuters) – Apple Inc and Netflix Inc stated they had been pulling out of the South by Southwest music and tech pageant to be held later this month, amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The U.S. dying toll from coronavirus infections rose to 11 on Wednesday and California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a statewide emergency amid the nation’s largest outbreak.

Fb Inc had stated earlier this week it could not take part within the pageant.

Representatives of the occasion didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.

Organizers of the South by Southwest music and tech pageant, set to be held in Austin, Texas, had stated final month the occasion would proceed as deliberate regardless of “a handful” of cancellations associated to the virus.

The outbreak has disrupted different tech conferences and gatherings, together with the Cellular World Congress in Barcelona and Google’s annual developer occasion, Google I/O. Corporations have additionally modified their work and journey plans.

IBM stated on Wednesday its developer convention ‘IBM Suppose 2020’ could be an internet occasion and happen from Could 5-7.

The corporate stated it has issued new journey restrictions by means of the top of March.

Reporting by Rama Venkat and Bharath Manjesh in Bengaluru and Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Modifying by Maju Samuel and Vinay Dwivedi

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Exxon CEO sticks to spending targets as oil costs tumble

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NEW YORK (Reuters) – Two years into an formidable progress plan to revive earnings on the largest U.S. oil firm, Exxon Mobil (XOM.N) mentioned on Thursday it will persist with its spending plans whilst its rivals trim prices.

FILE PHOTO: Darren Woods, Chairman & CEO of Exxon Mobil Company attends a information convention on the New York Inventory Change (NYSE) in New York, U.S., March 1, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Exxon faces oil costs which have fallen over 20% this 12 months, the bottom pure gasoline costs in a long time, a long-term business outlook too is clouded by a push towards cleaner gas and stress from buyers for greater returns.

It plans to spend between $30 billion and $35 billion a 12 months by means of 2025, with about $33 billion in capital expenditure this 12 months.

The corporate’s progress technique “will result in sustained enchancment in shareholder worth,” Exxon’s Chief Government Officer Darren Woods mentioned in New York, the place the corporate held its annual investor day assembly.

Exxon’s progress plans embrace an enormous wager on U.S. shale, the place output has surged, making america the world’s largest oil producer, and on Guyana, the place an Exxon-led consortium has made one of many largest discoveries in years.

On Tuesday, Exxon’s closest U.S.-rival Chevron confirmed off its personal warfare chest by highlighting it has as much as $80 billion that it may use for shareholder returns over the following 5 years no matter buying and selling costs for oil.

As the 2 corporations race to turn out to be the primary to provide 1 million barrels of oil-equivalent per day in Permian, the highest U.S. oilfield, Exxon mentioned Thursday that it’s going to exceed that focus on by 2024.

The complete oil business has fallen out of favor with buyers, however Exxon, as soon as the business’s money stream and income chief, has tumbled significantly arduous.

Complete returns for Exxon over the past 5 years have fallen into destructive territory, whereas the S&P 500 returned 64%. Rivals Chevron, Complete and BP have seen constructive returns, whereas Royal Dutch Shell has been flat.

(This story corrects day in first paragraph to Thursday, not Tuesday)

Reporting by Jennifer Hiller in New York and Shariq Khan in Bengaluru; Enhancing by Arun Koyyur and Chizu Nomiyama

Our Requirements:The Thomson Reuters Belief Rules.

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Waymo joins critics of California’s self-driving data

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FILE PHOTO: Reuters reporter Alexandria Sage steps out of a Waymo self-driving vehicle during a demonstration in Chandler, Arizona, November 29, 2018. Picture taken November 29, 2018. REUTERS/Caitlin O’Hara

(Reuters) – Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Waymo, widely considered the front-runner in self-driving vehicles, on Wednesday joined a growing chorus of dissenters panning a California requirement on reporting test data, as the state released 2019 results.

Waymo tweeted that the metric, called disengagements, is not an accurate or relevant way to measure a company’s technical progress, even though it is widely used to do that.

“The disengagement metric does not provide relevant insights” nor does it distinguish Waymo’s “performance from others in the self-driving space,” the company said.

California requires self-driving companies to provide disengagement data on how often a human driver must intervene to take control from a self-driving system during testing on public roads.

Other self-driving companies, including General Motors Co’s (GM.N) Cruise and California startup Aurora also have criticized the disengagement data.

Reporting by Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru and Paul Lienert in Detroit; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Richard Chang

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Samsung Electronics confirms coronavirus case at phone

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SEOUL (Reuters) – Samsung Electronics (005930.KS) said on Saturday that one coronavirus case had been confirmed at its mobile device factory complex in the southeastern city of Gumi, causing a shutdown of its entire facility there until Monday morning.

Samsung Electronics, the world’s top smartphone maker, said the floor where the infected employee worked would be shut down until the morning of Feb. 25.

“The company has placed colleagues who came in contact with the infected employee in self-quarantine and taken steps to have them tested for possible infection,” Samsung said in a news release.

Samsung’s factory in Gumi accounts for a small portion of its total smartphone production, and it makes high-end phones, mostly for the domestic market. Samsung produces most of its smartphones in Vietnam and India.

Gumi is close to the city of Daegu, home to a church at the center of South Korea’s largest coronavirus outbreak.

South Korea said on Saturday that the number of people infected with the coronavirus in the country had more than doubled to 433.

Samsung said production at its chip and display factories in other parts of South Korea would not be affected.

Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin. Editing by Gerry Doyle

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U.S. SEC probes Altria’s investment in Juul: source

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FILE PHOTO: Juul brand vape cartridges are pictured for sale at a shop in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., September 26, 2019. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage/File Photo

(Reuters) – U.S. regulators have opened a probe regarding Marlboro maker Altria Group Inc’s (MO.N) investment in e-cigarette maker Juul Labs Inc, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating whether the Marlboro maker adequately disclosed the risks to its shareholders when it spent $12.8 billion in 2018 for a 35% stake in the start-up, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier on Friday.

The SEC has issued subpoenas to Juul and the e-cigarette maker has responded, according to the person familiar with the matter.

Juul has turned over documents including correspondence with Altria and financial projections Juul shared with Altria before the deal, the person said.

Altria has recorded $8.6 billion in impairment charges since investing in Juul in December 2018, bringing the value of its investment to $4.2 billion by end of 2019.

Juul and Altria did not immediately respond to a request from Reuters for comment.

Reporting by Praveen Paramasivam and Abhishek Manikandan in Bengaluru, and Chris Kirkham in Los Angeles; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Daniel Wallis

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BlackRock bolsters European management as part of post-Brexit expansion

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FILE PHOTO: A sign for BlackRock Inc hangs above their building in New York U.S., July 16, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) – BlackRock (BLK.N), the world’s biggest asset manager, has appointed two executives to oversee Continental Europe for the first time as part of its efforts to expand in the region, a memo to staff on Wednesday seen by Reuters showed.

Over the last two years, BlackRock had accelerated its investment in the region as a “strategic priority” and now ran more than $1 trillion, “making us the largest independent asset manager on the Continent,” its head of Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Rachel Lord, said in the memo.

With “an ambitious strategy for growth” in the region, Lord said it needed “dedicated leadership” and so had appointed two country heads, Stephane Lapiquonne and Christian Hyldahl, to jointly lead the company’s efforts.

Reporting by Simon Jessop; editing by Sinead Cruise

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UK watchdog to clamp down on insurance loyalty penalties

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LONDON, Feb 18 (Reuters) – Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority said on Tuesday it was finalising “remedies” to stop home and car insurance companies penalising loyal customers.

The watchdog said the “loyalty penalty” cost longstanding customers an extra 1.2 billion pounds ($1.56 billion) in 2018.

More than four in five adults in Britain have one or more insurance products, and consumers who stay with their existing insurer at renewal almost always pay higher premiums than those who switch or negotiate, the FCA said in Sector Views, its annual review of key concerns for the year ahead.

The FCA also said high-risk retail investment products were exposing consumers to more risk than they can absorb, the FCA said.

“Some of the highest-risk products are often marketed directly to retail consumers with poor communication of the risks involved and implications that the investments are regulated, when this is not the case,” it added.

Many new payments firms had been able to enter the market and grow quickly, and some of their products had offered no protection for consumers.

Sector Views are used by the FCA to shape its business plan for the coming financial year and determine whether to open new market investigations and use its powers to intervene.

$1 = 0.7696 pounds
Reporting by Huw Jones; editing by John Stonestreet

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Bayer to appeal $265 million U.S. damages award on dicamba weedkiller

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FILE PHOTO: The logo of Bayer AG is pictured outside a plant of the German pharmaceutical and chemical maker in Wuppertal, Germany August 9, 2019. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay/File Photo

BERLIN (Reuters) – German agrochemicals group Bayer said on Sunday it would appeal a U.S. jury’s $265 million damages award against it and BASF in favor of a Missouri farmer who said the company’s dicamba herbicide had destroyed his peach orchards.

The jury award, the first of more than 140 dicamba cases to come to trial, is separate to multi-billion-dollar litigation Bayer is trying to settle over the Roundup weedkiller made by Monsanto, the U.S. firm it took over for $63 billion in 2018. Monsanto made both Roundup and dicamba, and Bayer is being sued over both products.

In the dicamba case, a jury awarded $15 million in compensation to farmer Bill Bader and a further $250 million in punitive damages against Bayer and BASF, according to media reports on Friday. No breakdown of the damages was immediately available.

“We are disappointed with the jury’s verdict,” Bayer said in a statement.

“We believe the evidence presented at trial demonstrated that Monsanto’s products were not responsible for the losses sought in this lawsuit and we look forward to appealing the decision.”

No comment was available from BASF, which makes its own herbicide on the basis of dicamba.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) imposed restrictions on the use of dicamba in Nov. 2018 due to concerns about the potential damage to crops surrounding those it was being applied to.

Bayer’s genetically engineered soy seeds are designed to be resistant to dicamba.

Reporting by Patricia Weiss; Writing by Douglas Busvine; Editing by David Gregorio

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U.S. raises tariffs on European aircraft in ongoing dispute over subsidies

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. government on Friday said it would increase tariffs on aircraft imported from the European Union to 15% from 10%, ratcheting up pressure on Brussels in a nearly 16-year transatlantic dispute over aircraft subsidies.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Airbus is pictured at the aircraft builder’s headquarters of Airbus in Colomiers near Toulouse, France, November 15, 2019. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau/File Photo

The U.S. Trade Representative’s Office said it remained open to reaching a negotiated settlement with the EU on the issue, but could revise its actions if the EU imposed tariffs of its own in connection with a pair of disputes over the subsidies.

In a statement released late on Friday, USTR said it would make minor modifications to 25% tariffs imposed on cheese, wine and other non-aircraft products from the EU, including dropping prune juice from the list. It did not raise the tariff rates on those product, as it had suggested it might do in October.

The higher aircraft tariff will take effect March 18.

The U.S. action comes as U.S. President Donald Trump, emboldened by agreement on a Phase 1 trade deal with China, has trained his sights on restructuring the more than $1 trillion U.S.-EU trade relationship, raising the specter of another major trade war as the global economy slows.

EU officials have said they want to negotiate with Washington but will not be bullied into submission.

European planemaker Airbus (AIR.PA) said the U.S. move would hit U.S. airlines already facing a shortage of aircraft and complicate efforts to reach a negotiated settlement with the European Union in the longstanding dispute.

Airbus said it would continue discussions with U.S. customers to “mitigate effects of tariffs insofar as possible” and hoped USTR would change its position, particularly given the threat of EU tariffs on U.S. products in its own case before the World Trade Organization.

“USTR’s decision ignores the many submissions made by U.S. airlines, highlighting the fact that they – and the U.S. flying public – ultimately have to pay these tariffs,” the company said in a statement.

EU officials had no immediate comment on Friday’s news.

The USTR had announced in December that it could increase tariff rates up to 100% and subject additional EU products to tariffs, following a decision by the WTO that EU launch aid to Airbus continued to harm the U.S. aerospace industry.

The WTO in October had awarded Washington the right to impose tariffs on $7.5 billion of annual EU imports in its case against Airbus. Washington then slapped 10% tariffs on most European-made Airbus jets and 25% duties on products ranging from cheese to olives and single-malt whisky, from Oct. 18.

Boeing, in a statement, said it was working with U.S. federal and state officials to “promptly bring the United States into full compliance” with WTO rulings.

“The EU and Airbus could end these tariffs by finally complying with their legal obligations, ending these illegal subsidies, and addressing their ongoing harm. We hope they will,” the company said in a statement.

The Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) said it remains strongly opposed to tariffs on European-origin wine and spirits, and urged U.S. and EU trade officials to negotiate an end to a trade dispute that was lowering revenues.

A study commissioned by the group estimated that the 25% tariffs implemented in October could result in the loss of nearly 36,000 jobs in the beverage alcohol industry.

The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States said tit-for-tat tariffs on alcoholic beverages were hurting companies and consumers on both sides of the Atlantic.

It said new U.S. government data showed the U.S. spirit industry’s exports to the EU, its largest export market, fell 27% in 2019 from a year earlier, and global exports of American whiskey declined 16% in the same period.

“We urge both sides to resolve these disputes so that consumers can enjoy #ToastsNotTariffs,” the group said.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal and Makini Brice; Editing by Daniel Wallis

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U.S. judge expected to rule in favor of merger of Sprint, T-Mobile: sources

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(Reuters) – A U.S. district judge is expected to rule in favor of allowing Sprint and T-Mobile to merge over the objections of a group of state attorneys general, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

A smartphones with Sprint logo are seen in front of a screen projection of T-mobile logo, in this picture illustration taken April 30, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

Shares of Sprint surged 69% in after hours trade and T-Mobile stock rose 8%.

U.S. District Court Judge Victor Marrero is expected to make his decision public on Tuesday, one source said.

Approval of the deal would be a high profile defeat for state attorneys general, led by New York and California, who had argued that a merger of the No. 3 and No. 4 U.S. wireless carriers would lead to higher prices, especially for customers who use prepaid plans popular with people with poorer credit.

The deal has already been approved by federal regulators.

The companies had said the deal was needed to help them build out next generation of wireless, called 5G, and better compete with sector leaders Verizon Communications Inc and AT&T Inc.

Executives from the companies, including outspoken T-Mobile Chief Executive John Legere, testified during the trial that Sprint’s business was deteriorating and would not survive if it did not merge with T-Mobile.

The two companies are expected to start talks on renegotiating the terms of their $26.5 billion merger in the next few days, two sources said.

T-Mobile parent Deutsche Telekom is keen to cut the price of the deal, arguing that Sprint’s fortunes have deteriorated since they inked their agreement, the sources added.

However, Sprint, in which Japan’s Softbank Group has a major stake, is expected to argue that T-Mobile needs Sprint in order to grow its cashflow and to boost its capacity using its spectrum, according to the sources.

There is no certainty that there will be a renegotiated deal, the sources cautioned.

The Court did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Sprint and T-Mobile both declined to comment.

One merger opponent, Gigi Sohn, a former telecoms regulator now at Georgetown Law, tweeted her displeasure with reports of the decision. “If #antitrust law doesn’t even block a 4-3 merger like this, we need to start from scratch,” she tweeted, referring to the market shrinking to three from four competitors. “I’ll have more to say tomorrow after I read the judge’s decision (through my tears).”

While a group of states decided to fight the deal in court, the federal government approved it with conditions, a decision which remain in effect.

The U.S. Justice Department approved the deal in July after the carriers agreed to sell some assets to satellite provider Dish Network Corp, which would create its own cellular network to ensure that there would still be four competitors in the market. The Federal Communications Commission signed off on the deal in October. Dish shares rose 2% after hours.

The states maintained that Dish was ill-equipped to become a competitive fourth wireless carrier.

The Wall Street Journal earlier reported that the court was expected to approve the deal on Tuesday.

Reporting by Diane Bartz in Washington and Greg Roumeliotis in New York, David Shepardson in DC and Arundhati Sarkar in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber, Uttaresh.V and Lincoln Feast.

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