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BenzingaEditorial

Big Tech to The Rescue Against COVID-19 – To Shine or Not to Shine?

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Tech Companies

Big Tech is facing a ‘Big Brother’ trap as coronavirus spreads over the globe. While it is under scrutiny for privacy issues for quite some time now, Silicon Valley faces the question of whether — or how — to use all the information they have on their users to help in the fight against the invisible enemy, COVID-19. And believe it or not, the Trump administration has asked them for help. Legislators came to a realization that are things that are more important than Big Tech being too powerful. Without a doubt, a pandemic is one of those as Italy reached its highest death toll on Wednesday. For these companies, this plea is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to restore their reputation as they are being not only asked but begged to step in and take action during a global emergency.

Facebook  Inc  (NASDAQ:FB) and Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR ) declined to comment on whether they had received government requests to share data whereas Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) initially did not respond but later emailed that it is exploring ways while follow our stringent privacy protocols and would not involve sharing data about any individual’s location, movement, or contacts.

What they did already

One thing we know for sure is that these companies hold sizeable cash reserves. Facebook Inc was the latest company to announce on Tuesday it will help to heal the economic damage from the coronavirus. The social media giant will donate US$100 million in cash grants and ad credits to up to 30,000 small businesses in over 30 countries.

Last week, Alphabet Inc’s Google was the very first taking action as it developed a website to help speed up the process of finding who needs a coronavirus test.

On Monday, Amazon.com Inc (NASDAQ:AMZN) will hire 100,000 warehouse and delivery workers in the United States to deal with a surge in online orders due to people being in isolation to help contain the spread. The company will also increase its minimum wage with US$2 to its minimum US$15 per hour to US workers all the way through April as this will last.

Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) devices and apps are helping people get their work done while also keeping their kids entertained. Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) has made working from home possible quite a while ago but sure handy now as the Europe and US’ citizens are on lockdown. So, they did a pretty good job already! But they could do more.

The Big Brother Trap

Arguably the single most powerful tool at their disposal, the data they have on its users is exactly what got them in trouble and what is keeping their customers worried. The Big Tech has been fighting the perception that they’re Big Brother for quite some time now, few years to be exact— but in case of a pandemic, that’s exactly the reason why they’re useful.

Israel is deploying a spy technology to track the virus, triggering fears of privacy invasion as until now, this was only done in the case of counterterrorism. But exceptional times call for drastic measures and this pandemics is one of those times as lives need to be saved. Even in the UK, the PM is determined that in order to beat this crisis, we need a combination of better science and technology to enhance government operations and provide better economic and social support. In other words, we all need a lot of help to win this war and Big Tech can provide us with the help we need. But this also means that Silicon Valley is being forced to return to a hole out of which it was trying to dig itself out. Do we need to remind you of the 2018 Cambridge Analytica debacle when Facebook made data available to researchers only to find it was sold for political manipulation.

On the other hand, they could do so much for public health

Only a decade ago, Google, enchanted users Flu Trends, a project using the search terms people typed into Google to map the spread of influenza. Facebook, Apple, Twitter, Amazon and Google hold data that’s a public-health researcher’s dream. They know where its users are, what they are searching for, what they are buying, and who are they spending time with. This is everything that epidemiologists need to know early on where outbreaks were likely to occur, where to deploy testing and send the vaccines the world is so eagerly waiting for. Moreover, it would enable analysts to figure out if we’re seeing a full spread or just the tip of the iceberg.

The dilemma

But the Big Tech remains worried about its Big Brother image. And they are extremely cautious for a reason because there is significant legal and societal risk of sharing anything at an individual level that is hard to ignore. Quite ironic isn’t it?

To shine or not to shine?

These companies have an immense capacity to influence lives around the globe, and now they even have a chance to save them. But only if they are willing to put aside (yet again) their promise of safeguarding data and throw out all the hard work of trying to prove this is the case in the recent years– and perhaps even risk it all as their users’ confidence could be lost for good. Big Tech indeed is facing a hard dilemma as these changes in privacy will be difficult to regain once things are back to normal as no one can guarantee their users will only see them as aftermath heroes. For Doctors, the true heroes, things are made simple by The Hippocratic Oath they all took- their priority is to save lives. But for these tech giants who are under scrutiny of engaging in immoral behavior to win market share, gain new markets and benefit their top and bottom lines by taking advantage of their users’ information, their equation is everything but black and white. And there is the economy to think of as there will be lasting damage once all this is over. Big Tech has been given the chance to improve its image and win hearts and minds along the way but will it take it considering the risk involved?

This article is not a press release and is contributed by Ivana Popovic who is a verified independent journalist for IAMNewswire. It should not be construed as investment advice at any time please read the full disclosure . Ivana Popovic does not hold any position in the mentioned companies. Press Releases – If you are looking for full Press release distribution contact: press@iamnewswire.com Contributors – IAM Newswire accepts pitches. If you’re interested in becoming an IAM journalist contact: contributors@iamnewswire.com Questions about this release can be send to ivana@iamnewswire.com

BenzingaEditorial

Retailers Are Hoping for a Better 2021

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This week, three major retailers provided a glimpse of hope that the world is returning to normalcy- or at the very least, consumer behavior is. Although The Gap, Inc. (NYSE: GPS) came short on sales estimates, Kohl’s Corporation (NYSE: KSS) and Nordstrom Inc (NYSE: JWN) topped estimates, although they have other issues to deal with.

Kohl’s posted better-than-expected earnings, but activist investors aren’t pleased

Kohl topped Wall Street’s estimates and pointed to stronger growth in 2021. Net income amounted to $343 million but sales dropped to $5.88 billion from $6.54 billion a year earlier despite online sales jumping 22% from a year earlier as they accounted for 42% of total sales.

In 2020, the company added more than 2 million new customers in 2020 thanks to its Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) returns service, a third of which are millennials. But the group of activists looking to seize control published a letter to shareholders saying the board seems to be content performing just slightly better than the worst companies in retail. Facing pressure from activist investors whose attempt to seize control was rejected at the end of last month, the company will reinstate its dividend and buy back shares.  The retailer has a market cap of $8.99 billion, which is bigger than Nordstrom’s and Macy’s.

Nordstrom sales drop despite digital surge

Fourth-quarter sales and earnings topped analysts’ estimates owed to stronger online demand and growth at its Nordstrom Rack business. The department store chain warned that it is still working through impacts from delayed holiday shipments by selling excess inventories during the first quarter, hoping to be back to normal inventory levels by the second quarter. Its quarterly net revenues of $3.64 billion dropped $893 million from fiscal 2019’s quarter, despite digital sales increasing 24% compared to the same period and contributing 54% to total sales. The digital surge wasn’t enough to move the needle and net income shrank to $33 million compared to $193 million a year earlier. Although consumer behavior remains uncertain, the retailer is calling for fiscal 2021 sales to grow more than 25%. The retailer has a market cap of $5.93 billion, which is less than Kohl’s but greater than Macy’s.

Gap misses sales but forecasts return to sales growth in 2021

Ongoing store closures overseas in Europe, parts of Asia and Canada weighed on Gap’s fourth-quarter results, with sales coming up short of estimates. The apparel retailer swung to a profit, thanks to its efforts to sell more merchandise at full price and closing underperforming stores.

For the quarter ended January 30th, Gap reported net income of $234 million, or 61 cents per share, compared with a loss of $184 million, or 49 cents per share, a year earlier. Net sales fell about 5% to $4.42 billion from $4.67 billion a year earlier. The company showed continued strength at its Old Navy and Athleta brands which cover basics and workout gear. But its namesake Gap brand and Banana Republic brands saw another quarter of sales declines. Overall online sales were up 49%, representing 46% of net sales during the quarter.

For fiscal 2021, Gap is calling for net sales to be up a mid- to high-teens percentage, as the company is hoping return to a more normalized, pre-pandemic level of net sales in the second half of the year which depends on customers soon returning to its stores and spending more money on apparel as they resume social activities.

Many retailers are facing shipping headwinds

Backlogged ports in the U.S. and heightened shipping costs continue to hit all kinds of businesses, from those selling apparel and shoes, to appliances and at-home fitness equipment. Moreover, as shoppers do return to stores, the persisting problem could make it even more difficult for retailers to plan their inventories and keep their shelves stocked with goods. COVID-19 will be put to an end by vaccines but the uncertainty that the pandemic created will be more difficult to mend as its long-term impact on consumer behavior is still unknown.

This article is not a press release and is contributed by a verified independent journalist for IAMNewswire. It should not be construed as investment advice at any time please read the full disclosure. IAM Newswire does not hold any position in the mentioned companies. Press Releases – If you are looking for full Press release distribution contact: press@iamnewswire.com Contributors – IAM Newswire accepts pitches. If you’re interested in becoming an IAM journalist contact: contributors@iamnewswire.com

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BenzingaEditorial

Zoom Is Doing Great But Can It Continue Being a Necessity?

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On Monday, Zoom Video Communications (NASDAQ: ZM) shares rose 11% in extended trading after the company reported fiscal fourth-quarter earnings, beating top and bottom-line expectations and issuing strong guidance.

As COVID-19 made physical contact impossible one year ago, video conferencing became a necessary work tool.  Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT) benefited from the trend thanks to its Microsoft Teams and Google Meet enabled Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) to take a piece of the pie, but Zoom’s share price has almost quadrupled last year, resulting in a market value of more than $100 billion.

Q4

The video-calling software maker reported its revenue grew 369% YoY in the quarter that ended on January 31st, after growing 367% in the third quarter and losing fewer customers than executives had expected. Revenues soared to $883 million, up from $188 million the year before. Based on formal accounting rules, Zoom’s net income rose from $15 million to $260 million, or 87 cents a share. Gross margin expanded from previous quarter’s 66.7% to 69.7%.

The company also posted gains among small customers as it had 467,100 customers with more than 10 employees at the end of the fiscal fourth quarter, nearly five times as many as it had before the pandemic hitor up 470% on an annualized basis, compared with 354% growth in the previous quarter. It ended the quarter with $4.24 billion in cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities, significantly up from previous quarter’s $1.87 billion. The video conferencing start-up turned in a surprisingly strong performance in the latest quarter during which Covid-19 vaccines were intensively administered and predicted faster than expected growth in the coming year. The news sent Zoom’s shares up nearly 10 per cent in after-market trading on Monday, valuing it at $131billion. They are still more than 20 per cent below their highest level reached back in October, before investors started thinking about the impact of pandemic restrictions.

FY2021

For the year characterized by lockdowns across the globe, sales quadrupled to $2.65 billion with Zoom’s app being downloaded nearly half a billion times or twice as many times as Google’s video chat app, as reported by Apptopia.

FY2022

Despite predictions that its service will play a less central role in the lives of many workers and students in 2021, Zoom expects revenues for its next fiscal year to grow by 43 per cent to $3.76 billion to $3.78 billion, compared to Wall Street projections of about $3.5 billion. It also predicted pro forma earnings per share of $3.59 to $3.65, higher than the $2.96 a share analysts had pencilled in. Still, churn rates remain higher than they were before the pandemic and the trend is expected to persist as people begin to travel.

For the undergoing Q1, adjusted EPS are expected to be between 95 cents and 97 cents with revenue in the range between $900 million and $905 million in revenue. The outlook is significantly brighter than 72 cents and $829.2 million that Refinitiv gathered analysts penciled in.

“Zoom fatigue”

A possible major bump in the road was recently identified by a study from the Silicon Valley Itself that was published on February 23rd in the journal of Technology, Mind and Behavior. Researchers from Stanford University found that all those hours of video calls take more of a toll on our brain and body than regular office work. Seemingly never-ending video calls leave us utterly drained, even though our most strenuous physical activity during the workday involved smiling at the camera. Although it concerns all video chat platforms, researchers named it “Zoom fatigue.” Researchers say Zoom fatigue has four main culprits: excessive and intense eye contact, constantly watching video of yourself at a frequency and duration that hasn’t been seen in the history of people, the limited mobility of being stuck at your desk, and more energy spent identifying social cues that is much easier to do in person. The “non-verbal overload” is a result that we are gifting even strangers with the behavior that is ordinarily reserved for close relationships. Although some issues can be easily resolved such as by removing our selfie from the user interface and going for an audio call, others might require a lot more effort.

Zoom’s prospects

Oddly enough, the founder of a company whose success is inextricably linked to the pandemic-fueled rise of remote work and home offices, Eric Yuan, himself admitted that everybody’s desperate to return to the office. But then again, the company knows too well it has to show no fear about the world going back to its pre-pandemic days if it wants to protect its equity value. The video call software company’s 2020 growth story will probably never be repeated and a post-pandemic slowdown is inevitable but Zoom’s betting on a new normalcy that combines in-person meetings with video calls.

Zoom has plans for an independent future. Like Salesforce.com,inc (NYSE: CRM), it is trying to take on Microsoft Teams with a suite of office collaboration products. The pandemic awarded Zoom with the sort of brand recognition that no money can’t buy. But Microsoft has $132 billion in its war chest and is busy improving Teams, so there’s no way it will relinquish its domination over workplace software willingly.

This article is not a press release and is contributed by a verified independent journalist for IAMNewswire. It should not be construed as investment advice at any time please read the full disclosure. IAM Newswire does not hold any position in the mentioned companies. Press Releases – If you are looking for full Press release distribution contact: press@iamnewswire.com Contributors – IAM Newswire accepts pitches. If you’re interested in becoming an IAM journalist contact: contributors@iamnewswire.com

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BenzingaEditorial

News From The Vaccine World

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Less than a year before the COVID-19 started its relentless march across the globe Novavax (NASDAQ: NVAX) was facing delisting from the Nasdaq. The 33-year-old Maryland-based pharmaceutical company didn’t have a single approved shot after hundreds of millions of dollars invested in its R&D efforts. Wall Street likes to take bets on unproven biotech such as Moderna Inc (NASDAQ: MRNA), but it can be unforgiving of failure.  Fortunately, Novavax is now on the verge of getting approval in the UK, which will probably be followed by the US. Interim data have shown that its vaccine has an efficacy rate up there with the shots developed by Moderna, BioNTech (NASDAQ: BNTX) and Pfizer (NYSE: PFE), all of which are based on revolutionary mRNA technology. However, Novavax’ candidate s is cheaper and easier to transport and can be stored at room temperature for at least 24 hours. Additionally, the one-shot candidate by Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JMJ) that can be kept at normal temperatures was granted an emergency use authorization during the weekend.

Merck and Johnson will join forces

Merck & Co Inc (NYSE: MRK) will manufacture the vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JMJ) under an unusual deal that the Biden administration engineered to boost production of the single-shot ja which has been hampered by manufacturing delays.

The Biden administration helped to engineer the deal between the competitors after J&J, which was, experienced production hold-ups. J&J is the world’s largest healthcare company, but when it comes to vaccines, Merck has the expertise as it is one of the world’s largest vaccine makers with many approved shots.

Sanofi (NASDAQ: SNY) is another large vaccine maker that has fallen behind in the COVID-19 vaccine race and has agreed to help boost supplies of the J&J vaccine in Europe. Last month, it stated it would use its capacity to fill vials.

Novavax has finally stopped gasping for air

The CEO of Novavax, Stanley Erck, stated their candidate is more than 90% effective against the original strain, 86% effective against the U.K. strain and considerably less effective against the South African strain. According to forecasts, Novavax will generate more than $5 billion in revenue this year. As it is applying for approval for it flu shot, it will start studies on combining the Covid-19 and flu vaccine into a single shot later this year.

A story with a happy ending for everyone?

Novavax’s story resembles a Cinderella story as a little company that was on the verge of potentially closing has really been able to play with the big boys in the race for the Covid vaccine. The bottom line is that the US will have enough coronavirus vaccine doses for every adult by the end of May, which is sooner than anticipated, thanks in part to an unusual type of collaboration we didn’t see since World War II between two of the country’s largest drugmakers.

This article is not a press release and is contributed by a verified independent journalist for IAMNewswire. It should not be construed as investment advice at any time please read the full disclosure. IAM Newswire does not hold any position in the mentioned companies. Press Releases – If you are looking for full Press release distribution contact: press@iamnewswire.com Contributors – IAM Newswire accepts pitches. If you’re interested in becoming an IAM journalist contact: contributors@iamnewswire.com

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