Unilever CEO expects shareholder support for UK HQ move By Reuters


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Unilever headquarters in Rotterdam

(Reuters) – Unilever (AS:) (L:) expects shareholders to support its plan to unify its headquarters in London and scrap its Dutch base and believes a potential law enacting an “exit tax” in the Netherlands would breach European Union law, its chief executive said on Tuesday.

Speaking at a virtual conference hosted by Barclays (LON:), CEO Alan Jope said Unilever’s board was “absolutely committed” to its proposal and is expecting “strong shareholder support.”

Jope repeated Unilever’s belief that the law proposed in the Netherlands by the opposition Green Left party, which would result in an 11 billion euro ($12.96 billion) tax bill to the Dutch government, was illegal, but noted that it was still in its infancy.

The Anglo-Dutch consumer goods maker said earlier this month that if the law gets enacted, its unification plans would change.

“We’re not going to speculate on all the many paths this could take, but if there’s a high probability that exit would be associated with an 11 billion euro tax bill, obviously that wouldn’t be in shareholders’ interest,” Jope said in a presentation broadcast on the internet.

“But personally, I think logic and common sense will prevail.”

Unilever, maker of Dove soap and Hellmann’s mayonnaise, is hosting meetings on Sept. 21 in Rotterdam and Oct. 12 in London for shareholders to vote.

When asked about the current macroeconomic environment, Jope said a global economic downturn was “absolutely inevitable but we don’t know its depth or how it will play out by country.”

He said gross margins could see pressure as its value brands become more popular.

Still, the company’s North American business is currently seeing “sustained strength”, driven by hygiene products and food and market share gains online.

Moving forward, Jope said Unilever should continue to deliver annual cost savings, grow its revenues and increase its margins, though the margin growth may not be as fast as it was in prior years.

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Softbank partners with India’s Oyo in Latam in move for more oversight By Reuters


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The logo of OYO, India’s largest and fastest-growing hotel chain, installed on a hotel building is pictured in an alley in New Delhi

By Carolina Mandl, Aditi Shah and Anirban Sen

SAO PAULO/NEW DELHI/BENGALURU (Reuters) – Softbank (OTC:) Group is taking a direct role in managing its virus-hit hospitality startup Oyo’s operations in Latin America through a joint venture which will control all hotels in the region, the head of Oyo Brazil told Reuters in an interview on Friday.

Softbank, the biggest investor in Oyo, will use part of its $5 billion Latin America fund to invest in the newly formed company called Oyo Latam which will take over 1,000 hotels mainly in Brazil and Mexico, Henrique Weaver said.

Weaver said both companies would have equal representation on the board, but did not say how much Softbank would invest.

The move comes as Oyo, valued at $10 billion in its most recent fundraising round, has been forced to cut costs and rein in its expansionist strategy in global markets by reducing its hotel footprint and laying off employees after revenues took a hit from the coronavirus pandemic.

It shows the Japanese investor’s keenness to ensure the Indian company remains on track, and is the latest sign SoftBank is more closely overseeing Oyo’s operations in markets including China, India and Japan, three sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Softbank has taken a big writedowns on bets including shared office space company WeWork and wants to avoid a similar fate with Oyo, in which it has invested over $1 billion, said one of the sources who is directly familiar with Softbank’s thinking.

Softbank declined to comment.

An Oyo spokeswoman said Softbank is like any other investor in the company with a seat on the board and that Oyo is “a management-run and a board-governed company.”

“Any description that Oyo is being managed, or there is any ‘additional oversight’ (formal or informal) or otherwise is merely media speculation and completely untrue,” the spokeswoman said.

SoftBank said it started the partnership with Oyo in Latin America in 2019 and the investment has been recently formalized with the creation of Oyo Latam and the board.

Softbank’s Latam fund has invested $75 million into Oyo’s business in the region, said a source with knowledge of the matter.

PANDEMIC PAIN

“Latin America has proved to be a good fit for Oyo, with a super fast growth pace because the hotel market is extremely fragmented in the region,” Weaver said.

The pandemic, however, forced the company to lay off 500 employees in Brazil, leaving it with a workforce of 140 people, Weaver said. It has also given up its office space and slashed operating expenses.

Once among the world’s largest hotel chains by room count, Oyo has furloughed hundreds of employees in the United States and Europe and shuttered offices in other global markets. In India and China it began cutting costs and headcount as early as January.

CHINA CONUNDRUM

Oyo had committed to invest over $600 million in China but in recent months the company has seen an exodus of executives and a shrinking footprint while also battling lawsuits filed by hotel partners and vendors over non-payment of dues.

The lawsuits have resulted in some of Oyo’s bank accounts in China being frozen but the company said that is a standard process and does not mean it is guilty.

“We are vigorously defending these allegations in court of law including disputes on the dues and claims,” the Oyo spokeswoman said.

Oyo is down to 1,200 employees in China, compared with a peak of over 6,000.

Oyo’s retreat from China may prove costly in future, as investors drove up the company’s valuation to $10 billion largely due to the potential and size of its bet on the country.

“In China, we have hit the reset button and are making sure we have a kernel of profitable business before we rapidly expand,” the spokeswoman said.





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Delta, American drop domestic change fees, matching move by United By Reuters


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A Delta plane sits on a runway prior to takeoff at John F Kennedy International Airport in New York

By Tracy Rucinski

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Delta Air Lines (N:) and American Airlines (O:) said on Monday they are permanently dropping domestic change fees, mirroring an announcement by rival United Airlines (O:) on Sunday in a push to woo back travelers.

U.S. airlines are burning through millions of dollars daily as the coronavirus pandemic hits passenger air travel, which is hovering around 30% of what it was a year ago, forcing more customer-friendly policies to encourage people to start traveling again.

Atlanta-based Delta said the elimination of change fees is effective immediately and includes tickets purchased for travel within the United States, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands. American’s change also covers flights to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.

The new policies do not cover any of the three airlines’ basic economy tickets.

Low-cost rival Southwest Airlines (N:) has never charged a change fee for its tickets.

Delta, United and American were already waiving change fees through the end of the year to give travelers more flexibility in an uncertain environment.

The fees represented around 2% to 3% of their total revenues in 2019, though analysts said the overall financial impact going forward will be limited as focus remains on generating bookings.

Delta collected $830 million in ticket cancellation and change fees last year, American $819 million and United $625 million, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.





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Judge blocks Apple move to hamper Epic’s Unreal Engine By Reuters


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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The Apple Inc logo is seen hanging at the entrance to the Apple store on 5th Avenue in New York

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By Stephen Nellis

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – A federal judge on Monday blocked Apple Inc (NASDAQ:) from shutting down an Epic Games tool that is relied upon by hundreds of other app makers but had become the subject of an antitrust battle between the companies.

The ruling safeguards “Fortnite” creator Epic’s computer graphics software Unreal Engine, which it offers through an affiliate business and which hundreds of games and other apps use to power their apps on Apple’s iPhones.

“Epic Games and Apple are at liberty to litigate against each other, but their dispute should not create havoc to bystanders,” Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers (NYSE:) wrote in a ruling late on Monday.

The legal battle arose after Apple this month removed Epic’s “Fortnite” game from Apple’s App Store and an affiliated account, effectively blocking distribution of Unreal Engine, when Epic rolled out its own method of in-game purchases in “Fortnite” rather than using the required Apple system that charges commission of between 15% and 30%.

Epic then alleged in a lawsuit and social media campaign that Apple has engaged in anticompetitive behavior by abusing its dominance in the market for iPhone apps, marking the highest-profile challenge to app store business.

Epic had sought to reverse its punishments by Apple until the broader case could be decided.

Gonzalez Rogers said “the current predicament (with “Fortnite”) appears of its own making” and refused to order its reinstatement. But she allowed Unreal Engine to continue powering iPhone apps, saying that Apple’s actions against Epic’s affiliates had been too severe because they had not breached the iPhone maker’s policies as “Fortnite” had.

During a terse exchange with Apple counsel Richard Doren at a hearing on Monday, the judge said she saw “no competition” to Apple’s App Store on the iPhone.

“The question is, without competition, where does the 30% (App Store commission) come from? Why isn’t it 10? 20? How is the consumer benefiting?” she asked.

Doren replied that consumers had choices when deciding to buy an Android device or an iPhone.

“The competition is in the foremarket,” he said, reiterating an argument that has been central to Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook’s defense during Congressional antitrust hearings.

Gonzalez Rogers replied that there was “plenty of economic theory” to show that switching brands imposed costs on consumers.

She at one point muted Doren in the virtual proceedings. Doren later said that Apple would prove at trial that “people switch all the time”.

Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.





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Microsoft says Apple’s move against ‘Fortnite’ creator would hurt its games By Reuters


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An attendee stops to text next to Epic Games Fortnite sign at E3, the annual video games expo revealing the latest in gaming software and hardware in Los Angeles

By Stephen Nellis

(Reuters) – Microsoft Corp (O:) on Sunday said in a court filing that Apple Inc’s (O:) threat to cut off the creator of “Fortnite” from Apple’s developer tools would hurt Microsoft’s gaming business, as well as other game developers.

The filing came in a dispute between Apple and Epic Games. Apple removed Epic’s titles from its App Store after the game maker violated the iPhone maker’s in-app payment rules.

Epic says that Apple has also threatened to cut off its access to Apple tools needed to maintain “Unreal Engine,” software that many game developers license to create better graphics. Microsoft said the move would hurt at least one of its own game titles called “Forza Street” that uses the engine for the iOS version of the game.

Kevin Gammill, Microsoft’s general manager of gaming developer experiences, said Microsoft has an “enterprise-wide” license to Unreal Engine and that Apple’s move would hamper it and other gaming firms’ ability to make games with the technology for Macs and iPhones.

“If Unreal Engine cannot support games for iOS or macOS, Microsoft would be required to choose between abandoning its customers and potential customers on the iOS and macOS platforms or choosing a different game engine when preparing to develop new games,” Gammill wrote.

Nicholas Penwarden, Epic’s vice president of engineering, said in filing on Sunday that multiple Unreal Engine users – including at least one automotive design firm – have contacted the company with worries their projects will be disrupted.

Epic is seeking a court order to stop Apple’s termination of its developer accounts. Apple has said that it will reverse its moves if Epic resubmits a version of “Fortnite” that complies with its payment rules.

On Friday, Apple said in a filing that Epic unilaterally decided to break its rules after following them for more than a decade, calling Epic’s removal from the App Store a “self-inflicted wound.”

Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.





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