Does Europe have what it takes to create the next Google?

LONDON (Reuters) – Europe is making major strides to eliminate barriers that have held back the region from developing tech firms that can compete on the scale of global giants Alphabet Inc’s Google, Amazon.com Inc or Tencent Holdings Inc, a report published on Thursday shows.

An attendee interacts with an illuminated panel at Google stand during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, March 1, 2017. REUTERS/Paul Hanna

The region has thriving tech hubs in major cities, with record new funding, experienced entrepreneurs, a growing base of technical talent and an improving regulatory climate, according to a study by European venture firm Atomico.

While even the largest European tech ventures remain a fraction of the size of the biggest U.S. and Asian rivals, global music streaming leader Spotify of Sweden marks the rising ambition of European entrepreneurs. Spotify is gearing up for a stock market flotation next year that could value it at upward of $20 billion. (reut.rs/2wYORnI)

“The probability that the next industry-defining company could come from Europe – and become one of the world’s most valuable companies – has never been higher,” said Tom Wehmeier, Atomico’s head of research, who authored the report.

Top venture capitalists and entrepreneurs in the region told Reuters they are increasingly confident that the next world-class companies could emerge from Europe in fields including artificial intelligence, video gaming, music and messaging.

“What we still need to develop is entrepreneurs who have the drive to take it all the way – I think we are starting to see that now,” said Bernard Liautaud, managing partner at venture fund Balderton Capital, who sold his software company Business Objects to SAP for $6.8 billion a decade ago.

The Atomico report is being published in conjunction with the annual Nordic technology start-up festival taking place in Helsinki this week and set to draw some 20,000 participants.

STRONGER FUNDAMENTALS

Capital invested in European tech companies is on track to reach a record this year, with $19.1 billion in funding projected through the end of 2017 – up 33 percent over 2016, according to investment tracking firm Dealroom.co.

The median size of European venture funds nearly tripled to around 58 million euros ($68.7 million) in 2017 compared with five years ago, according to Invest Europe’s European Data Cooperative on fundraising investment activity.

Beyond the availability of funding, Europe has a range of technical talent available to work more cheaply than in Silicon Valley, enabling start-ups to get going with far less funding.

With a pool of professional developers now numbering 5.5 million, European tech employment outpaces the comparable 4.4 million employed in the United States, according to data from Stack Overflow, a site popular with programmers.

London remains the top European city in terms of numbers of professional developers, but Germany, as a country, overtook Britain in the past year with 837,398 developers compared with 813,500, the report states, using Stack Overflow statistics.

While median salaries for software engineers are rising in top European cities Berlin, London, Paris and Barcelona, they are one-third to one-half the average cost of salaries in the San Francisco Bay Area, which is more than $129,000, based on Glassdoor recruiting data.

PUSHING UP AGAINST LIMITS

Big hurdles remain. A survey of 1,000 founders by authors of the report found European entrepreneurs were worried by Brexit, with concerns, especially in Britain, over hiring, investment and heightened uncertainty in the business climate.

Although Europe has deep engineering talent, many big startups focus on business model innovation in areas such as media, retail and gaming rather than on breakthrough technology developments that can usher in new industries, critics say.

Regulatory frameworks in Europe put the brakes on development on promising technologies such as cryptocurrencies, “flying taxis” and gene editing, while autonomous vehicles and drones face fewer obstacles, the report says.

A separate study by Index Ventures, also to be published on Thursday, found that employees at fast-growing tech start-ups in Europe tend to receive only half the stock option stakes that are a primary route to riches for their U.S. rivals. Yet their options are taxed twice as much.

The Index report said employees in successful, later-stage European tech start-ups receive around 10 percent of capital, compared with 20 percent ownership in Silicon Valley firms.

“There is quite a gap today between stock option practices in Europe and those in Silicon Valley,” Index Ventures partner Martin Mignot said in an interview. “There are other issues where Europe is behind, but we think stock options should be at the top of the agenda.”

Another factor holding back Europe is that regional stock markets encourage firms to go public prematurely, Liataud said.

“Europe has markets for average companies. In the U.S., going public is hard. You have to be really, really good. You have to be $100 million, minimum, in revenue,” the French entrepreneur-turned-investor said. “Nasdaq and the New York Stock Exchange have not lowered their standards.”

($1 = 0.8442 euros)

Reporting by Eric Auchard in London; Additional reporting by Jussi Rosendahl and Tuomas Forsell in Helsink; Editing by Leslie Adler

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

5 Crucial Guidelines to Make Credible Financial Projections for Your Startup

As an angel investor and business advisor on new ventures, I expect to see five-year financial projections from every entrepreneur. Yet I get more push-back on this request than almost any other issue.

Founders point to the great number of financial unknowns in any new business, and are reluctant to “commit” to any numbers which may come back to haunt them later.

From my perspective, projecting financial returns is part of the homework every business person needs to do in sizing customer opportunity, product costs, pricing, competition and customer value, before expending their own resources in a highly risky venture.

You need these projections to assess viability, set internal goals and milestones, and measure your team’s progress.

For investors, it’s more of a credibility and intelligence test. Does this entrepreneur understand the basics of business costs in the selected business domain, growth dynamics, and the competitive environment?

Reasonableness and business sense are the issues, rather than accuracy, since everyone knows that key parameters will change often before success.

There is no black magic involved in predicting numbers, and I always recommend sticking with the some basic guidelines, outlined here. With these, if you can paint a positive picture for your new venture, I assure you that investors will sit up and take notice, and you will also know how to drive yourself and your team:

1. Determine your gross margin on sales.

Per-unit cost less your cost per unit sold is your gross profit margin. If you lose money on every unit, you won’t make it up in volume.

As a rule of thumb, most new businesses need a margin above 50 percent, even on wholesale prices, to cover operational expenses and survive long-term as a business.

2. Project unit-volume and price levels.

Based on your market size and penetration expectations, size how many units you will sell, at what price, in every channel.

This should ideally be a “bottoms-up” commitment from your sales team, not your own optimistic guess. Be sure to include expected volume cost and price reductions over time.

3. Quantify overhead and growth costs.

It’s amazing how fast costs escalate as you grow. You need five percent or more of revenue for marketing, more for new development, and people costs will double as you add benefits, insurance, training, IT and processes.

Check competitor numbers and industry average statistics to get you in the right range.

4. Set a target growth and market penetration rate.

If you want to be assessed as a “premium” acquisition candidate down the road, an aggressive but reasonable target might be doubling revenue each year.

For credibility, market penetration within five years should be at least five percent. Numbers far afield from these need special explanations.

5. Calculate cash-burn rate and investment timing.

Initial sales success means more cash will be needed for inventory, receivables, facilities and people. Project your cash burn rate to keep at least 18 months between venture capital or angel investments. You need to know how many units to sell, and how much time you need to break-even.

From a planning and strategy standpoint, I offer these additional recommendations to maintain your credibility with outside investors, and to balance your risk due to market uncertainty:

  • Add a buffer to your investment calculations. Investment requirements should always be based on financial projections and cash-flow calculations, not on what you think you can negotiate. If your cash flow shows a shortfall of $750,000, add a 33 percent buffer, and ask for a million. Be willing to give up 20-33 percent of your equity to support this.
  • Avoid high-medium-low projections, as well as irrational ones. Investors want entrepreneurs to be aggressive, but don’t make projections that make you look like the next Google. Entrepreneurs tend to be driven by their own targets, so pick an aggressive one, and you will likely do better than starting with a conservative one.

You don’t need complicated ratios for a startup business plan, since you don’t have a history. On the other hand, without financial projections, you don’t have a viable venture proposal.

You don’t need an MBA to be credible with investors, just some common sense business expectations, and passion based on some data. Most of us need full investor support to turn our dream into reality.

Why New Mothers Have Superhuman Time Management Skills (And How You Can, Too)

One of my favorite movies is I Don’t Know How She Does It. It stars Sarah Jessica Parker and garnered a mere 17 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. In it, Parker tries to juggle the many roles she plays in life: mother, wife, friend, and manager at an investment firm.

I remember watching it for the first time while folding my baby’s laundry. Despite the fact that no one else seemed to enjoy the movie, I found myself nodding along with the heroine’s challenges as if she was telling the world our little secret: If you want something done, have a mother do it.

Here are three lessons I’ve learned as a mother — stay with me — that have made me a better entrepreneur:

1. Moms make every minute count.

Every day at 12 P.M. sharp I would put my little ones down for their naps, kiss each of their foreheads, quietly shut their doors, and then sprint to my home office. I would whip open my laptop and get right to work — no time for Facebook, no time for pinning new recipes. When kids are really little, nap time is the only time moms have any time to get things done. And, like little ticking time bombs, without knowing how long the kids would sleep, mothers have no choice but to make the most of every second of it.

Managing distractions is one of the single greatest skills mother’s learn. When your available hours for working are completely dependent on the whims of tiny, helpless humans, you don’t waste a single moment. With the growing body of research about the true detriment of a distracted workforce, this skill is even more valuable.

The next time you feel you don’t have enough time to meet a deadline, pretend you have a sleeping toddler in the next room who, at any moment could wake up and demand your full attention. That will motivate you to turn off your instagram notifications real quick.

2. Moms know how much a minute is worth.

I was a stay at home mom, was four months pregnant with my second child, and we were planning a remodel of our kitchen and entryway. We estimated the project would cost about ten thousand dollars.

However, right about that time I decided I wanted to start a business. I knew, in order to build that business, I would need more kid-free time. I remember sitting down with my husband and proposing that instead of spending that money on a remodel, we should spend it on childcare.

The phrase, “Time is money” is frequently associated with high-powered sales jobs. However, no one knows the price of a minute better than a mother does and not only in terms of dollars and cents.

I remember leaving the house one day after the nanny we hired arrived and my daughter sobbed, wanting me to stay. As I drove to the coffee shop to do my work that afternoon, I vowed to make every minute away (and dollar I invested to have those minutes) count.

Do you know how much a minute of your time is worth? If not, follow a mother’s advice and figure it out. And let that number motivate you to spend it — both the time and the money — better.

3. Moms can work anywhere.

No place is sacred in motherhood — the kids will always find you. On more than one occasion I’ve taken sales calls in my closet or sent an email while hiding the bathroom.

As a result, moms are extremely adaptive. The world is my office.

Sure, I prefer to sit at a desk, but sometimes my office is in my car while I wait in the elementary school pickup line. I’ve written many an Inc.com article while sitting in the boarding area waiting to catch a flight. The more work I get done on the road, the more time I’ll have at home with my kids.

The next time you forgo making some progress on a big project because the working environment is not quite right, think of the mom sending emails while on a play date at the park. If she can do it, why can’t you?

Even though I Don’t Know How She Does It doesn’t make any must-watch movie lists, don’t let the message be lost on you. Whether you watch the film or pay closer attention to the working mom on your block, make no mistake: Some of the greatest time managers are so because they’re mothers.

Apple May Be Eyeing a Foldable iPhone

Apple’s next big innovation may be a foldable iPhone that opens and closes like a book.

The consumer technology giant filed a patent application last week with the U.S. Patent & Trade Office that details its research into electronic devices with flexible display screens.

A foldable iPhone could eliminate some of the inconvenience of carrying full-size smartphones in pockets and purses. Instead, people could fold and then unfold them like a piece of paper when they want to make a call or check their email.

The patent application said that the technology is related to any kind of electronic device that has a display, like a “laptop computer, a tablet computer, a cellular telephone, a wristwatch, or other electronic device (e.g., a portable device, handheld device, etc.).”

If it were to create a foldable iPhone screen, Apple could likely use similar technology in its other products like Mac computers and Apple Watch.

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Apple isn’t the only company reportedly interested in foldable smartphones. Samsung is also rumored to be working on a foldable version of its Galaxy branded smartphones.

It should be noted that just because Apple has applied for a patent, doesn’t mean that it will indeed create a foldable iPhone. Companies routinely file and receive technology patents that never become actual products.

In any case, for people who just forked over $1,000 for a new iPhone X—don’t expect them to bend anytime soon.

Waymo Seeks Delay of Uber Trade Secrets Trial Over New Evidence

Alphabet’s (goog) Waymo self-driving car unit asked a U.S. judge on Monday to postpone an upcoming trade secrets trial against Uber Technologies (uber), so Waymo could investigate whether Uber withheld important evidence in the case.

The trial is currently scheduled to begin on Dec. 4 in San Francisco federal court. Waymo said it learned of new evidence last week after the U.S. Department of Justice shared it with the judge overseeing the case.

The two companies are battling to dominate the fast-growing field of self-driving cars.

In its court filing on Monday, Waymo said it recently learned that a former Uber security analyst sent a letter to an Uber in-house lawyer more than six months ago, which contained important facts about the case.

Waymo’s court filing is partially redacted from public view, so the details of the analyst’s letter are unclear. However, Waymo said Uber concealed the letter despite demands from Waymo and the judge to disclose all relevant evidence.

Representatives for Uber could not immediately be reached for comment.

Waymo sued Uber in February, claiming that former Waymo executive Anthony Levandowski downloaded more than 14,000 confidential files before leaving to set up a self-driving truck company, called Otto, which Uber acquired soon after.

Uber denied using any of Waymo’s trade secrets. Levandowski has declined to answer questions about the allegations, citing constitutional protections against self-incrimination.

For more about the Waymo-Uber lawsuit, watch Fortune’s video:

Earlier this year U.S. District Judge William Alsup, who is hearing the civil action brought by Waymo, asked federal prosecutors to investigate whether criminal theft of trade secrets had occurred. That probe is being handled by the intellectual property unit of the Northern California U.S. Attorney’s office, sources familiar with the situation said. No charges have been filed.

Alsup disclosed last week that he had received a letter from prosecutors, which he did not reveal. However, Alsup ordered the former Uber security analyst, the Uber in-house lawyer and another witness to appear in court on Tuesday at a final pretrial conference.

It is unusual for prosecutors to share information with a judge days before a civil case is set to begin.

Alsup already delayed the trial once before, in October, citing Waymo’s need to probe separate evidence Uber had not promptly disclosed.

Burger King Just Did Something Amazing Purely To Help McDonald's (Or Did It?)

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

It was a day like any other.

Customers streamed into Burger King and asked for a Whopper.

Except this wasn’t a day like any other, because Burger King’s staff told their customers that, on this particular day, they weren’t selling Whoppers.

Some customers were angry. Some even used extremely flame-grilled words. 

What on earth was going on?

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This was November 10 in Argentina. McDonald’s had designated this day as McHappy Day. 

On McHappy Day, all the money made from selling Big Macs was given to kids suffering from cancer.

So in every one of the 107 Burger Kings in Argentina, staff were instructed not to sell Whoppers and to direct customers to their nearest McDonald’s in order to buy a Big Mac.

It felt so public-spirited and many were seemingly impressed.

Burger King was, though, walking an extremely thin line here.

By making a video of its apparent good-heartedness, it was clearly trying to pat itself on the commercial back.

In the video, you might notice one Burger King employee make a disparaging comment about McDonald’s: “The place where they don’t flame-grill their burgers.”

Moreover, the sight of Burger King’s King character going to McDonald’s to buy a Big Mac smacked of, well, marketing.

Clever marketing, you might think. But marketing, all the same.

Burger King could have simply made a donation of its own to the good cause. It might have decided to give all the profits from Whopper sales to the same charities as McDonald’s.

Instead, some might conclude that it piggybacked more overtly on McDonald’s day.

This isn’t the first time that Burger King has tried to engage with its larger rival.

A couple of years ago in New Zealand, Burger King suggested that it and McDonald’s share a Peace Day and jointly create a McWhopper.

At first, McDonald’s wasn’t moved. And then, it still wasn’t moved, but created its own campaign to help refugees. 

Who benefited most? Well, Burger King enjoyed worldwide publicity.

It also won a lot of awards from the advertising industry for its idea.

Some good deeds are just that. Others, well, there’s a gray area.

Especially when there’s marketing involved.

Black Friday, Thanksgiving online sales climb to record high

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Black Friday and Thanksgiving online sales in the United States surged to record highs as shoppers bagged deep discounts and bought more on their mobile devices, heralding a promising start to the key holiday season, according to retail analytics firms.

Customers push their shopping carts after making a purchase at Target in Chicago, Illinois. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski

U.S. retailers raked in a record $7.9 billion in online sales on Black Friday and Thanksgiving, up 17.9 percent from a year ago, according to Adobe Analytics, which measures transactions at the largest 100 U.S. web retailers, on Saturday.

Adobe said Cyber Monday is expected to drive $6.6 billion in internet sales, which would make it the largest U.S. online shopping day in history.

In the run-up to the holiday weekend, traditional retailers invested heavily in improving their websites and bulking up delivery options, preempting a decline in visits to brick-and-mortar stores. Several chains tightened store inventories as well, to ward off any post-holiday liquidation that would weigh on profits.

TVs, laptops, toys and gaming consoles – particularly the PlayStation 4 – were among the most heavily discounted and the biggest sellers, according to retail analysts and consultants.

Commerce marketing firm Criteo said 40 percent of Black Friday online purchases were made on mobile phones, up from 29 percent last year.

No brick-and-mortar sales data for Thanksgiving or Black Friday was immediately available, but Reuters reporters and industry analysts noted anecdotal signs of muted activity – fewer cars in mall parking lots, shoppers leaving stores without purchases in hand.

People shop for items in Macy’s Herald Square in Manhattan, New York. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Stores offered heavy discounts, creative gimmicks and free gifts to draw bargain hunters out of their homes, but some shoppers said they were just browsing the merchandise, reserving their cash for internet purchases. There was little evidence of the delirious shopper frenzy customary of Black Fridays from past years.

However, retail research firm ShopperTrak said store traffic fell less than 1 percent on Black Friday, bucking industry predictions of a sharper decline.

A cashier handles money in Macy’s Herald Square in Manhattan, New York. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

“There has been a significant amount of debate surrounding the shifting importance of brick-and-mortar retail,” Brian Field, ShopperTrak’s senior director of advisory services, said.

“The fact that shopper visits remained intact on Black Friday illustrates that physical retail is still highly relevant and when done right, it is profitable.”

The National Retail Federation (NRF), which had predicted strong holiday sales helped by rising consumer confidence, said on Friday that fair weather across much of the nation had also helped draw shoppers into stores.

The NRF, whose overall industry sales data is closely watched each year, is scheduled to release Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales numbers on Tuesday.

U.S. consumer confidence has been strengthening over this past year, due to a labor market that is churning out jobs, rising home prices and stock markets that are hovering at record highs.

Reporting by Richa NaiduEditing by Marguerita Choy

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Canadian charged in Yahoo hacking case to plead guilty in U.S.

(Reuters) – A Canadian accused by the United States of helping Russian intelligence agents break into email accounts as part of a massive 2014 breach of Yahoo accounts is expected to plead guilty next week, according to court records.

A photo illustration shows a Yahoo logo on a smartphone in front of a displayed cyber code and keyboard on December 15, 2016. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

Karim Baratov, who earlier this year waived his right to fight a U.S. request for his extradition from Canada, is scheduled to appear in federal court in San Francisco on Tuesday for the plea hearing, according to a court calendar seen on Friday.

Baratov, a 22-year-old Canadian citizen born in Kazakhstan, was arrested in Canada in March at the request of U.S. prosecutors. He later waived his right to fight a request for his extradition to the United States.

Andrew Mancilla, Baratov’s lawyer, declined to comment. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Francisco did not respond to a request for comment.

The U.S. Justice Department announced charges in March against Baratov and three other men, including two officers in Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), for their roles in the 2014 theft of 500 million Yahoo accounts.

Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N), the largest U.S. wireless operator, acquired most of Yahoo Inc’s assets in June.

Prosecutors said that the FSB officers, Dmitry Dokuchaev and Igor Sushchin, directed and paid hackers to obtain information and used Alexsey Belan, who is among the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation’s most-wanted cyber criminals, to breach Yahoo.

When the FSB officers learned that a target had a non-Yahoo webmail account, including through information obtained from the Yahoo hack, they worked with Baratov, who was who paid to break into at least 80 email accounts, prosecutors said.

The individuals associated with the accounts they sought to access included Russian officials, the chief executive of a metals company and a prominent banker, according to the indictment.

At least 50 of the accounts Baratov targeted were hosted by Google, the indictment said.

Tuesday’s proceedings before U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria are scheduled as a “change of plea” hearing.

Baratov, the only person arrested to date in the case, previously in August pleaded not guilty to conspiring to commit computer fraud, conspiring to commit access device fraud, conspiring to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Tom Brown

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

U.S. online sales surge, shoppers throng stores on Thanksgiving evening

(Reuters) – U.S. shoppers had splurged more than $1.52 billion online by Thanksgiving evening, and more bargain hunters turned up at stores this year after two weak holiday seasons as retailers opened their doors early on the eve of Black Friday.

A customer loads her shopping cart during the Black Friday sales event on Thanksgiving Day at Target in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. November 23, 2017. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski

At the start of the holiday season consumer spending rose 16.8 percent year-over-year until 5 p.m. ET on Thursday, according to Adobe Analytics, which tracked 80 percent of online transactions at the top 100 U.S. retailers.

Surging online sales and a shift away from store shopping have thinned the crowds typically seen at stores on Thanksgiving evening and the day after, Black Friday, for the past two years. But a strong labor market, rising home prices and stock markets at record highs have improved shopper appetite this year.

Crowds at stores in many locations around the country were reported to be strong, according to analysts and retail consultants monitoring shopper traffic across the U.S.

“The turnout is clearly better than the last couple of years,” said Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners. “The parking lots are full and the outlet malls are busy.”

The retail consultancy has 20 members studying customer traffic in different parts of the country.

Moody’s retail analyst Charlie O’ Shea, who was in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, reported healthy traffic at local stores including consumer electronics chain Best Buy, clothing store Old Navy and retailer Kohl’s Corp.

“The weather is cooperating and people here are out,” he said.

Customers shop during the Black Friday sales event on Thanksgiving Day at Target in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., November 23, 2017. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski

The National Retail Federation is projecting that sales for November and December will rise 3.6 percent to 4 percent this year, versus a 4 percent increase last year. Non-store sales, which include online sales and those from kiosks, are expected to rise 11 percent-15 percent to about $140 billion.

In New Jersey, around 50 people lined up a Macy’s at the Westfield Garden State Plaza mall before it opened and around 200 people stood outside the Best Buy store, many to pick up their online orders.

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“Me and my husband have a bigger place and we need a bigger TV for the living room,” said Jenipher Gomes, who bought a 50-inch Samsung TV at Best Buy for $399.99. Shopper Hammad Farooq said he waited at the store for an hour to shop for laptops and monitors.

In Chicago, shoppers appeared to be slightly less enthusiastic to emerge from their turkey slumber and crowds were thin along the city’s popular shopping destination, State Street.

“There’s a few more people than normal but I wouldn’t call this crowded at all,” Deloitte auditor Eugenia Liew said as she shopped at discount retailer Target. “I expected a lot more people.”

The holiday season spanning November and December is crucial for retailers because it can account for as much as 40 percent of annual sales. Retailers try to attract shoppers with deep discounts.

Average discounts ranged between 10 and 16 percent with the best deals online on Thanksgiving evening available for computers, sporting goods, apparel and video games, according to date from Adobe.

The number of customers shopping on their smartphones surged, accounting for 46 percent of the traffic on retail websites, while traffic from desktop and laptop computers declined 11 percent and nearly 6 percent respectively, according to the data.

Reporting by Richa Naidu in Chicago and Nandita Bose in West Hartford, Connecticut; Additional reporting by Jenna Zucker in New Jersey; Editing by Susan Thomas

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Uber's messy data breach collides with launch of SoftBank deal

TORONTO/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – A newspaper advertisement for an Uber Technologies Inc stock sale was juxtaposed on Wednesday with a report that the ride-service provider had covered up a data hack – something of a metaphor for Uber, a company with boundless investor interest, but whose penchant for rule-breaking has led to a series of scandals.

FILE PHOTO: A photo illustration shows the Uber app on a mobile telephone, as it is held up for a posed photograph, in London, Britain November 10, 2017. REUTERS/Simon Dawson/File Photo

The stock sale advertised in the New York Times will enable Uber [UBER.UL] investors to sell their shares to Japanese investor SoftBank, a critical deal for the company whose problems included building software to spy on competitors and to evade regulators and being investigated in Asia for paying bribes.

Uber on Tuesday said that it had paid hackers $100,000 to destroy data on more than 57 million customers and drivers that was stolen from the company – and decided under the previous CEO Travis Kalanick not to report the matter to victims or authorities. Uber was first hacked in October 2016 and discovered the data breach the following month.

Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi, who took the helm in August with the mission of turning around the company and overhauling its culture, acknowledged in a blog that Uber had erred in its handling of the breach. (ubr.to/2AmxlQt)

The timing of the disclosure could hardly have been worse.

The company is trying to complete a deal with SoftBank Group Corp (9984.T) in which the Japanese firm would invest as much as $10 billion for at least 14 percent of the company, mostly by buying out existing shareholders. SoftBank is advertising to find shareholders who want to sell.

Uber last month announced a preliminary deal for the SoftBank investment.

One question is whether SoftBank will now try to alter the price of the deal. One source familiar with the matter said SoftBank is planning to stick to its agreement to invest in Uber but may seek better terms. SoftBank has not yet made a final decision on whether to renegotiate, the source said.

Another question is the future of Kalanick, the co-founder who led Uber to becoming a global powerhouse but did so with aggressive and controversial tactics. He was forced out by investors in June who feared his leadership style would damage the company, although he stayed on the board and remains a significant shareholder.

A bitter battle among investors over how to resolve Uber’s problems led to a lawsuit by early investor Benchmark, which sought to oust Kalanick from any role. But a settlement was reached earlier this month to pave the way for the SoftBank deal, with Kalanick retaining his board seat and other rights.

Kalanick was made aware of the hack last November and was aware of the $100,000 payment, according to a person close to the matter. Kalanick has declined to comment. Uber did not respond to questions from Reuters on Wednesday.

MULTIPLE INVESTIGATIONS, LAWSUITS

The scope of the repercussions Uber will face for the October 2016 data breach began to take shape Wednesday with governments around the world opening investigations.

Authorities in Britain, Australia and the Philippines said they would investigate Uber’s response to the data breach. London’s transport regulator, which has been in discussions with Uber after stripping it of its license to operate, said it was pressing Uber for details.

Canada’s privacy watchdog said that it had asked Uber for details on the breach, though it had not launched a formal investigation.

Attorneys general offices in at least six U.S. states along with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have announced they are looking into the matter. Some states are likely to go after Uber for breaking laws on data breach notification within a reasonable period of time.

At least two class action lawsuits have been filed against the company in the United States for failing to disclose the data breaches and causing potential harm to consumers.

Uber said that it has been in touch with the FTC and several states to discuss a hack and pledged to cooperate.

Legal experts said the company is likely to face limited financial fallout from data-breach lawsuits. Uber might succeed in squelching them outright because its agreements with both customers and drivers call for mandatory arbitration of disputes.

Uber fired its chief security officer, Joe Sullivan, and a deputy, Craig Clark, over their role in handling the hack.

The board of directors had commissioned an investigation into Sullivan and his team, which is how the breach was discovered. The board committee concluded that neither Kalanick nor Salle Yoo, who was general counsel at the time, had been consulted in the company’s response to the breach, according to a second person familiar with the matter.

It is unclear what the board of directors knew, if anything. Multiple board members did not respond to requests for comment.

“The scope of this breach is something the Uber board should have been briefed about and consulted on at the very least,” said Cynthia Clark, an associate professor of management at Bentley University. “It’s a monitoring issue and one of strategy and reputation.”

Clark said that these sorts of risks could affect Uber’s IPO, which the board has agreed will take place in 2019.

The company has begun overhauling its security practices with help from Matt Olsen, former general counsel of the U.S. National Security Agency and director of the National Counterterrorism Center, CEO Khosrwoshahi said.

Uber in August settled with the FTC after the regulator found the company failed to protect the personal information of passengers and drivers, an agreement that requires 20 years of regular auditing of Uber’s data.

After this week’s disclosures, Uber can expect “more audits and more people inside of the company” from regulators, said cyber security attorney Steven Rubin.

Reporting by Jim Finkle in Toronto and Heather Somerville in San Francisco; Additional reporting by Diane Bartz in Washington, Greg Roumeliotis in New York and Alastair Sharp in Toronto.; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Grant McCool

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Multiple Insiders Buying General Electric, Signaling Buy

Over the last three trading sessions, multiple insiders have been following CEO John Flannery by buying General Electric’s (NYSE:GE) beaten down shares around the $18 level. Yesterday’s after-hours announcement that two more insiders bought GE at a six-year low is yet another positive sign that many inside the company feel it is undervalued.

For those of you new to investing, a Form 4 is a SEC document that reflects insider transactions within a security. When insiders believe a stock is undervalued, they will step into the market and buy the shares. Here are the Form 4s filed for yesterday. The first one is by Vice President Jan Hauser who purchased 55,000 shares for $18.21 or just over $1M. They were bought at the close on Friday at the low for the day.

The second form was filed by Francisco D’Souza, co-founder of Cognizant and a director at GE. His shares were purchased yesterday in a retest of the $18 level at $17.94. He bought 55,000 shares for $986,700.

Should You Follow These Insiders and Buy?

I look forward to the comments from readers about these additional insider buys. Some will say yes this is an excellent time as the company is trading at lows not seen since 2011; others will say it is just a drop in the bucket, it means nothing and there is more downside to come. No matter what your view, there will be another investor to disagree, this is what makes a market.

GE being sued over Fukishima

Yesterday I woke up to Seeking alpha breakfast news and saw that GE is in a $500M lawsuit over Fukishima and the accident caused by the terrible earthquake and tsunami that caused so much devastation years ago in Japan. I would not sell any shares because of this event. This is only my opinion, which means very little in the world of investing.

Whatever the outcome, it will take years in court and a $500M lawsuit is peanuts in the scheme of things. The company has already lost nearly half of its market value this year.

Catch-up trade?

There is no doubt that GE is the “dog of the Dow” this year, but that could soon be about to change. The divergence in the charts is massive, which leads me to believe in a catch up trade or reversion trade to the mean.

Source: Google Finance

Interested investors can see the divergence between GE and the Dow Jones average showing nearly 60% divergence. In my opinion, that will have to reverse and I don’t see the economy falling off a cliff with tax reform in the Senate.

Time for a year-end rally or continued tax selling?

Many important questions here that will be answered over time. From the chart above one could easily see the potential for a reversion rally. The next few weeks will be very interesting as CEO Flannery cleans house and rallies the troops around a better future.

There will likely be more tax harvesting and there could be some further pressure to the downside. I remain convicted that any weakness from this level is a clear opportunity for large gains going forward. Sentiment can change in an instant and I believe that we will soon hear of other titans taking a big position in GE very near this level.

This will be a trough year for earnings so it will take some patience, however I believe in six to 18 months, investors that are buying today will be well rewarded for taking on the risk.

50% of GE board leaving

GE is replacing half of its board and going from 18 directors to 12. This is welcome news to me as an over bloated board is not in the best interest of shareholders. Cramer recently said that they all belong on the wall of shame and I, for one, totally agree. The push is to have people in there that have digital experience to drive the company forward. While the market is not currently appreciating Flannery’s moves, it is clearly the right thing for the company.

Retesting last weeks $17.47 low

Today’s trading activity will be interesting as the stock broke back through the $18 level yesterday. Will these recent insider buys give investors more confidence, or will Mr. Market and the fear trade take hold of investors sending the stock lower? If yesterday’s low holds it could be off to the races, the market will be the judge.

I recently wrote an article about Flannery buying $1M of stock last Friday. I received over 110 comments with all types of price targets and ideas. I appreciate all of the feedback and viewpoints as it is a good barometer of sentiment. One thing I can share with you is sentiment is pretty bad and many are expecting lower prices. These are some of the signs I look for when buying a stock in capitulation.

Conclusion

Over the last three trading sessions, multiple insiders are buying significant amounts of GE stock near and around the $18 level. I look for more insider buys as the stock tests the lows of last Tuesday. I do not know if $17.47 will hold, but I like the stock long term and will be buying any type of capitulation from here.

As always, investors should do their own homework and have an exit strategy in place before making any trade.

Disclosure: I am/we are long GE, LYG.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Meg Whitman stepping down as HP Enterprise CEO

(Reuters) – Meg Whitman on Tuesday announced that she will step down as chief executive of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co (HPE.N), ending a 6-year tenure that included overseeing one of the biggest corporate breakups in history.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman is seen following an interview on CNBC on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., September 6, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Shares of HPE fell more than 6 percent in after-hours trading. Hewlett Packard Enterprises, known for its computer servers, is still adjusting to a new landscape in which corporate customers are placing more of their digital operations in the cloud and moving away from purchasing their own equipment.

Whitman, one of the most powerful women in U.S. business and a former candidate for California governor, split Hewlett Packard Co into HPE and PC-and-printer business HP Inc (HPQ.N) in 2015 as part of a plan to turn around the large corporation. She aggressively shed assets and cut tens of thousand of jobs as HPE sharpened its focus on server and networking businesses.

Taking over for Whitman in February will be Antonio Neri, a relatively unknown HP executive who has been with the company for nearly a quarter century and currently serves as HPE’s president. Neri is a trained computer engineer and has worked in every one of HPE’s businesses, Whitman said during the company’s earnings call on Tuesday. Neri did not speak on the call.

“We have a much smaller, much nimbler, much more focused company,” Whitman said during the call after Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi said the move felt abrupt. “I think it is absolutely the right time for Antonio and a new generation of leaders to take the reins.”

Neri will join HPE’s board of directors and Whitman will remain on the board as well.

Whitman’s retooling of HPE included September’s spin off of HPE’s enterprise services and software business to British software company MicroFocus International Plc (MCRO.L) and acquired companies, including Aruba and Nimble Storage. This month, HPE announced it is selling its Palo Alto, California, headquarters, which the company has held for six decades.

Shares of HPE have risen nearly 47 percent since the split up, outpacing the 27.8 percent rise in the S&P 500 index .SPX during the same period. Whitman is leaving just as it is time for an executive with technical prowess to come in and retool the company’s offerings, said Ilya Kundozerov, equity analyst with Morningstar.

”HPE is more focused and more agile than ever before,“ Kundozerov said. ”A CEO with tech background can help HPE to improve its innovative edge.”

Whitman, who previously headed eBay Inc (EBAY.O), was reported to have been a leading candidate for chief executive job at Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] before it was given to Dara Khosrowshahi.

An undated handout photo of Antonio Neri. REUTERS/Hewlett Packard Enterprise/Handout

Whitman ran unsuccessfully for California governor in 2010, and she has served on the presidential campaigns of Republican former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. She endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

She stepped down from the board of HP Inc in July and joined the board of Dropbox in September. Whitman said on Tuesday’s earnings call that she is “going to take a little downtime, but there’s no chance I’m going to a competitor.”

She told Reuters that she is not preparing another run for public office.

”I stay active in politics by contributing to candidates from both sides of the aisle who I agree with on core issues, but aside from that, I have no plans to get involved directly,” Whitman said in a statement.

Although Whitman is one of the most prominent executives in Silicon Valley, with a career that spans startups and older businesses, she is not a household name in California, despite her run for governor, said Elliott Suthers, senior vice president with Grayling public communications and communications and media adviser for the McCain/Palin 2008 presidential campaign.

”To run against a relatively popular incumbent like [Sen. Dianne Feinstein] she’d need to spend record amounts to get within striking distance,” Suthers said. “Outside of Silicon Valley, she’s still a largely unknown quantity. Voters have a pretty short memory and her positions have undoubtedly shifted since 2010.”

Separately, the company reported net income of $524 million, or 32 cents per share, for the fourth quarter ended Oct. 31, compared with $302 million, or 18 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, it reported earnings of 31 cents per share.

Revenue rose 4.6 percent to $7.66 billion.

Analysts were expecting fourth-quarter profit of 28 cents per share on revenue of $7.78 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Reporting by Salvador Rodriguez in San Francisco and Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru. Additional reporting by Akankshita Mukhopadhyay and Arjun Panchadar in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva, Peter Henderson and Grant McCool

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Stopping Robocalls Will Soon Be Easier Than Ever

You probably get robocalls all the time. Some pretend to be from the IRS, others come from a phone number very similar to yours. And then there’s the rash of free airline tickets/problem with your credit card/complete this short survey intrusions. If it feels like they’re cropping up more than ever, you’re right. The blocking service YouMail estimates that 2.49 billion robocalls were placed to US consumers last month, marking a 4.1 percent increase over September. This translates to 80.5 million robocalls, every single day.

Telemarketer calls to landlines have plagued consumers for decades, but the rise in mobile robocalling has made the situation freshly appalling. Efforts to contain the problem, like central Do Not Call lists, have a crucial flaw: They cut down on robocalls from law-abiding groups like charities and corporations, but they don’t deter criminal scam operations. Fortunately, the Federal Communications Commission can. And it’s finally started to take some action.

Rule Intentions

Perhaps most significantly, the FCC announced new rules last week that allow telephony providers to block some connections that are likely robocalls before they ever to get to customers—a proactive step meant to have a dramatic impact on total completed robocalls. But while consumer advocates praise the move, they caution that it won’t singlehandedly solve the robocalling crisis.

“It’s a worthwhile thing to be doing, but it’s not the be all and end all,” says Jim McEachern, a senior technology consultant at the communication industry standards body ATIS. “The catch is that if you start blocking numbers that have [certain properties], then the robocallers will just spoof different numbers.”

The FCC approved telecom companies to block calls from invalid numbers (like ones with a fake area code), numbers that aren’t linked to a service provider, numbers that aren’t currently claimed, and numbers that are only set up to receive calls not make them. This will cut down on a lot of scam robocalls at first, but attackers will probably evolve to get around the limitations. ATIS’s McEachern notes that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has already had similar rules in place for years that have helped, but far from eliminated the robocalling issue.

On Thursday, the FCC also nodded to the possibility that the new rules could lead to some situations where legitimate calls get blocked along with the malicious ones. The “Report and Order encourages voice service providers that elect to block calls to establish a simple way to identify and fix blocking errors,” the agency said. And though the FCC Commissioners unanimously approved the new rules, some opposed the provision that telecoms will be allowed to charge customers for the call blocking services. “It’s a good thing that this agency is taking action,” Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement on Thursday. “But then [it] makes sure you can pay for the privilege. … It’s an insult to consumers who are fed up with these nuisance calls.” Verizon has been charging $3 per month for a robocall blocking service since June, but other companies like T-Mobile and AT&T have so far offered blocking services for free.

Some consumer advocates also worry that the focus on blocking nefarious robocalls could take precedent over securing and strengthening protections for consumers against other types of tormenting calls. “The Commission seems to be talking about unwanted robocalls pretty much exclusively as just the fraud robocalls, but there are as many or more unwanted robocalls that are made by banks or debt collectors or other financial institutions,” says Margot Saunders, senior counsel at the National Consumer Law Center. “There’s a big fight, and there have been a number of petitions filed to the Commission, over whether [financial institutions] should be allowed to make these calls without consent or not stop calling after the consumer says stop calling.”

Still, Saunders says that the National Consumer Law Center, which has been working on anti-robocalling initiatives for years, supports the new FCC rules and is happy the agency is taking more aggressive action. There just isn’t a silver bullet to handling unwanted calls. “It’s a great thing, but there’s a whole lot more to do,” she says.

The FCC has also been working to tackle robocalling through regulation enforcement. In August, the agency fined Philip Roesel and his company Best Insurance Contracts, Inc. more than $82 million for making a total of 21.5 million robocalls, violating the Truth in Caller ID Act. For three months in 2016 and early 2017, Roesel and his company made more than 200,000 robocalls per day using unassigned phone numbers and spoofed caller ID information. “We will do everything in our power to put you out of business,” the FCC told robocallers after the operation.

The Agony and the FTC

The Federal Trade Commission also works to stop robocalls, and began a new information-sharing initiative with telecoms in August. Through this system, the FTC sends the specific consumer complaints it gets about Do Not Call and robocall violations to telecom companies ad call-blocking solutions so everyone has the list of flagged phone numbers the FTC is constantly collecting.

The agency has also run a series of “Robocall Challenges,” awarding thousands of dollars in prize money to projects like call-blocking apps. Popular anti-robocalling services like RoboKiller and Nomorobo both came out of the FTC challenges. Apps like these often collect blacklists of robocalling numbers to block, but many also have a mechanism to pre-answer suspicious calls before they ring for the user. By picking calls up and tracking scam hallmarks—like the voiceprint of the person in the recording, or the types of spoofing an attack uses to seemingly change its phone number—the apps can then add to their lists and expand their protection.

In an attempt to go beyond the block list model, though, ATIS has been working with the Internet Engineering Task Force on a different approach. The idea is to create interoperable standards that can be adopted by all mobile and VoIP calling services to do cryptographic digital call signing, so calls can be validated as originating from a legitimate source, and not a spoofed robocall system. The protocols, known as “STIR” and “SHAKEN,” are in industry testing right now through ATIS’s Robocalling Testbed, which has been used by companies like Sprint, AT&T, Google, Comcast, and Verizon so far.

When you initiate a normal call, your phone goes through an invisible authentication process with the network to validate it for call routing. When SHAKEN detects this verification, it signs the call at your end. The provider on the receiving end can then also use the protocol to check that the call hasn’t been manipulated or bounced around in transit. Over time, the more companies that use signature-based validation, the more conspicuous spoofed robocalling will become, making it easier to detect and block. As with any telecom project, though, interoperability and backwards compatibility are a challenge, and, for now at least, SHAKEN can’t be implemented on legacy landlines that rely on older signaling protocols. ATIS says that the testbed may shut down at the end of this year if companies are ready to start deploying the protocols, or testing may continue into 2018.

The new steps the FCC is taking to block robocalls will go a long way, but the problem is so entrenched and diverse that it will take numerous technical solutions operating behind the scenes for consumers to start experiencing fewer cheery timeshare pitches. “It’s in everyone’s interest to figure this out,” ATIS’s McEachern says. “We’re getting to the point where the consumer doesn’t trust the telephone network, and that’s bad for everyone.”

'Justice League', Rotten Tomatoes, and DC Fans' Persecution Complex

The most recent episode of Rotten Tomatoes’ new movie-review series, See It/Skip It, opened not with a rave, nor a thumbs-down, but a semi-apology. “We’ve seen the conversations online about the Justice League Tomatometer,” co-host Jacqueline Coley told her Facebook Watch audience, “and we get it: You guys are passionate about this film. But we hope everyone understands the only thing we’re trying to do is add context and conversation around the Tomatometer, and not just give a number.”

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It was an odd, stilted start to what’s supposed to be a breezy movie-chat show (the phrase “context and conversation around the Tomatometer” sounds like something a drunken Babelfish bot might spit out). Yet it was an unavoidable one, given that Rotten Tomatoes, the review-aggregator-slash-Hollywood-agitator, had irked DC fans by withholding its Justice League score until Thursday night’s See It/Skip It premiere—even though a wave of reviews for the film had already been posted online. The move was ostensibly a ploy to get viewers to tune in for the show, yet others saw a greater villainy at work: Was Rotten Tomatoes, which is owned in part by Warner Bros., actually trying to shield the studio from an inevitably bad grade that could help kill its opening weekend?

The See It/Skip It pushback—which involved a lot of Tweet-screaming—was a reminder of just how controversial Justice League had become. Not Last Temptation of Christ-level controversial, mind you; this is a film in which one character sounds like Rockbiter while another sounds like Rockbiter with IBS, and in which everyone says the phrase “Mother Box” very gravely. There’s not much protest-worthy content in Justice League, save for Henry Cavill’s new digitally enhanced, stupor-man smile. But just as Justice League (the movie) brings together a bunch of outsiders for a single cause, Justice League (the event) assembles a raft of heated debate topics—from the vision of Zack Snyder to the power of Rotten Tomatoes to the conspiracy-needling coziness of corporate media—under one garish, hastily CGI’d umbrella. And with Justice League having earned a less-than-expected $96 million in its opening weekend, the lowest ever for a DCEU title, the movie will likely be seen as a Flash-point moment for DC movies as a whole.

First, though, a quick origin story: Justice League is the fourth DC movie to be released by Warner Bros. in just under two years, and a crucial one, as it reunites the company’s key franchise players (Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman) while also introducing a few big-screen up-and-comers (Aquaman, The Flash, Cyborg). Such a marvelous team-up collates various storylines while also serving as an excuse to spin off even more solo adventures, which the studio will release every year for the next few years and/or decades, until we finally get to Denis Villeneuve’s four-hour Mxyzptlk: The IMAXyzptlk Experience (slated for spring 2039). With so many characters and plot points to support, Justice isn’t so much a narrative exercise as it is a $300 million infrastructure project.

But there’s another reason for all the pre-release pressure on Justice League: With the exception of this summer’s Wonder Woman, the previous DC entries have all earned disappointingly low scores on Rotten Tomatoes, which in recent years has become the scorn of studio heads and DC-boosters alike. One studio executive told the New York Times that it was his mission to “destroy” RT; Martin Scorsese declared the site had “nothing to do with real film criticism”; and Brett Ratner said this spring that RT was “the worst thing we have in the movie culture.”

Ratner himself would become a quickly vanquished catastrophe a few months later, but his frustration was likely due to the fact that his production company helped finance 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which had been brutally dinged by RT’s critics (its score as of today is a v v disappointing 27 percent). That summer’s Suicide Squad didn’t fare better (it’s now at 26 percent), and even 2013’s slightly well-regarded Man of Steel could only muster a mere 55 percent. All three movies were either directed and/or co-produced by Snyder, the tableau-larding, dudes-and-broods auteur whose work is ferociously debated online; depending upon what time of day it is on Twitter, his movies are regarded as either enthrallingly grown-up, or laughably melodramatic. (Snyder is also credited as director on Justice League, although he stepped away from filming after a family tragedy, and was replaced by Avengers helmer Joss Whedon.)

For some fans, the low scores felt like a referendum not only on Snyder’s work, but the DC Extended Universe franchise as a whole—so much so, a few defenders even began to speculate as to whether Rotten Tomatoes was manipulating the DCEU data (or, at the very least, grading the reviews on a much steeper curve than the Marvel films). Such theories filled message boards and Quora discussions, and there was even a Change.org petition to shut the site down that collected more than 23,000 signatures).

Considering how some DC obsessives have reacted to the films’ bad reviews—there have been death threats in the past—the conspiracy theory is actually a somewhat measured response. Yet there is no damning, X-on-the-bench-style clue-bonanza to pore over here, aside from the reviews themselves. There’s also little in the way of motive: Why would RT want to intentionally and repeatedly crucify a franchise–especially one maintained by Warner Bros., which has held various financial stakes in the company? If RT did hold DC films to a harsher standard than Marvel films, why would movie critics acquiesce to having their opinions misrepresented? And how would the site’s anomalous 92 percent critical score for Wonder Woman play into this supposed RT v DC secret war?

The simple answer to all of these questions is that the DC Extended Universe is, even its better moments, a wobbily constructed franchise-in-flux, and that the critics have responded accordingly. Yet it’s hard not to understand why so many DC fans look at these RT scores and feel as though they’re under attack, as well. In the social-media era, the lines between our personal lives and the pop-cultural ones have been erased, and the heroes we once adored and/or doodled in private have become literal public avatars. DC fans very much do not want these movies to suck, and when their very suckitude becomes a semi-objective truth—something that can be “proven” with a measurement like the Tomatometer—it can become the Mother Box of all insults. Even if the See It/Skip It ratings-ruse wasn’t some Warner Bros.-dictated corporate maneuver (as an RT spokesperson told the Chicago Tribune), dangling the verdict in front of fans, and putting off the inevitable, felt like a misuse of power.

Which may be why, by Monday morning, another Justice League score had begun to draw attention on Rotten Tomatoes: The movie’s audience score, which collected more than 100,000 votes, and is currently standing at 85 percent. Maybe those competing numbers speak to a larger divide, and that the critics who disliked Justice League are simply unaligned with the average moviegoer (a complaint that goes back decades now, and feels as pointless as ever). Perhaps there’s a minor DC-fan counter-rebellion underway, with some users amping up their score a to send RT a message (or to encourage others to see the movie for themselves). Or maybe the future of movie discussion will simply come down to a numbers game, one in which viewers stake out a position, find the stats that seem to back it up, and stick to their own league.

IBM could be set for gains after long slump: Barron's

NEW YORK (Reuters) – International Business Machines Corp (IBM.N) could be the next blue-chip company with a rising valuation, according to a report in financial publication Barron‘s.

The logo for IBM is seen at the SIBOS banking and financial conference in Toronto, Ontario, Canada October 19, 2017. Picture taken October 19, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Helgren – RC14185AA8E0

Some analysts expect IBM to return to growth this quarter, Barron’s said in its Nov. 20 edition.

IBM reported higher quarterly revenue from social, mobile, analytics, cloud and security technology last month, and a long decline in gross profit has slowed already, Barron’s said.

Shares are trading at about 11 times this year’s earnings forecast, well below that of the S&P 500 .SPX, Barron’s said.

Investors could get their first clear sign that IBM is turning the corner in January, when the company will probably give its 2018 outlook, the publication said.

Even with just some upbeat news, investors could make 30 percent or more over the next year, Barron’s said.

IBM’s shares shot up 8.9 percent on Oct. 18, the day after the company reported quarterly results, but have since given back most of those gains.

The stock closed on Friday at $148.97 and is down 10.3 percent for the year to date.

Reporting by Caroline Valetkevitch; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.