Mar 31, 2021

Axios Closer

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🔔 The dashboard: The S&P 500 closed up 0.4%.

  • Biggest decliner? Kroger (-5%) after an investor event disappointed Wall Street.
  • Biggest gainer? Solar company Enphase Energy (+8%). Green energy companies rallied after the release of President Biden's infrastructure plan.

🚨 Situational awareness: The SEC dropped a statement on SPACs, warning that a private company not prepared to go public — then "quickly acquired by a SPAC" — may not be able to meet listing standards. Go deeper

Today's newsletter is 589 words, or a 2-minute read.

1 big thing: Corporate America (finally) speaks

Demonstrators protest Georgia's voting law earlier this month. (Photo: Megan Varner/Getty Images)

The floodgates are open. Almost a week after a bill that curbs voting access in Georgia became law — and nearly one month after it passed the state's House — a slew of corporations have come out against voter suppression.

Why it matters: In an era where businesses are more outspoken (and being pressured to be that way), their silence on this issue had been deafening.

  • Flashback: Activists called on Georgia-based companies (Delta, Coca-Cola, Home Depot) to use their political might and put pressure on politicians, to no avail. Then they threatened boycotts.

Driving the news: In an open letter out today, over 70 Black executives demanded that corporate America take a stand against legislation that makes it harder to vote, as the New York Times first reported.

What they're saying ... Delta CEO Ed Bastian, in a reversal today: "I need to make it crystal clear that the final [Georgia] bill is unacceptable and does not match Delta’s values." (Full statement)

  • "Let me get crystal clear and unequivocal. This legislation is unacceptable," Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey told CNBC today.

The big question: When corporate action typically comes in the form of a press release, what took so long?

  • "When they really started to respond is when they started to get pressure from antagonists. What they should have done is gotten ahead of it," says Paul Argenti, a corporate communications professor at Dartmouth College.
  • Argenti says there's a slew of factors that go into when a company decides to speak out and how quickly — like if the issue aligns with corporate strategy.
  • "The right to vote? This is an easy one," Argenti says.

Go deeper ... Track all the CEO statements here.

2. Charted: Deliveroo's first-day flop
Data: FactSet; Note: Stock listed on the London Stock Exchange, trading time in ET and share price in U.S. dollars; Chart: Axios Visuals

Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva reports: Food delivery company Deliveroo’s much-anticipated public listing in London had a rough first day on the market.

Why it matters: Deliveroo was expected to be a watershed moment for London’s stock exchange as the biggest company to go public since Glencore nearly a decade ago, and the first of hopefully many more big tech IPOs.  

  • The intrigue: Some institutional investors opted to sit out the IPO, citing concerns about its business model and ongoing labor tensions with its delivery workers.
3. What's moving

📈 Microsoft lands massive $22 billion 10-year deal with the U.S. Army to make AR and mixed reality headsets. Shares closed up 2%. (Axios)

⚡Shares of electric vehicle charging companies — Blink, ChargePoint and Beam Global — jumped following the release of President Biden’s infrastructure plan, which includes a $174 billion investment in the EV market. (Bloomberg)

💰 Goldman Sachs moves to offer bitcoin investment options for its private wealth clients. Shares closed down 1.5%. (CNBC)

👀 Facebook adds option to sort timeline by chronologyNew York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill legalizing recreational marijuana for adults … One thousand business leaders from the AAPI community signed an open letter in the WSJ committing to action and funds for social justice ... Go inside Biden's infrastructure bill.

4. Buh-bye Robinhood confetti 🎉

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Move over confetti ... Robinhood's iconic animation when users make their first trade (or reach other investment milestones) is getting the boot, Axios' Hope King reports.

Why it matters: Lawmakers have critiqued the use of confetti as "gamification" — or an incentive or reward for customers to keep trading.

  • As the trading app prepares to go public, it wants to shed emblems of its past.
  • New designs — floating 3D shapes — will replace the confetti.
5. The dreaded middle seat is back 💺

Photo: Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The last " block the middle seat" U.S. airline is giving in: Delta will begin filling middle seats again on May 1.

Flashback: At the onset of the pandemic, major U.S. airlines said they wouldn't book middle seats so passengers could social distance onboard. (How this worked in practice is a different story.)

  • Other airlines first started to open up middle seat bookings last year.

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6. What they're saying
[I]f someone tried to design an economic crises that would unduly target the Hispanic community, they’d probably come up with something that looks a lot like COVID-19.
— Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen (whose entire Twitter thread is worthy of your time)

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