Jul 26, 2018

Axios Login

By Ina Fried
Ina Fried

Today might not be as long as yesterday, but I'd drink that coffee just in case.

1 big thing: Facebook takes a sharp cut

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

There’s no doubt yesterday’s earnings report was bad for Facebook. Not only did the company miss expectations, but it said it expects growth to slow for the next couple of quarters. The question is whether this is a turning point or just a bump in the road for the social giant. 

Here's the case for each scenario, as laid out by tech editor Scott Rosenberg and the Axios tech team.

1. This is a big turning point for Facebook:

  • Investors expect endless growth but that has to end when there are no more customers to be added, and with 2.5 billion users, Facebook has probably hit that point. The market is belatedly waking up to that fact.
  • Facebook's only revenue comes from advertising, and the measures it's taking on privacy and "information quality" are likely to cut into that revenue, as the company itself warned. That will have a longer-term drag on Facebook's financial outlook that will keep discouraging investors. 
  • The social networking trend has peaked and the next thing is already on its way, be it messaging or something else.
  • Even if social networking hasn't played out, each generation wants a different network than their parents. Facebook was able to buy Instagram and WhatsApp, but regulators won't let it do the same the next time around.

2. This is just a bump in Facebook's road:

  • Facebook is still growing and making tons of money, just at slightly lower levels than the market thought it would.
  • Facebook has so many bets out there and is well positioned for the next big thing, from its acquisitions of WhatsApp and Instagram to longer-term plays like Oculus. And even if it can't buy the next hot startup, it can clone it, as it has done with Snapchat.
  • Facebook has only begun to really cash in on its dominant position. Consider the case of Microsoft, which is far past its heyday of market domination, but just took in $100 billion in annual revenue for the first time. A strong tech position can allow companies to be profitable for decades to come. And with Jan Koum gone, Facebook is free to start dialing up the monetization (read: ads) on WhatsApp, which has reach that is both giant and global.

The bottom line: Facebook has managed to leap over hurdle after hurdle and come out a bigger, stronger and more profitable company. (Remember when it missed mobile?) On the other hand, every great market run comes to an end eventually.

2. Qualcomm looks to buyback after setbacks

Photo: Andrej Sokolow/picture alliance via Getty Images

Qualcomm offered a lot for investors to digest Wednesday.

What's happening, per its announcement:

  • It's dropping its long-running plan to buy NXP Semiconductors amid continued uncertainty over whether Chinese regulators would ever approve the deal. Qualcomm now owes NXP a $2 billion breakup fee.
  • In its place, Qualcomm is launching a $30 billion stock buyback.
  • The company doesn't expect Apple to use its modem chips in any of the new iPhone models. (The two companies remain locked in a bitter legal dispute over licensing rates and other issues; Apple had been using a mix of Intel and Qualcomm chips of late.)
  • Meanwhile, last quarter's sales and earnings came in ahead of expectations.

The bottom line: NXP may be off the table, but Qualcomm still has a lot on its plate.

3. Could we tell if Trump's Twitter was hacked?

Illustration:Rebecca Zisser/Axios

President Trump's recent fiery tweet to Iran brings back to the forefront two big dangers of conducting diplomacy over Twitter.

  1. The first issue is obvious, 280 characters doesn't allow much room for subtlety or nuance and makes messages subject to misinterpretation.
  2. The other issue, raised even before Trump took office, is the possibllity of the president's account being hacked. The concern here has only grown given the nature of Trump's tweets. At this point, how would we even know if Trump's account was hacked?

Our thought bubble: Trump is unlikely to give up his phone or Twitter, but the use of both presents very real security risks.

4. Tech CEOs make even more than you think
Data: Axios analysis of Securities and Exchange Commission filings. Chart: Andrew Witherspoon, Kerrie Vila, Lazaro Gamio/Axios

As much publicity as there is over how much tech CEOs make, the fact is many are taking home far more than even the giant numbers reported after companies file their annual proxies. That's because their total compensation includes gains or losses when they sell the stock they get via options or stock grants.

The details: My Axios colleague Bob Herman looked at CEO pay in 2017 calculated on actual realized gains (ARG) of CEOs' stock options and awards — shares that were actually exercised and taxed — versus the estimated fair value (EFV) of their stock, the figure most prominently featured in summary compensation tables of SEC filings.

By the numbers:

  • Overall, 69 tech CEOs made $2.1 billion based on our calculations — more than double the $1 billion that is normally shown in the traditional format.
  • Some prominent tech executives who aren't CEOs, like Oracle's Larry Ellison and Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg, also took home at least nine figures last year based on ARG. Oracle and Facebook did not comment.
  • Netflix CEO Reed Hastings earned the most in 2017 under these calculations: $179 million, compared with the $24.4 million that was prominently reported in Netflix's annual filing. Netflix declined to comment.

Go deeper: Bob has a lot more on S&P 500 CEOs in this interactive graphic and story. Plus, explore the data yourself with this tool.

5. Portland could be a test for the scooter wars

Portland, a city known for investing in public transit and promoting alternatives to cars, has granted permits to scooter-sharing startups Skip and Bird as part of a 4-month pilot program, Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva reports.

Why it matters: This could be a great test of whether a huge cash pile proves as much an advantage in the scooter wars as it did for Uber in the ride-hailing race. In this case, Bird is the wealthy competitor.

  • To date, Bird has raised more than $415 million in funding, while Skip has raised just $31 million.

Caveat: After the initial 200 scooters per firm deploy in the first week of Portland's pilot, Bird is allowed up to 680 while Skip only gets up to 450. This may skew the companies' performances and their popularity.

  • Moreover, Portland may grant permits to 2 more companies it is reviewing, according to a Bureau of Transportation spokesperson, and that would change the head-to-head dynamic, too.

What’s next: San Francisco, which ordered all scooters off the streets in June while it reviews permit applications for its own pilot program, recently said it plans to issue its decision in August. Unlike Portland, San Francisco saw a number of scooter companies rush to roll them out onto the streets before the city could enact regulations.

6. Take Note

On Tap

  • Google Cloud Next wraps up in San Francisco.
  • Earnings reports include Amazon, Intel and Comcast.

Trading Places


7. After you Login

Check out the lengths to which these crooks had to go to exit the scene of their crime.

Ina Fried