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Alphabet earns record profit on Google ad surge

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October 26, 2021

By Paresh Dave and Nivedita Balu

(Reuters) -Google owner Alphabet Inc on Tuesday reported higher than expected third-quarter ad sales, a sign that the business is overcoming new limits on tracking mobile users and that online shopping is as popular as ever heading into the holiday season.

Through its search engine, YouTube video service and partnerships across the Web, Google sells more internet ads than any other company. Demand for its services surged in the past year as the pandemic forced people to spend more time online, and their new habits have persisted.

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Google advertising revenue rose 41% to $53.1 billion during the third quarter. Alphabet’s overall sales jumped to $65.1 billion, above the average estimate of $63.3 billion among analysts tracked by Refinitiv.

“The consumer shift to digital is real and will continue even as we start seeing people return to stores,” said Philipp Schindler, Google’s chief business officer. “The underlying takeaway is that people want more choice, they want more information, more flexibility, and we don’t see this reversing.”

Shares fell 0.93% to $2,760.19 following the after-hours release of the financial results.

Quarterly profit was $18.936 billion or $27.99 per share, beating expectations of $24.08 per share and marking a third-straight quarter of record profit. Alphabet’s profit is subject to wide fluctuations because accounting rules require the company to measure unrealized gains from its investments in startups as income.

Investors had braced for some sales challenges for Google.

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Anxiety by consumers over how Google and other companies use their browsing behavior to profile them and then pick which ads to show has become widespread. In the latest challenge, Apple Inc, whose iPhones account for half of the smartphones in the United States, gave its users more control to stop tracking over the past few months. The change led advertisers to recalibrate their spending in ways that Google rivals Snap Inc and Facebook Inc said hurt their third-quarter sales.

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Alphabet’s chief financial officer, Ruth Porat, reported “modest impact” on YouTube ad sales from Apple’s efforts. But analysts said Google overall was less affected than peers because its search engine collects data on user interests that is valuable to advertisers and is unmatched in the industry.

“They are almost completely immune to Apple’s changes,” said Collin Colburn, an analyst at tech consultancy Forrester.

Other companies also faced slowdowns because advertisers cut spending as they struggled to staff up and keep shelves stocked amid hiring and supply-chain issues brought on by the pandemic. Schindler said supply-chain challenges affected only Google’s sales of automotive ads.

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Google Cloud, which trails Amazon.com Inc and Microsoft Corp in cloud services market share, increased revenue by 45% to $4.99 billion, slightly below estimates of $5.2 billion.

Alphabet’s total costs increased 26% to $44.1 billion in the third quarter and the company’s workforce size passed 150,000 employees.

Alphabet shares have outperformed those of many big peers since the end of last year, rising about 57%. Microsoft is up 39%, Facebook 20% and Amazon 2% over the same period.

But shares of Alphabet trade at a slight discount to Facebook, the internet’s No. 2 seller of online ads. Facebook trades at 6.8 times expected revenue over the next 12 months compared with 6.4 times for Alphabet.

Facebook has been swamped with accusations in recent weeks from a former employee who leaked thousands of confidential company files to media and filed complaints with the U.S. securities regulator over alleged misrepresentations by the company about its risks from hosting inappropriate content.

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Google has been caught up in some of the fallout. A YouTube policy official testified to U.S. Congress earlier on Tuesday alongside other companies about the harms of social media to young users.

Investors also await further changes to Google’s businesses as a result of regulatory scrutiny. U.S. and other authorities have alleged some of the company’s practices in advertising and search are anticompetitive, though the company argues they are to benefit users. In one concession to critics last week, Google said it would cut some of the fees it collects from apps on its Play app store starting next year.

But the move could end up generating new revenue for Google if it leads companies such as music streamer Spotify Technology SA to start selling subscriptions through their apps and giving Google 10% to 15% of the sum.

Alphabet’s Porat said on Tuesday that earlier trims to Play fees would cut in to sales.

(Reporting by Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru and Paresh Dave in Oakland, Calif.Editing by Arun Koyyur and Matthew Lewis)

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Exclusive-KNDS readies 650 million euro binding bid for Leonardo units – sources

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December 2, 2021

By Angelo Amante, Francesca Landini and Elisa Anzolin

ROME (Reuters) – KMW+Nexter Defence Systems (KNDS) is close to making a 650 million euro ($736 million) binding bid for Leonardo’s OTO Melara and Wass units, three sources said on Thursday, in a move that could strengthen its position in the land defence sector.

The Franco-German consortium is conducting due diligence on the two units that Italian defence group Leonardo has put on the block and could submit its offer by the end of the year or early 2022, the sources familiar with the matter said.

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KNDS is pitted against Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri, which expressed an interest in the units but has not started formal due diligence and has put forward a less generous proposal so far, the sources said.

The Italian government, which controls both Leonardo and Fincantieri, is determined to have the final say on the deal.

As Europe pushes for closer cooperation on defence, Rome wants to keep open the door for cooperation between domestic and foreign groups, political sources have said, but also wants to protect jobs and growth at home.

As part of its proposal, KNDS has offered to include Italy in the Main Ground Combat System (MGCS) tank project, an option that would give Leonardo the possibility of offering its sensors and electronics for the new tank.

OTO Melara, which makes naval and terrestrial cannons, would also fit into KNDS’s portfolio and strengthen its hand in a 2.2 billion euro contract that the Italian army is due to launch in the near future.

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OTO Melara is currently a tank supplier to the Italian army together with Iveco Defence Vehicles, while Wass produces torpedoes.

Fincantieri, which started informal talks with Leonardo over OTO Melara and Wass before KNDS’ approach, could decide to join forces with other groups, the sources said.

($1 = 0.8836 euros)

(Additional reporting by Christina Amann in Berlin Writing by Francesca Landini; Editing by Mark Potter)

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Fed’s Quarles says regulatory overkill could stifle stablecoin innovation

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December 2, 2021

By Pete Schroeder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Randal Quarles, the former regulatory chief of the Federal Reserve, said on Thursday that U.S. regulators may “unnecessarily” hamper innovation around so-called stablecoins if they pursue recent recommendations put forward by a Biden administration working group.

Quarles, who will leave the Fed’s Board of Governors at the end of the month, said regulators must show “reasoned constraint” on monitoring stablecoins, which are digital currencies whose value are pegged to traditional assets like the dollar. He added that banks should be allowed to engage with them once certain concerns around transparency, stability and consumer protection are met.

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“It is clear that there is a strong demand for these assets among bank customers, and well-regulated banks should be allowed to engage in activities regarding these assets,” he said in a virtual appearance at an American Enterprise Institute event in Washington.

Quarles specifically cited a recommendation that any stablecoin issuers or “wallet providers” have limited access to other commercial entities, calling it needlessly stricter than rules for nondigital assets.

The President’s Working Group on Financial Markets published a report in November calling on Congress to pass a new law to apply bank-like scrutiny to stablecoin providers.

In his final speech at the Fed, Quarles laid out a series of recommendations for the central bank following his exit. President Joe Biden has yet to nominate his replacement.

For example, Quarles also said the Fed should consider easing its “globally systemic” capital surcharge for the nation’s largest banks, particularly as regulators move to finalize added global capital restrictions known as “Basel III.”

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He said the Fed’s plan to finalize those new rules would come after his exit from the U.S. central bank, and said there will be “little justification” for keeping the G-SIB surcharge at its current high level once it’s done.

He also argued the Fed should consider averaging the results of its annual stress test of bank finances over several years to result in a more consistent capital level, and that the central bank needs to address “perverse implications” of current leverage requirements that could discourage banks from holding safe assets in times of stress.

(Reporting by Pete SchroederEditing by Paul Simao)

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S&P 500, Dow climb on boost from financials, Boeing

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December 2, 2021

By Devik Jain and Anisha Sircar

(Reuters) – The Dow and the S&P 500 rebounded on Thursday, boosted by financials shares and Boeing as rising cases of the new Omicron variant globally continued to drive volatility across markets.

Boeing Co jumped 3.5% after China’s aviation authority issued an airworthiness directive on the 737 MAX jets that will help pave the way for the model’s return to service in China.

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Kroger Co surged 9.9% to top the S&P 500 after the retailer raised full-year sales and profit forecasts, boosted by sustained demand for groceries.

Travel and leisure stocks bounced back, with S&P 1500 Airlines and the S&P 1500 Hotels, Restaurant and Leisure indexes rising 4.5% and 2.8%, respectively.

All of the 11 major S&P sectors advanced in early trading, with eight of them surging more than 1% each. Financials led the pack, up 2.3%.

Wall Street’s main indexes closed below key technical levels on Wednesday, with the Dow breaching its 200-day moving average for the first time since July 2020 on growing angst about the latest coronavirus variant and the Federal Reserve’s hawkish comments.

“It is a bit of a ‘buy the dip’ environment … uncertainty will persist over the next week or so as scientists do more studies over the new variant,” said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA Research in New York.

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“I still think investors want to focus on equities, they just need to be given a reason to do so.”

Wall Street whipsawed this week as investors scrambled for bargains after every drawdown. Still, the three indexes are tracking sharp weekly losses, with the Dow on pace for its fourth straight fall.

The United States and Germany joined countries around the globe planning stricter COVID-19 restrictions as the Omicron variant rattled markets, fearful it could choke a tentative economic recovery from the pandemic.

The CBOE volatility index, also known as Wall Street’s fear gauge, was last trading at 28.6 points, a day after hitting its highest level since February.

At 10:27 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 462.69 points, or 1.36%, at 34,484.73 and the S&P 500 was up 43.36 points, or 0.96%, at 4,556.40.

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The Nasdaq Composite was up 31.90 points, or 0.21%, at 15,285.96, supported by shares of Amazon.com, Tesla Inc, Microsoft Corp and Nvidia Corp.

Apple Inc fell 2.7% after Bloomberg reported about slowing demand for Apple’s iPhone 13.

Meanwhile, lawmakers reached an agreement to fund the U.S. government until Feb. 18 as they scramble to avoid a partial government shutdown this weekend.

Stellar earnings reports and strong economic growth have powered U.S. stocks to a series of record highs in November, with the S&P 500 climbing 20.1% so far this year.

A Reuters poll of equity analysts said a correction was likely in the next six months, with the benchmark expected to gain 7.5% between now and end-2022 to finish at 4,910.

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Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 2.63-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 1.43-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded three new 52-week highs and nine new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded seven new highs and 393 new lows.

(Reporting by Devik Jain and Anisha Sircar in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel)

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