Posts tagged with "Bloomberg"

You want fries with that? McDonald’s aims to personalize drive-thru menu boards

March 27, 2019

Chicago-based fast-food monolith McDonald’s announced on March 25 that, in its largest acquisition in 20 years, it will spend $300 million to acquire the Israeli company Dynamic Yield—a leader in personalization and decision logic technology, according to a report by Bloomberg.

With the new technology, McDonald’s envisions that it can change up the food it offers on its electronic menu boards, depending on factors such as the weather–coffee on cold days and McFlurries on hot days, for example—or the time of day, current restaurant traffic, trending items, or regional preferences.

What’s more, the menus will be able to instantly suggest and display additional items for a customer’s order based on his or her current selections.

“This will enable McDonald’s to be one of the first companies to integrate decision technology into the customer point-of-sale at a brick and mortar location,” the fast food chain stated in a press release.

McDonald’s tested this technology in several U.S. restaurants in 2018. Upon closing of the acquisition, McDonald’s will begin to roll it out at the chain’s drive-thru at restaurants in the United States in 2019; and then expand it to other top global markets.

McDonald’s also will begin work to integrate the technology into all of its digital customer experience touchpoints, such as self-order kiosks and McDonald’s Global Mobile App.    

“Technology is a critical element of our Velocity Growth Plan, enhancing the experience for our customers by providing greater convenience on their terms,” said McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook, adding, “With this acquisition, we’re expanding both our ability to increase the role technology and data will play in our future and the speed with which we’ll be able to implement our vision of creating more personalized experiences for our customers.”

Upon closing, McDonald’s will become sole owner; and will continue to invest in Dynamic Yield’s core personalization product and world-class teams. Dynamic Yield will remain a stand-alone company and employees will continue to operate out of offices around the world. Dynamic Yield also will continue to serve current clients and attract future prospects.

Research contact: @McDonald’s

Ashton Kusher-backed Calm app is valued at $1B

February 7, 2019

Calm.com—the San Francisco-based startup that claims to have become the number-one app for sleep, meditation, and relaxation since it began doing business in 2017—has been valued at $1 billion in a funding round led by TPG Growth, the company announced on February 6.

According to Bloomberg, Calm raised $88 million in the round, which included existing investors Insight Venture Partners and Ashton Kutcher’s Sound Ventures, as well as Hollywood’s Creative Artists Agency.

The funding makes San Francisco-based Calm a major player in the wellness industry—or, as the company says, the World’s First Mental Health Unicorn. (It joins the ranks of 312 other U.S. startups that have been valued at $1 billion or more and are known as “unicorns.”)

The Calm website says that the app “helps users cope with some of the most important mental health issues of the modern age-including anxiety, stress, and insomnia.”  Among its popular features are:

  • The Daily Calm, a ten-minute meditation guided by the company’s Head of Mindfulness Tamara Levitt;
  • Sleep Stories, soothing bedtime tales for adults read by celebrities such as Matthew McConaughey, Stephen Fry, and Leona Lewis;
  • MasterClass: A series of audio classes taught by mindfulness experts; and
  • Music: Exclusive music to help users focus, relax, and sleep.

Companies such as mindfulness app Headspace and meditation wearable maker Muse have also raised money from VCs, although at lower valuations, Bloomberg reports.

“Our vision is to build one of the most valuable and meaningful brands of the 21st century,” co-founder and Co-Chief Executive Officer Michael Acton Smith said in a statement. His co-founder and co-CEO, Alex Tew, added that the company would prioritize spending on international growth and creating new content.

The app has been downloaded more than 40 million times, it said in a statement, and it has more than one million paying subscribers.

Research contact: @calm

Closer to a cure: United Neuroscience tests Alzheimer’s vaccine

January 18, 2019

Today, 5.7 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s—and, every 65 seconds, someone in the United States develops the disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

For the past 20 years, biotech companies have been striving to tackle Alzheimer’s—with little success.  However now, Bloomberg reports, a four-year old Dublin-based biotech team—comprising leaders in neurology, vaccines, drug development, and disruptive ideas—believes it may be on to something.

To be clear, the news outlet says, United Neuroscience hasn’t solved Alzheimer’s yet, nor has it claimed to. But previously unreported results from a small, recent United clinical trial find that 96% of patients responded, without serious side effects, to the Alzheimer’s vaccine the company calls UB-311. The researchers describe the drug as “a novel synthetic peptide vaccine targeting beta amyloid [the main component of the amyloid plaques found in the brains of Alzheimer patients] in the treatment of Alzheimer’s.”

The patients demonstrated improved brain function and showed a reduction in the protein plaque gumming up their neurons, the company’s report says.

“The positive results show that we can safely raise and maintain [anti-beta amyloid] antibody titers in a predictable and sustained manner,” said Peter Powchik, EVP of Research and Development at UNS, in a company release.

“High response rates, reproducibility of response, and generation of antibodies directed to relevant toxic protein species are key elements of an effective therapeutic vaccine for neurodegenerative conditions. The UNS platform is proving that it can deliver on these requirements,” Powchik claimed.

Indeed, Bloomberg explains, United’s vaccine stimulates the patient’s own immune system to attack amyloid, which some researchers believe to be the leading cause. The vaccine’s job is to slow the proteins’ clumping and, if possible, reverse some damage and restore brain function.

United’s clinical trial, a Phase II study completed last year, tested the vaccine with a group of 42 patients who had mild cognitive impairment and appeared to be in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.

One set of patients was in the control group and received a placebo; while two other groups received three shots of the vaccine and then boosters either every three or six months over the course of a 18 months.

Although the small number of patients prevents United from drawing any major statistical conclusions, the company has been encouraged enough to move ahead with development of the vaccine, possibly with a larger partner, according to CEO Mel Mei Hu.

For now, United says it’s focused on raising capital to fund a more conclusive UB-311 study and to keep refining its widening range of vaccines. The 35-person company is gearing up to start trials of UB-312, aimed at Parkinson’s disease, and a second Alzheimer’s vaccine meant to combat tau [a protein that causes tangles in the brain].

“They have taken thoughtful initial steps with this very promising technology,” Eric Reiman, a leading Alzheimer’s researcher and an adviser to United Neuroscience, told Bloomberg. “But this is still the beginning of the beginning.”

Research contact: @UNSTechBio

‘Hipster squads’ sign on to promote Breitling’s luxury timepieces

January 4, 2019

Most Millennials don’t wear watches; their ubiquitous smartphones make such timepieces redundant. However, the 130+-year-old Swiss luxury watchmaker Breitling has come up with a plan to attract consumers outside its elderly demographic, according to a recent report by Bloomberg.

Breitling has thrived on chunky, functional timepieces that come with busy dials and are favored by older men. Until last year, the company’s expensive product lineup was starting to look as outdated as its marketing—which, Bloomberg says, featured macho men in their aircraft and blond women in revealing outfits breathlessly awaiting their landing.

Now, the company is courting a new clientele—young, digital, and outdoorsy—with its #SQUADONAMISSION, a team of brand ambassadors that includes actors-cum-hipsters Brad Pitt, Adam Driver, Charlize Theron, and Daniel Wu as members of the Cinema Squad; and other celebrity teams who represent the qualities of a Jet Squad, an Explorers Squad, and a Surfer Squad.

In a description of the new campaign by AdGully, Breitling says that the first stage of the squad initiative features a full range of print, online, outdoor, point-of-sale, and broadcast advertising; as well as comprehensive use of all major social media channels worldwide.

The first photo shoots were done completed during the first half of 2018. The Breitling Jet Team Squad was photographed at its base in Dijon, France; the Explorers Squad members were captured on film on the Lofoten Islands in Norway; and the actors were shot by celebrated fashion photographer Peter Lindbergh in California.

In explaining the rationale behind the new campaign, Breitling CEO Georges Kern told Bloomberg, “We have enormous brand awareness, but we need to increase awareness for our products. It’s all about storytelling.”

Along with the new brand ambassadors the company has introduced a portfolio of striking timepieces. Brought out for the first time at the industry show, Baselworld 2018 in Switzerland last March, the Super 8—a new member of the Navitimer 8 family—takes it design inspiration, the company says, from the Breitling Reference 637 stopwatch,;which was used in World War II by bomber pilots and crews. The stainless-steel model has a black dial, while the titanium version features a military green dial. Both have large, luminescent Arabic numerals and a convex sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating on both sides. The hour and minute hands also are luminescent, making the Navitimer Super 8 easy to read in all lighting conditions. The cost starts at a reported $3,500, with several more expensive versions.

The streamlined Super 8—less bulky than Breitling’s usual timepieces—is designed to attract a younger buyer who has the money and the taste for luxury to enjoy wearing a collectible watch.

Perhaps seeing it on the wrists of the company’s celebrity squads will make it irresistible. Only time will tell.

Research contact: @squadonamission

How China’s ‘Singles’ Day’ became biggest shopping event ever

November 5, 2018

Singles’ Day, celebrated on November 11, is now the world’s biggest online shopping event—so much so that a countdown clock on the website shows the days, hours, minutes and seconds until shoppers in China and worldwide can claim their discounts (some of them, up to 95%) from a variety of retailers.

In less than a decade since Singles Day was first celebrated in China in 2009, Alibaba Group Holding has turned a quirky celebration for unmarried young adults into a global extravaganza drawing in thousands of retailers and hundreds of millions of shoppers of all ages—hitched or otherwise, according to a November 1 report by Bloomberg.

Just how big is this shoppers’ holiday? More than twice as much merchandise is sold over the 24-hour period as during the entire five-day U.S. holiday-buying spree that begins on Thanksgiving, runs through Black Friday and ends on Cyber Monday. Every year has exceeded the one before, with last year’s sales climbing 39% to 168.2 billion yuan ($24.2 billion). That’s on par with the gross domestic product of some smaller European nations. Most of the buying was via Taobao and Tmall, Alibaba’s main shopping sites.

This year, the shopping experience has spread to other e-commerce operators and will include more brick-and-mortar stores than ever before, the organizers claim. But Bloomberg says there is one, big unknown: To what extent, if any, the brewing U.S.-China trade war will cut into Singles’ Day sales.

It remains to be seen whether a depressed Chinese stock market and higher import tariffs resulting from U.S.-China trade tensions will curb consumers’ enthusiasm. On the other hand, Alibaba has significantly boosted the brick-and-mortar element of Singles’ Day by accelerating its investments in malls, convenience stores and food delivery services — part of what it calls its “new retail” initiative.

Essentially, Bloomberg reports, any transaction made via payment service Alipay will count. The initiative involves equipping traditional retailers with new technology to manage inventory and to serve as distribution centers for online shoppers, as well as connecting mom-and-pop stores to its platform. There are also 200,000 so-called smart stores that seek to combine the online and offline retail experience

While the Chinese mainland continues to dominate sales, according to the Bloomberg report, Alibaba continues to make it more global. That means getting foreign brands involved in selling to the Chinese. It’s also working to promote its English-language websites.

Research contact: @luluyilun

Mitch McConnell: GOP intends to gut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid after midterms

October 26, 2018

It’s the talk of the Beltway, according to the Los Angeles Times: Did Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) just admit that the GOP intends to dismantle Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid after the midterm elections?

The scuttlebutt started, the Times reported on October 19, after the Senate majority leader gave an interview to Bloomberg  on October 16, in which he singled out “entitlements”—that’s political code for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid—as “the real drivers of the debt” and called for them to be adjusted “to the demographics of the future.”

To make it short and sweet, McConnell intends to cut benefits.

Indeed, Bloomberg said, the Senate Majority Leader blamed rising federal deficits and debt on “a bipartisan unwillingness to contain spending on Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.”

What’s more, although Republican legislators spent most of last winter trying to gut the Affordable Care Act, McConnell also telegraphed a plan to try again to repeal healthcare coverage after the midterm elections.

That’s despite indications that the ACA is becoming more popular with the public, not less, and voters’ concerns about preserving its protections for those with preexisting conditions may be driving them to the polls — and not to vote Republican. A poll released on October 18 by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, found that fully 71% of U.S. voters say healthcare is the most important issue driving them to the polls in the midterm elections.

In an October 17 interview with Reuters, McConnell commented that the GOP’s failure to repeal the ACA was “the one disappointment of this Congress from a Republican point of view.”  He said Republicans could try again to repeal Obamacare if they win enough seats in U.S. elections next month.

The CBO projects the current fiscal year deficit at $973 billion, and says it expects annual deficits to exceed $1 trillion into the next decade. The CBO attributed much of the deficit to “recently enacted legislative changes. … In particular, provisions of the 2017 tax act.”

The Congressional Budget office sees things differently. The CBO projects the current fiscal year deficit at $973 billion, and says it expects annual deficits to exceed $1 trillion into the next decade. The CBO attributed much of the deficit to “recently enacted legislative changes. … In particular, provisions of the 2017 tax act.”

Research contact: @hitzikm

Mueller to convey key findings of Russia probe after midterms

October 18, 2018

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is expected to divulge key findings of his team’s 18-month-long Russia probe soon after the November midterm elections.

The news comes as Mueller faces mounting pressure, either to produce more indictments or shut down his investigation, according to Bloomberg sources, the business news outlet reported on October 17.

Specifically, two U.S. officials told Bloomberg, Mueller is close to rendering judgment on a couple of the most explosive aspects of his inquiry:

  • Were there clear incidents of collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign?
  • Did the president take any actions that constituted obstruction of justice?

That doesn’t necessarily mean, Bloomberg said, that Mueller’s findings would be made public if he doesn’t secure unsealed indictments. The regulations governing Mueller’s probe stipulate that he can present his findings only to his boss, who is currently Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The regulations give the special counsel’s supervisor some discretion in deciding what is relayed to Congress and what is publicly released.

The question of timing is critical. Mueller’s work won’t be concluded ahead of the November 6 midterm elections—and, with just three weeks to go, it is unlikely that Mueller will take any overt action that could be turned into a campaign issue. Justice Department guidelines say prosecutors should avoid any major steps close to an election that could be interpreted as influencing the outcome.

Also complicating the release of findings is the fact that Mueller only recently submitted written questions to Trump’s lawyers regarding potential collusion with Russia—and his team hasn’t yet ruled out seeking an interview with the president, according to one of the U.S. officials.

What’s more, the news outlet reported, this timeline raises questions about the future of the probe, itself. Trump has signaled repeatedly that he hopes to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions after the election—a move that could bring in a new boss for Mueller or put the entire inquiry in jeopardy.

Rosenstein has made it clear that he wants Mueller to wrap up the investigation as expeditiously as possible, another U.S. official said. The officials gave no indications about the details of Mueller’s conclusions. Mueller’s office declined to comment for the Bloomberg story.

Research contact: @cstrohm

Senators Graham and McConnell doubt ‘rogue player’ Saudi scenario

October 17, 2018

Although President Donald Trump has suggested that “rogue players” were responsible for the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, two of his most avid GOP acolytes are not supporting that version of the story.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), who adamantly backed the POTUS’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, during the Judicial Committee hearings late last month—and who is said to be bucking for a Cabinet position within the administration—came out strongly against the Saudi Crown Prince on October 16, during an appearance on Fox & Friends.

“I’ve been their biggest defender on the floor of the United States Senate,” Graham said of the Saudi leadership. However, he commented, “This guy [Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman] is a wrecking ball. Nothing happens in Saudi Arabia without MBS knowing it.”

The observations by Graham—described by Bloomberg as “an influential foreign policy hawk in Congress who frequently advises President Donald Trump”—represented some of the harshest words yet made in public by a senior Republican on the Khashoggi disappearance, that news outlet said. He said he’d support efforts to “sanction the hell out of Saudi Arabia.”

“He had this guy murdered in a consulate in Turkey and to expect me to ignore it, I feel used and abused,” Graham said on Fox. “I was on the floor every time defending Saudi Arabia because it’s a good ally. There’s a difference between a country and an individual. The MBS figure is to me toxic. He can never be a world leader on the world stage.”

Graham also signed off on an October 10 letter to President Trump that aimed to trigger both an investigation into the alleged murder and sanctions for the Saudis.

The letter read, in part, “The recent disappearance of Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi suggests that he could be a victim of a gross violation of internationally recognized human rights, which includes ‘torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, prolonged detention without charges and trial, causing the disappearance of persons by the abduction and clandestine detention of those persons, and other flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty, or the security of person.’ Therefore, we request that you make a determination on the imposition of sanctions pursuant to the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act with respect to any foreign person responsible for such a violation related to Mr. Khashoggi. Our expectation is that in making your determination you will consider any relevant information, including with respect to the highest ranking officials in the Government of Saudi Arabia.”

The other signatories on the letter included Senators Bob Corker (Tennessee) and Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey), who are, respectively the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; and Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), who is ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (of which Graham, himself is chairman). In addition, a number of other legislators, both Democratic and Republican, added their names to the correspondence.

In addition, an October 16 report by Bloomberg noted that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky)—who has supported Trump on every major policy effort, from deconstructing Obamacare to the tax bill to the Supreme Court nomination— said the disappearance and possible murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi looks “extremely disturbing” but the United States needs to determine what role Saudi Arabia’s government may have played before responding.

“Clearly we need to find out what happened before deciding what action should be taken,” McConnell said Tuesday in an interview with Bloomberg News. “I can’t imagine if what we think happened, that we would take no action.”

Asked whether that action would include halting arms sales to the Saudis, McConnell said he’s not ready to say which form of action he would take. He that the president did “the right thing” by sending Secretary of State Michael Pompeo to Saudi Arabia on October 15 to meet with King Salman bin Abdulaziz.

Research contact: @DonnaAN1

Ford prepares for major layoffs following $1B Trump tariff loss

October 11, 2018

The Ford Motor Company is preparing for major layoffs—reportedly, as many as 200,000 worldwide—after suffering a blow to profits of at least $1 billion due to tariffs enacted by President Donald Trump.

Layoffs will affect Ford’s 70,000-strong white-collar workforce as part of what the company is calling a “redesign” of its staff in an ongoing $22.5 billion reorganization, according to an NBC News report on October 8.

Ford CEO Jim Hackett told Bloomberg in September that tariffs on imported aluminum and steel, alone, were enough to knock the company on its heels.

From Ford’s perspective the metals tariffs took about $1 billion in profit from us,” Hackett said. “The irony of which is we source most of that in the U.S. If it goes on any longer, it will do more damage.”

As a result of the ongoing trade war, the automaker now intends to cut back on production—almost exclusively manufacturing its popular and profitable SUVs and trucks. Its only passenger car will remain the popular Mustang, but production of the iconic brand could also be hurt if profits continue to fall.

One high-profile casualty of the cutbacks will be the new Focus crossover, which, the automaker already has said will not be offered in U.S. dealerships. The Ford Focus Active is manufactured in China. Because of the U.S.’s new tariffs on imported cars, it’s no longer profitable for the company to sell it in America, officials said.

“This is the first of potentially many vehicles that will disappear from the U.S. market” due to the trade war, Kristin Dziczek of the Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Center for Automotive Research told The Detroit Free Press.

Research contact: @Ford

Watch this space: Morgan Stanley revamps offices to attract Millennial workers

October 9, 2018

Morgan Stanley, the multinational investment bank and financial services firm, has announced plans to remodel about 1.2 million square feet of office space in its branches worldwide over the next 15 months.

The goal is to attract Millennials to the Morgan Stanley workforce by designing a much more engaging and tech-savvy business environment.

As part of the project, called Workplace Evolution, the company will move its technology experts closer to its brokers, traders, and bankers, Head of Technology Rob Rooney told Bloomberg in an interview posted on October 8.

Changes initially will be made to the space used by the company’s wealth-management operations—where the bank is using new algorithms and machine learning to help more than 15,000 brokers make trade suggestions to clients and handle more routine tasks. Then, the trading floors, investment-banking offices and space tied to asset management will all get a remake.

 “The workplace needed to be designed around a much more dynamic, Millennial kind of workforce,” said Rooney, 51, who stepped into the technology role this year. “We’re trying to attract the next generation of the best and brightest.”

Demolition work at One New York Plaza in lower Manhattan already has created open floor plans that offer employees expansive views of the Statue of Liberty and Hudson River—a perk previously reserved for senior executives cloistered in their wood-walled offices. Now, glass partitions and interactive whiteboards abound, and the dress code is decidedly more casual.

The first phase represents about 9,000 seats around the world, although the project may expand, Rooney told the business news outlet.

Modernization isn’t optional for a firm like Morgan Stanley, Ekene Ezulike, global head of Corporate Services, told Bloomberg. “The question is how quickly we do it, versus whether we should do it,” he said.

As little as 60% of Morgan Stanley’s work space is occupied at any given time, according to Ezulike, who said the changes will push that rate as high as 90% as options such as desk sharing let more people use fewer seats.

Despite the less stuffy dress code and other updates, Morgan Stanley shouldn’t be confused with a Silicon Valley startup, Rooney told the news outlet. While there’s no kombucha on tap as there is at Goldman Sachs’s revamped San Francisco offices, there are common dining rooms, and the firm hired its first-ever community manager, Fiona Thomas. She helps plan office get-togethers and is overseeing a meditation event that was oversubscribed.

Research contact: @sonalibasak