GoPro to move U.S.-bound camera production out of China

FILE PHOTO: A GoPro camera is seen on a skier’s helmet as he rides down the slopes in the ski resort of Meribel, French Alps, January 7, 2014. REUTERS/Emmanuel Foudrot/File Photo

(Reuters) – GoPro Inc (GPRO.O) on Monday took the first steps to move most of its U.S.-bound camera production out of China by the summer of 2019 to counter the potential impact from any new tariffs.

The company had previously said it was being “very proactive” about the situation regarding tariffs as U.S. and China ramped up its bitter trade war, in which both nations have imposed tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of each other’s imports.

GoPro said international-bound camera production will remain in China.

“It’s important to note that we own our own production equipment while our manufacturing partner provides the facilities, so we expect to make this move at a relatively low cost,” said Chief Financial Officer Brian McGee.

In the company’s earnings call in November, GoPro said it had the option to move U.S.-bound production out of China in the first half of 2019, if necessary.

GoPro has been trying to drive demand for its trademark action-cameras – once a must-have for surfers, skydivers and other action junkies — as competition ramps up.

Last month, the company forecast fourth-quarter revenue below analysts’ estimates as it battles waning demand for its products.

The forecast was a disappointment as the company launched new low-price models of its flagship Hero camera for the holiday season.

However, GoPro said it would be profitable in the fourth quarter and expects “low channel inventory” to be well-positioned for the first quarter.

Reporting by Arjun Panchadar in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr

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How Uber will become an ad company, starting with Eats Pool

Where there is discovery in an app, there is paid discovery. Google helped you choose between links, then sold ads that promote a few. Facebook helped you choose between pieces of content, then sold ads that promote a few. And eventually, as Uber helps you choose between restaurants, it will sell ads that promote a few. It could become the marketing platform through which the physical world vies for your attention.

We got our first glimpse of this future last week when I reported that Uber Eats was offering restaurants in India bonus visibility in a Specials section if they’d offer discounts on meal bundles to Uber’s customers. Knock some rupees off the price of a sandwich, fries, and a drink, and a restaurants wins itself some enhanced discoverability. Whether a chef wants to boost orders during slow hours, get rid of surplus food, preference high margin items, or just score new customers, there’s plenty of reasons to pay Uber — even if currently only indirectly through discounts instead of a direct ad buy.

But now Uber’s senior director and head of Eats product Stephen Chau has confirmed to me the company’s intentions to become an ad company. “There’s a bunch of different ways we can work with restaurants over time. If we have all the restaurants on the marketplace and we give them tools to help them grow, then this will be a very efficient marketplace. They’re going to be spending those ad dollars somewhere” Chau tells me. “One of the things we’ve been experimenting with is allowing retailers to create promotions themselves and show them within the product.”

This conversation emerged from TechCrunch spotting Uber’s latest effort to influence where people choose to eat. To be worthy of ad dollars, Uber has to build leverage over restaurants by accruing sway over how people decide between restaurants. And with Uber confidentially filing to go public last week, it needs to prep new revenue streams. So it’s created what’s effectively “Uber Eats Pool”.

Gaining Leverage With Eats Pool

In response to our inquiry, Uber confirmed it’s now testing in some markets a system designed to batch multiple orders from different customers nearby each other to a single restaurant. That way, a single delivery driver can pick up all the orders at once and then speedily distribute them to neighbors or co-workers. Uber must incentivize customers who are close to each other to pick the same restaurant in rapid succession, so it offers a discount.

“$2 off your order — share a courier with a nearby order” the promotion announces atop the Uber Eats homescreen above a carousel of restaurants where you can grab the discount. It’s equipped with a countdown timer to when it will refresh the list of restaurants that follows users on an eatery’s order page. This triggers a sense of urgency to hurriedly buy through Uber Eats (and not check competitors), but also to ensure orders come in close enough together that the first one cooked won’t have to wait long for the last before they’re all scooped up for delivery.

Some customers actually play the Uber Eats Pool discounts like a game they can beat, waiting through several rounds of the timer until they spot one of their favorite restaurants, Chau says with a laugh. For now, passengers don’t ride alongside food orders, though that’s certainly a possibility in the future. And if Uber Eats can batch your order into a Pool with other customers, it will retroactively give you the discount.

“It’s similar to what we did with Uber Pool” Chau tells me. “Generally people are coming in with an intent to eat but there are many, many options available to them. We’re giving you a discount on the food delivery by using machine learning to understand these are some restaurants it might make sense to order from. When multiple people order from the same restaurant, delivery drivers can pick up multiple people’s food.”

Therein lies the leverage. As Stratechery’s Ben Thompson writes about aggregation theory, internet companies are gaining great influence by becoming marketplaces that connect customers with suppliers when previously customers preemptively chose a particular supplier. These platforms not only gain enormous amounts of data on customer preferences, but they also hold the power to point customers to certain suppliers that are willing to play ball.

Uber Builds A Toll Bridge

With all the data, the platforms know just who to show the ads to for a maximum conversion rate. And over time as the aggregator’s perks lure in more customers, it can pit suppliers against each other to further drop their prices or pay more for ads. Spotify used its own playlists to control what songs became popular, and the artists and record labels became beholden to cutting it sweeter deals to stay visible. Amazon looks like the best place to shop because it makes merchants fiercely fight to offer the lowest prices and best customer experience. With Uber Eats Pool, Uber is flexing its ability to influence where you eat, training you to trust where it points you when businesses eventually pay directly to be ranked higher in its app.

“Eats proves the power and potential of the Uber platform, showing how our logistics expertise can create the easiest way to eat” Chau tells me. “We partner with a wide selection of restaurants and bring our trademark speed and coverage to the food delivery experience. This feature shows how leveraging the Uber network allows us to offer people even more affordable dining options.” That quote is even more telling than at first glance. It’s the logistic network that accrues the power and creates leverage over the supplier to benefit customers with the lowest prices.

“We can see on Eats how much more business they’re bringing in and how much is incremental new business. Eventually we’ll be able to do very precise targeting. ‘People who haven’t tried my restaurant before, let’s give them a discount’” Chau tells us. Restaurants are asking him how to grow delivery as a percentage of their orders. “We can see the types of food people are ordering right now but also what they’re searching or are not able to order [because that cuisine isn’t available nearby]. We’re working with them to create new options to fill that gap. They’re able to get much more utilization of their fixed assets and iterate on these concepts much faster than they’re used to.”

Uber demonstrated the data science it could dangle over restaurants with its review of Uber Eats 2018 trends it published this morning. It predicts clean eating, plant-based foods, smoothie bowls, milk alternatives, fermented items like kimchi, and Instagrammably dark ‘goth food’ will rise in popularity next year. Meanwhile, now-tired social media bait ‘rainbow-colored foods’, brussel sprouts, and seaweed are on the decline.

It becomes easy to imagine restaurants running Uber Eats software for tracking order trends and predicting spikes to better manage food and staffing resources, with a baked-in option to buy ads or give deeper discounts to get seen by more hungry people. Chau concludes “Restaurants can think of Uber Eats as a platform that gives them this intelligence.”

UPDATE 2-ASG raises offer to buy Mitek to $11.50 per share

(Reuters) – Hedge fund Elliott Management Corp’s ASG Technologies Group Inc raised its offer to buy Mitek Systems Inc (MITK.O) to $11.50 per share from $10, in its latest attempt to buy the provider of financial technology to banks.

ASG said it made the offer public because Mitek refused to engage with the hedge fund on “reasonable terms.” Mitek could not immediately be reached for comment.

The latest offer, in a letter dated two weeks ago but only made public on Monday, represents a 28.2 percent premium to the stock’s closing price on Friday. Mitek’s shares were up 10 percent at $9.96.

Elliott Management added in a separate statement that Mitek “refused to engage” with ASG about the $11.50 per share offer unless Elliott “agreed to give up its right as shareholders.” That shareholder “right,” according to a source familiar with the matter, refers to Elliott’s ability to nominate its own slate of directors ahead of the company’s 2019 annual meeting.

The deadline to nominate directors was Dec. 7. Shareholders can nominate directors privately without disclosing it.

ASG had revised its offer from $10 a share in cash on Oct. 31. Reuters reported earlier that month that the company rebuffed the hedge fund’s first takeover approach.

ASG expects to finance the deal with cash from its balance sheet, debt financing from third party lenders and cash equity invested by Elliott and other shareholders.

Naples, Florida-based ASG said on Monday that it would finance the acquisition with a combination of cash from its balance sheet, debt financing as well as an investment by Elliott. The company added that its proposal has no financing condition because Elliott, which has $35 billion under management, would commit to provide the equity if needed.

Reporting by Arjun Panchadar in Bengaluru and Liana B. Baker in New York; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli and Susan Thomas

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UPDATE 2-Huawei CFO bail hearing to resume in Canada as Beijing steps up pressure

TORONTO/BEIJING (Reuters) – A top executive of Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies is due back in a Canadian court on Monday where she will fight for her freedom with the help of pressure from Beijing against prosecutors’ claims she cannot be trusted.

Huawei [HWT.UL] Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, 46, was arrested by Canadian authorities on Dec. 1 at the request of the United States.

She faces U.S. accusations of misleading multinational banks about Huawei’s control of a company operating in Iran, putting the banks at risk of violating U.S. sanctions and incurring severe penalties, court documents said.

U.S. officials allege Huawei was trying to use the banks to move money out of Iran. Huawei and its lawyers have said the company operates in strict compliance with applicable laws, regulations and sanctions of the United States and other parties.

Separately, Huawei appeared to suffer another setback in Japan, with the nation’s top three telecom companies deciding not to use equipment from the firm and from ZTE Corp (0763.HK) (000063.SZ), Kyodo News reported.

Sources had told Reuters that Japan planned to ban government purchases of Huawei and ZTE equipment to guard against intelligence leaks and cyber attacks. Similar concerns have left Huawei virtually locked out of the U.S. market and blocked its access to some others. Huawei has repeatedly insisted Beijing has no influence over it.

In Canada, prosecutors argued against giving Meng bail while she awaits extradition to the United States.

Meng said that she should be released on bail while awaiting an extradition hearing due to severe hypertension and fears for her health. In a sworn affidavit, Meng said she is innocent of the allegations and will contest them at trial in the United States if she is surrendered there.

She was detained while transferring flights and appeared in a British Columbia court on Friday for her bail hearing. After nearly six hours of arguments and counter arguments, the hearing was adjourned until Monday.

China has strongly criticized her detention and demanded her immediate release, threatening “consequences” for Canada. Her arrest has roiled global markets as investors worry it could halt attempts to ease trade tensions between the United States and China.

Canadian officials already appear to be showing increased caution. The British Columbia government on Sunday said it had suspended the China leg of a Asian forestry trade mission because of the extradition case.

And in Ottawa, the foreign ministry said in a statement on Monday that Ian Shugart – the top civil servant at the ministry – had scrapped plans to visit China as part of a larger trip.

A government official, who declined to be identified given the sensitivity of the situation, cited logistical issues and said “at no point did the Chinese government say Mr. Shugart could not come to China”.

FILE PHOTO: Meng Wanzhou, Executive Board Director of the Chinese technology giant Huawei, attends a session of the VTB Capital Investment Forum “Russia Calling!” in Moscow, Russia October 2, 2014. REUTERS/Alexander Bibik/File Photo

HEALTH ISSUES

Speaking in Beijing on Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said it was “totally up to Canada” what the consequences would be if it did not “correctly handle” the situation with Meng.

Canada did not inform China “at the first instance” of her detention, despite the two having a consular agreement, and Meng has not been given proper access to medical attention, Lu added.

“This has breached her human rights,” he told a daily news briefing. China has lodged repeated complaints with Canada about the case, Lu said.

Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, has been held in custody since her arrest. Meng said in the sworn affidavit she was taken to a hospital for treatment for hypertension after being detained.

Meng also has sleep apnea and was treated for a carcinoma, lawyer David Martin told court on Friday.

At issue is whether Meng should be set free while her extradition case proceeds. The U.S. has 60 days to file a formal request; if its evidence convinces a judge the case has merit, Canada’s justice minister will decide whether to extradite Meng.

On Monday a judge could decide to set Meng free on any number of conditions, including high-tech surveillance, or to keep her in jail, according to some legal experts.

Huawei is one of the world’s biggest telecommunications hardware companies, building everything from networks to handsets and is seen as one of China’s best chances to change the global technology landscape.

It is now China’s largest technology company by employees, with more than 180,000 staff and revenue of $93 billion in 2017.

The European Union’s technology chief said on Friday the EU should be worried about Huawei and other Chinese technology companies because of the risk they pose to the bloc’s industry and security.

China’s Foreign Ministry said these worries were nonsense.

Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing and David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Bill Rigby and Muralikumar Anantharaman

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CANADA STOCKS-TSX dips as energy shares weigh

Dec 10 (Reuters) – Canada’s main stock index fell on Monday after crude oil prices fell 2 percent and pressured shares of energy companies.

* Oil fell in line with declines in global stock markets, erasing the gains made last week when producer group OPEC and other key exporters agreed to cut their crude output from January.

* The energy sector dropped 0.8 percent, the most among the six main sectors in the red.

* At 9:39 a.m. ET (1439 GMT), the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index was down 14.61 points, or 0.1 percent, at 14,780.52.

* Economic data showed Canadian housing starts surprisingly rose in November as groundbreaking on multiple unit urban homes increased 3.9 percent, offsetting a drop in single-detached urban starts.

* On the TSX, 73 issues were higher, while 161 issues declined for a 2.21-to-1 ratio to the downside, with 16.33 million shares traded.

* The largest percentage gainer on the TSX was cannabis producer Aphria Inc, which jumped 10.8 percent, followed by Badger Daylighting Ltd that rose 4.7 percent.

* Trican Well Service Ltd fell 3.9 percent, the most on the TSX.

* The second-biggest decliner was Yamana Gold Inc, down 3 percent after BMO downgraded the stock to “market perform”.

* The most heavily traded shares by volume were Aphria, Aurora Cannabis and Bombardier Inc.

* The TSX posted three new 52-week highs and 13 new lows.

* Across all Canadian issues, there were five new 52-week highs and 52 new lows, with total volume of 25.82 million shares. (Reporting by Amy Caren Daniel in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel)

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UPDATE 2-Rice brothers push for top-level changes at gas producer EQT

(Reuters) – EQT Corp is facing calls for a shakeup at the helm from shareholders Toby Rice and Derek Rice, who had sold Rice Energy Inc to the oil and gas producer last year for $6.7 billion.

In a letter made public on Monday, the Rice brothers, who own about seven million shares or a 2.75 percent stake in the company, pointed to EQT’s “severely depressed” stock price and blamed the management for underperformance.

EQT shares have slumped 47.6 percent as of Friday’s close since the acquisition of Rice Energy in Nov. 2017, much worse than the 7.7 percent decline in the broader S&P 500 Energy index in the same period.

The two brothers said that after several EQT investors reached out to them for help, they held talks with Chairman Jim Rohr and Chief Executive Officer Rob McNally, but there was a lack of ‘reciprocal engagement’.

While calling for inclusion of individuals with experience in large-scale operational planning to the board and the senior management, the two brothers also sought greater authority for Toby Rice in the company’s operations.

They said they were willing to work with the board, but had already identified replacements if an agreement could not be reached and are ready with a plan that would help generate an additional $400-$600 million pre-tax free cash flow per year.

EQT bought Rice Energy last year in a bid to expand its natural gas business, at a time when U.S. energy firms were spending heavily to develop facilities in gas-rich states like Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio.

Meanwhile, the company said it is “taking the right steps to deliver superior value”. The company’s shares were up 1.4 percent in early trading.

Reporting by Debroop Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Arun Koyyur

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Google Maps’ new personalized suggestions come to iOS

A more personalized version of Google Maps is now arriving on iOS. At Google’s I/O developer conference earlier this year, the company introduced a series of new features designed to help Google Maps users learn what’s happening around them, track area businesses to receive updates about their events and promotions, and receive personalized suggestions of places to visit, dine, and more. The latter now appear in a “For You” tab in the revamped Google Maps app, which first arrived on Android this June.

Today, the feature is rolling out more broadly.

According to Google, the “For You” tab is now making its way to over 130  more countries on Android and is launching on iOS across 40+ countries.

When switching over to this tab, you’ll see any number of suggestions – from newly opened places to visit or restaurants to try to new pop-ups – to new menu items at favorite restaurants and restaurant suggestions Google thinks you’d like to try. It bases these on your personal tastes and preferences it’s inferred from your use of the Google Maps app, including what sort of businesses you search and follow.

The “For You” tab can also help you with travel planning, by making suggestions of places before you depart, Google notes.

To get better recommendations, you’ll want to follow local businesses you like in Google Maps, or even neighborhoods you frequent, to personalize your suggestions further.

The feature is part of a larger overhaul of Google Maps that’s aiming to challenge Facebook as the place where businesses offer updates of their goings-on, news about their sales, events, and other information they want to share with customers – as well as target potential new customers through ads and being featured in users’ recommendations.

In October, Google Maps launched the “Follow” button for tracking businesses, and last month rolled out a new “Google My Business” app for business owners, so they could more easily create and publish content to their business profile on Google.

With these products in place – content publication tools and the ability for users to follow that content – Google is now ready to turn those signals into personalized suggestions. You’ll find it at the bottom of the Google Maps app, where it will show you potential “matches” (and the percentage for the match), plus news about recent openings, trending spots, and other suggestions.

The company says the “For You” tab is rolling out starting today across the new markets and on iOS.

Markets likely to be rocked as Indian central bank chief quits

NEW DELHI, Dec 10 (Reuters) – Indian stock, bond and foreign exchange markets are all likely to open lower on Tuesday after the shock resignation of the head of India’s central bank.

Reserve Bank of India Governor Urjit Patel said in a brief statement he had resigned for “personal reasons”. He has clashed with the government over the central bank’s independence, worrying investors in Indian markets, who will want to know who replaces him and the effect on monetary policy.

“Markets certainly will be concerned unless there is further clarification that comes through tonight,” said R. Sivakumar, head of fixed income at Axis Mutual Fund.

Patel’s departure comes at a critical time for Indian investors, just before a series of state elections on Tuesday, where the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party led by Narendra Modi may lose ground.

The central banker’s resignation on Monday evening came after the majority of markets in India were closed, but futures contracts, which track the performance of asset classes outside of market hours, suggested significant declines were likely on Tuesday morning.

Indian rupee forwards tracking the performance of the currency against the dollar posted their biggest daily slump in more than five years on Monday.

The one-month contract was last quoted at 72.78 per dollar compared to a spot market rate of 71.35 percent dollar.

Exchange-traded funds tracking Indian stock markets and listed in Europe fell by more than 5 percent, suggesting India’s stock market, which closed down by around 2 percent, might fall by more than 3 percent at the open on Tuesday.

The Swiss-listed Lyxor MSCI India UCITS ETF fell 5.5 percent. Similar funds listed in Germany and France were down by around 4.5 percent.

A 3.5 percent decline for the MSCI India International index would be its biggest drop for more than two years.

Longer-term, the government will need to be cautious of outflows from overseas investors, according to Ajay Bagga, a stock market expert.

“A lot of communication will be needed to foreign institutional investors to give them confidence,” he said.

Yields on India’s benchmark 10-year government bonds , which move inversely to prices, rose to a high of 7.59 percent after hours, according to quotes from some fixed income brokers in London, a rise of 1.6 percent. (Reporting by Alasdair Pal, additional reporting by Suvashree Choudhury and Nidhi Verma; editing by Sanjeev Miglanim, Larry King)

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UPDATE 1-GoPro to move U.S.-bound camera production out of China

FILE PHOTO: A GoPro camera is seen on a skier’s helmet as he rides down the slopes in the ski resort of Meribel, French Alps, January 7, 2014. REUTERS/Emmanuel Foudrot/File Photo

(Reuters) – GoPro Inc (GPRO.O) on Monday took the first steps to move most of its U.S.-bound camera production out of China by the summer of 2019 to counter the potential impact from any new tariffs.

The company had previously said it was being “very proactive” about the situation regarding tariffs as U.S. and China ramped up its bitter trade war, in which both nations have imposed tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of each other’s imports.

GoPro said international-bound camera production will remain in China.

“It’s important to note that we own our own production equipment while our manufacturing partner provides the facilities, so we expect to make this move at a relatively low cost,” said Chief Financial Officer Brian McGee.

In the company’s earnings call in November, GoPro said it had the option to move U.S.-bound production out of China in the first half of 2019, if necessary.

GoPro has been trying to drive demand for its trademark action-cameras – once a must-have for surfers, skydivers and other action junkies — as competition ramps up.

Last month, the company forecast fourth-quarter revenue below analysts’ estimates as it battles waning demand for its products.

The forecast was a disappointment as the company launched new low-price models of its flagship Hero camera for the holiday season.

However, GoPro said it would be profitable in the fourth quarter and expects “low channel inventory” to be well-positioned for the first quarter.

Reporting by Arjun Panchadar in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr

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UPDATE 1-Goodyear permanently ceases Venezuela operations -union leader

FILE PHOTO: A U.S. flag flies at a Goodyear Tire facility in Somerville, Massachusetts, U.S., July 25, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

CARACAS (Reuters) – Tiremaker Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co (GT.O) is permanently halting its operations in Venezuela, according to a union leader and a letter seen by Reuters, amid an exodus of foreign companies from the crisis-stricken South American nation.

The collapse of the country’s socialist economic system has decimated demand for consumer goods and left firms unable to import raw materials, leading companies ranging from Kimberly-Clark Corp (KMB.N) to Kellogg Co (K.N) to leave for good.

“A lawyer called from abroad to inform of that operations were being halted,” said union leader Jorge Rodriguez in a telephone interview. “The plant is open but nothing is functioning.”

Goodyear did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The company is making legally mandated severance payments and is giving each worker 10 tires, which are of enormous value due to chronic product shortages, it said in a letter written to workers.

“This letter is to inform that as of today, Goodyear de Venezuela has been forced to halt its operations,” reads the letter.

Dozens of multinationals are hanging on in Venezuela by maintaining minimum operations, hoping for a turnaround in the country’s fortunes.

Many survive by limiting their product lines, which economists and corporate advisors call a strategy to prepare for an eventual exit.

Reporting by Corina Pons and Tibisay Romero, writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Nick Zieminski

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