Brexit: UK government’s battle with Apple over EU citizens app

Apple iphoneImage copyright Getty Images

The UK government is preparing to launch a smartphone app to make it as easy as possible for EU citizens to apply to remain in the UK after Brexit – the only problem is it doesn’t fully work on Apple devices.

And hopes that the problem would have been fixed by now have just been dashed.

The app is a key part of the government’s drive to get the estimated 3.5 million EU citizens in the UK to apply for “settled status”.

App users answer three “simple” questions, take a “selfie” to be checked against Home Office records and then – if they have an Android phone – scan the chip on their passport to verify their identity. The Home Office says a decision will be made on whether they can stay in the UK within two weeks.

As things stand, people with Apple devices will not be able to scan their passports and will either have to borrow an Android phone to complete their application or post their passport to the UK Visa and Immigration Service instead, meaning the process is likely to take longer.

For those who are not sure, Android is the system that is used by Samsung, Huawei, Sony, Google and Nokia among others. They make up about 50% of the market in the UK, with Apple’s Iphone making up the other half.

The Microsoft and Blackberry operating systems for smartphones, which make up nearly 1% of the UK market between them, will also not be able to scan passport chips.

Home Office officials knew there would be a problem with Apple devices when the app was announced early this year.

But they were hoping Apple would release an update to its operating system to allow users of the firm’s devices to scan their passports in the same way that people with Android phones can.

The US tech giant has so far declined to do so, despite representations from UK government ministers, including a trip to the firm’s Silicon Valley HQ by Home Secretary Sajid Javid.

It is not a technical problem. Apple devices have been fitted with Near Field Communication chips, as they are known, since 2014.

But the company has mostly limited use of the chip to Apple Pay transactions, for security and commercial reasons.

There was speculation on tech blogs that Apple would unlock the chip reader to third party apps when it rolled out its latest operating system, 12.1, a process currently under way.

But Apple has confirmed to the BBC that those rumours were not true and it has not been unlocked.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Sajid Javid has met Apple bosses in California to make the UK’s case

Sources say the firm is continuing to work with the Home Office but would not be drawn on whether a solution is likely to be found before the UK leaves the EU in March.

Home Offices sources told the BBC “we are continuing to engage with Apple at the highest level”.

But immigration minister Caroline Nokes, in a tetchy appearance before the Home Affairs Committee on Tuesday, gave a hint of the frustrations at the top of government, after it was pointed out to her that only half of the intended audience for the new app would be able to use it.

She told MPs the Home Office could not be blamed because Apple “won’t release the upgrade we need in order for it to function”.

The Home Office has just finished private testing of the app, among 650 NHS and university workers in the North-West of England, and is now expanding the trials with a view to launching it to the wider public in the New Year.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Apple Pay has been around since 2014

The Dutch government is also calling on Apple to unlock its chip reader to allow citizens to access its digital services.

The Home Office also stresses that people will be able to use desktop computers to apply for settled status, although like Apple users, applicants will have to post their passports off rather than being able to scan the passport’s chips.

A Home Office spokesman said: “EU citizens will be able to apply for that status using any smartphone, tablet or computer.

“The app to check identity is only part of the process for those who choose to use it and there will be an alternative non-digital route available to all applicants to prove their identity.”

The Home Office has also signed a £91m contract with French company Sopra Steria to set up computer terminals at 56 local libraries around the UK to help those without smartphones, or without the necessary digital skills, to apply to stay in the UK.

But given how much emphasis ministers placed on the convenience and ease with which EU citizens would be able to apply by smartphone – and the sheer volume of people they need to process – the continuing issues with Apple have to be seen as a setback.

They are also an illustration of the problems governments can encounter when their digital ambitions run up against the commercial priorities of the companies they need to deliver them.

CORRECTED-AbbVie, Roche combo treatment meets main goal of leukemia trial

FILE PHOTO: A screen displays the share price for pharmaceutical maker AbbVie on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange July 18, 2014. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

(This Oct 31 story corrects paragraph one to say targeted therapy, not immunotherapy)

(Reuters) – AbbVie Inc and Roche Holding AG said on Wednesday their targeted therapy delayed the progression of a type of blood and bone marrow cancer when used in combination with the Swiss drugmaker’s cancer drug in a late-stage trial.

The drug, Venclexta, when used with Roche’s Gazyva, showed a statistically significant reduction in the risk of disease worsening or death in patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), when compared to the standard of care, Roche said.

The results demonstrate the potential of Venclexta as a treatment with a fixed duration for patients with CLL, and may serve as the basis to expand into first-line treatment, AbbVie Chief Scientific Officer Michael Severino said in a statement.

It is estimated that more than 20,000 patients in the United States will be diagnosed with CLL in 2018, Roche said.

Reporting by Saumya Sibi Joseph in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva

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Canada’s BCE reports rise in quarterly profit

Nov 1 (Reuters) – Canadian telecom services provider BCE Inc reported a 1.4 percent rise in quarterly profit on Thursday, as more subscribers signed up for its wireless services.

Montreal-based BCE’s net income attributable to shareholders increased to C$814 million ($620.76 million) or 90 Canadian cents per share in the third quarter, from C$803 million or 90 Canadian cents per share, a year earlier.

BCE, popularly known as Bell, said operating revenue rose to C$5.88 billion from C$5.70 billion. ($1 = 1.3113 Canadian dollars) (Reporting by Debroop Roy and Bharath Manjesh in Bengaluru Editing by James Emmanuel)

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Teva Pharm Q3 profit tops estimates, raises 2018 profit forecast

FILE PHOTO: A man cleans near the logo of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries at their plant in Jerusalem December 14, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Awad/File Photo

TEL AVIV (Reuters) – Israel’s heavily indebted Teva Pharmaceutical Industries (TEVA.TA) reported a smaller-than-expected drop in third-quarter profit on Thursday and raised its earnings outlook for 2018.

The world’s largest generic drugmaker earned 68 cents per share excluding one-time items in the July-September period, down from $1.00 a year earlier. Revenue fell 19 percent to $4.53 billion.

Analysts had forecast Teva (TEVA.N) would earn 54 cents a share ex-items on revenue of $4.53 billion, according to I/B/E/S data from Refinitiv.

For the full year it raised its forecast for adjusted EPS to $2.80-$2.95 from a previous estimate of $2.55-$2.80.

Reporting by Tova Cohen; Editing by Steven Scheer

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Brazilian airline Gol reports third quarter loss

SAO PAULO, Nov 1 (Reuters) – Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes SA (Gol), Brazil’s largest airline, reported a third-quarter net loss of 409 million reais ($110 million) on Thursday, reversing a net profit of 328 million reais in the same period of 2017.

The third-quarter results missed a forecast by three analysts for a net loss of $33 million, according to I/B/E/S data from Refinitiv. ($1 = 3.7219 reais) (Reporting by Marcelo Rochabrun; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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Dubai theme park operator working with Moelis & Co on debt restructuring -sources

DUBAI (Reuters) – Ilyas & Mustafa Galadari Group (IMG), the Dubai-based operator of the world’s largest indoor theme park, has hired Moelis & Co (MC.N) to advise it on a debt-restructuring, four banking sources told Reuters.

IMG has been in long-running talks with banks to extend the term and size of a 1.2 billion dirham ($326.7 million) syndicated loan taken in 2014.

The loan, led by Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank ADIB.AD and including participation from Al Hilal Bank, Commercial Bank International CBI.AD, Noor Bank and Sharjah Islamic Bank SIB.AD, was partly used to build its Worlds of Adventure theme park.

IMG did not respond immediately to a request for comment, while New York-based boutique investment bank Moelis declined to comment.

Several theme parks have sprung up in the United Arab Emirates in recent years aimed at catering for the roughly 9 million population and the millions of foreign tourists.

IMG opened Worlds of Adventure in August 2016, with capacity for more than 20,000 visitors a day, and in December of that year announced plans to build IMG Worlds of Legends, based on children’s TV and gaming characters. At the time, there was no timetable for building the park.

($1 = 3.6728 UAE dirham)

Additional reporting by Saeed Azhar; Editing by David Goodman

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Avon third-quarter profit surges on Brazil tax gain

The Avon Products headquarters is seen in midtown Manhattan area of New York, June 21, 2013. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

(Reuters) – Avon Products’ (AVP.N) third-quarter profit surged as the U.S. cosmetics maker recorded a tax benefit in Brazil.

Net income attributable to Avon rose to $114.5 million or 21 cents per share in the three months ended Sept. 30, from $12.5 million or 1 cent per share a year earlier.

Total revenue remained flat at $1.42 billion.

Reporting by Uday Sampath in Bengaluru

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Neo4j nabs $80M Series E as graph database tech flourishes

Neo4j has helped popularize the graph database. Today it was rewarded with an $80 million Series E to bring their products to a wider market in what could be the company’s last private fundraise.

The round was led by One Peak Partners and Morgan Stanley Expansion Capital with participation from existing investors Creandum, Eight Roads and Greenbridge Partners. Today’s investment exactly doubles their previous amount bringing the total raised to $160 million.

Neo4j founder and CEO Emil Eifrem didn’t want to discuss valuation, calling it essentially a vanity metric. “We’re not sharing that. I never understood that. It’s just weird bragging rights. It makes no sense to customers, and makes no sense to anyone,” he said referring to the valuation.

Graph view of Neo4j funding rounds. Graphic: Neo4j

When you bring a company like Morgan Stanley on as an investor, it could be interpreted as a kind of signal that the company is thinking ahead to going public. While Eifrem wasn’t ready to commit to anything, he suggested that this is very likely the last time he raises funds privately. He says that he doesn’t like to think in terms of how he will exit so much as building a good company and seeing where that takes him. “If your mental framework is around building a great company, you’re going to have all kinds of options along the way. So that’s what I’m completely focused on,” Eifrem explained.

In 2016, when his company got a $36 million Series D investment, Eifrem says that they were working to expand in the enterprise. They have been successful with around 200 enterprise customers to their credit including Walmart, UBS, IBM and NASA. He says their customers include 20 of the top 25 banks and 7 of the top 10 retailers.

This year, the company began expanding into artificial intelligence. It makes sense. Graph databases help companies understand the connections in large datasets and AI usually involves large amounts of data to drive the learning models.

Two common graph database use case examples are the social graph on a social site like Facebook, which lets you see the connections between you and your friends or the purchase graph on an Ecommerce site like Amazon which lets you see if you bought one product, chances are you’ll also be interested in these others (based on your purchase history and what other consumers have done who have bought similar products).

Eifrem wants to use the money to expand the company internationally and provide localized service in terms of language and culture wherever their customers happen to be. As an example, he says today European customers might get an English speaking customer service agent if they called in for help. He wants to provide service and the website in the local language and the money should help accomplish that.

Neo4j was founded in 2007 as an open source project. Companies and individuals can still download the base product for free, but the company has also built a successful and growing commercial business on top of that open source project. With an $80 million runway, the next stop could be Wall Street.

GRAPHIC-From pharma to prisons, election-sensitive stocks that could swing

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Tuesday’s midterm U.S. congressional elections stand to have broad effects on federal government policies that could ripple through industries from healthcare and tech to gunmakers and prisons.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) near the close of market in New York, U.S., October 31, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Investors are bracing for a split Congress, with Democrats taking control of the House of Representatives and Republicans holding their advantage in the Senate, but are mindful that President Donald Trump’s victory in 2016 surprised experts.

Taking a majority in even one of the chambers in the Nov. 6 elections would give Democrats a chance to more effectively oppose the Republican president’s agenda.

With tech leading the way in the Wall Street rally since Trump’s victory, here is a look at policies and stocks the elections should put in focus:

GRAPHIC: Soaring stock sectors since Trump elected – tmsnrt.rs/2P1Gm9n

HEALTHCARE POLICY: Perhaps no sector will be in the election spotlight as much as healthcare, which has been one of the top-performing S&P 500 sectors this year.

Policy efforts to lower prescription drug prices that have started under Trump could get more attention should Democrats gain control in Congress.

Democratic gains in particular could lead investors to anticipate expanded coverage or other changes related to the Affordable Care Act, possibly benefiting some insurer company and hospital shares.

Stocks to watch: Merck (MRK.N), AbbVie (ABBV.N), Amgen (AMGN.O), Mylan (MYL.O), CVS Health (CVS.N), Anthem (ANTM.N), Centene (CNC.N), HCA Healthcare (HCA.N), Tenet Healthcare (THC.N)

GRAPHIC: Healthcare’s run, from election to election – tmsnrt.rs/2CQkHtn

TRADE: Concerns over trade tensions between the United States and other countries, especially China, have roughed up manufacturers and other companies that depend on international markets, weighing in particular on the industrial sector.

One way the elections could be a factor: Trump’s newly forged pact with Canada and Mexico is not expected to be voted on until after the new Congress is seated in January, and there remains a possibility that it will not be approved if Democrats gain control of the House.

“We think headline risk is likely in early 2019 around possible NAFTA withdrawal that will be harmful to industries dependent on open trade across North America,” according to Height Capital Markets.

Stocks to watch: Caterpillar (CAT.N), Boeing (BA.N), Ford (F.N), General Motors (GM.N), Bunge (BG.N), DowDuPont (DWDP.N)

INFRASTRUCTURE: A boost in federal infrastructure spending on bridges, roads and other projects is one Trump agenda item seen as an initiative that Democrats potentially could support, should the two sides seek common ground in the event of Democratic gains in Congress, potentially boosting construction and materials stocks.

“The Democrats will have to balance the benefits of a real boost to infrastructure spending and the political risks of giving the president a win on that,” said Christopher Smart, head of macroeconomic and geopolitical research at Barings.

Stocks to watch: Granite Construction (GVA.N), Fluor (FLR.N), Nucor (NUE.N), Martin Marietta Materials (MLM.N)

TECH AND TELECOM OVERSIGHT: Scrutiny on Big Tech over antitrust and data privacy issues could pick up with Democrats leading the House, although “we do not foresee this scrutiny translating into actual policy,” according to Height Capital Markets.

That could spell more volatility for tech stocks, which have been the best performing sector since Trump’s election but have been battered in recent weeks.

“We see the Democratic party no longer as the unconditional defender of the tech sector,” Capital Alpha Partners said in a September report.

Height Capital analysts also see “headline risk” for telecom companies from any efforts by the House to address regulations related to equality on the internet, known as “net neutrality,” although the analysts see little risk of policy change if the Senate stays Republican.

Stocks to watch: Alphabet (GOOGL.O), Facebook (FB.O), Amazon (AMZN.O), Twitter (TWTR.N), Verizon (VZ.N), AT&T (T.N)

GRAPHIC: Taking stock of industry performance since Trump – tmsnrt.rs/2OZZQuR

REGULATION: If Republicans maintain their hold on both chambers of Congress, or perhaps expand their advantage, that could lift investors’ hopes for further deregulation of the financial industry and give a boost to stocks.

With Democratic gains, “headline risk for the banking industry would significantly increase as we anticipate numerous congressional hearings,” according to analysts at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods.

Stocks to watch: JP Morgan (JPM.N), Wells Fargo (WFC.N), Goldman Sachs (GS.N)

DEFENSE: Spending on national defense is one area that could come into focus for potential federal cuts, especially if Democrats make strong gains.

“A Republican surprise might well be helpful for defense stocks in the near term,” said Smart of Barings, adding that the near-term “expectation will be more tax cuts and fewer defense cuts.”

Stocks to watch: Lockheed Martin (LMT.N), Raytheon (RTN.N), Northrop Grumman (NOC.N), General Dynamics (GD.N)

IMMIGRATION: Should Republicans hold control of Congress, that could create expectations for harsher federal policies on immigration.

Such policies would also spark expectations for expansion of demand for detention center space, potentially helping to fill prison operators’ idle facilities or even generating the need for new ones.

Stocks to watch: CoreCivic (CXW.N), Geo Group (GEO.N)

GUN CONTROL: Democratic gains in Congress could pave the way for calls for more stringent legislation to control gun sales. But the prospect of stricter regulations on the firearms industry, paradoxically, could drive up shares of gun-makers.

Investors in the past have bid up shares of gun companies in anticipation of tougher rules, because investors predict gun owners will hurry to buy more firearms if they worry about impending restrictions. Indeed, gun stocks have struggled since Trump’s election, a time in which control of Congress and the federal government has been held by Republicans, who are seen as resistant to stricter laws.

Stocks to watch: American Outdoor Brands (AOBC.O), Sturm Ruger & Co (RGR.N)

GRAPHIC: Since Trump: Prison stocks soar, gunmakers struggle – tmsnrt.rs/2CUGosn

GRAPHIC: Interactive graphic: sector performance since Trump’s election – tmsnrt.rs/2OZZQuR

GRAPHIC: Interactive graphic: sector performance since Trump’s election – tmsnrt.rs/2PzLReG

Reporting by Lewis Krauskopf in New York; Additional reporting by Sinead Carew in New York and Noel Randewich in San Francisco; Editing by Leslie Adler

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ICR hires Park from Dimensional to help advise corporate boards

BOSTON (Reuters) – Financial public relations firm ICR will announce on Thursday that it launched a business to advise corporate boards on governance matters and hired fund industry veteran Lyndon Park to lead it, CEO Tom Ryan said on Wednesday.

Park, 44, joins ICR and its newly created Governance Advisory Solutions practice from Dimensional Fund Advisors where he was head of global corporate governance for the Austin, Texas-based investment firm. Earlier in his career Park was a vice president with investment giant BlackRock’s Investment Stewardship unit.

Park will aim to work with corporate boards on issues ranging from board composition to succession planning and what shareholders, including powerful index funds, expect from corporations in the areas of environmental, social and governance programs.

The creation of the new business signals that ICR, based in New York, is entering the fast growing business of advising corporations to protect against activist investors even before they come knocking.

Data from Lazard show that 145 activist campaigns were launched against 136 companies in the first half of 2018 alone, making them the two most active quarters ever. Elliott Management launched 17 new campaigns in the first half of 2018 and Starboard Value, Elliott and Carl Icahn accounted for nearly half of the board seats given to activist investors in the first half, Lazard data show.

ICR will be competing with firms like Sard Verbinnen & Co’s Strategic Governance Advisors, co-founded by Chris Cernich, a former top executive at proxy advisor Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS), and PJT Camberview, founded by Abe Friedman.

Banks also offer activism defense banking services and advice to companies, a niche market currently dominated by Evercore (EVR.N), Goldman Sachs (GS.N), Lazard (LAZ.N) and Morgan Stanley (MS.N).

Park will help boards become more proactive and effective and brings “a deep understanding of activist tactics and motivations having led engagements and determined proxy outcomes for most of the key activist, hostile takeover, contentious M&A situations and other event-driven situations in recent years while at Dimensional and BlackRock,” said Phil Denning, a partner at ICR who leads the company’s special situations group which oversees the new unit.

As ICR built out its business it also hired Dan McDermott, a former senior associate at ISS, and former Houlihan Lokey banker Jake Noone in the last months, Denning said.

Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss; Editing by Phil Berlowitz

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