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Tech, Media & Telecom Roundup: Market Talk

14 Feb 2018 9:20 am

The latest Market Talks covering Technology, Media and Telecom. Published exclusively on Dow Jones Newswires at 4:20 ET, 12:20 ET and 16:50 ET.

0859 GMT - Sky PLC has emerged as the winner from the latest bidding round for U.K. Premier League football TV rights, says Liberum Capital. Liberum notes that Sky secured exclusive live rights to show 128 matches per season between 2019 and 2022 for GBP1.2 billion ($1.7 billion), 14% less than it paid for the last deal. Rival BT Group PLC secured 32 games for GBP295 million per season. "We see BT as having done relatively poorly here, with only one package," the broker says. "This will raise further questions about BT's strategy in media." Sky shares gain 3.1% in early deals while BT rises 1.3%. News Corp, parent company of Dow Jones, and Sky's part-owner, 21st Century Fox, share common ownership.(philip.waller@wsj.com)

0751 GMT - Tencent Holdings will get a chance in the coming weeks to use its technological mastery to try to crack open a financial sector that has remained mostly resistant to online advances: life insurance. The Chinese tech giant just obtained regulatory clearance to start its long-awaited joint venture with British insurer Aviva to digitally sell life insurance in Hong Kong, according to Aviva. The approval from Hong Kong's insurance authority enables the JV to start operations in 1H, the insurer says. The joint venture is also backed by Chinese private-equity investor Hillhouse Capital. (chuin-wei.yap@wsj.com; @YapCW)

0315 GMT - Shares of SmarTone again fresh nearly 4-year lows, weighed down by potential 5G spending by the Hong Kong wireless firm. The firm's F1H dividend will be 1/3 lower after a 17% earnings drop on slumping handset sales. Profit was slightly weaker than expected, says Credit Suisse, adding the operating environment remains challenging amid continual--and intensifying--local competition. Shares are down 2.7%, putting the month's slide at 8.9%. (john.wu@wsj.com)

0009 GMT - Opportunity calls for investors in MNF after yesterday's 8.2% post-F1H slide, says Morgan Stanley, which put the month's slump at 18%. The Aussie telecom firm posted a slight loss in its wireless segment, overshadowed an otherwise strong report and unchanged guidance. "The investment in mobile is modest with limited downside risk to the longer-term earnings profile," the investment bank contends. "But if successful," FY20 EPS views could rise double-digits. After the stock's worst day in 3 years, MNF is flat this morning. (david.winning@wsj.com; @dwinningWSJ)16:46 EST - Twitter (TWTR) CEO Jack Dorsey says there's value to Twitter being independent, because it allows Twitter to work on every device and not be constrained by the whims of any particular platform. Mr. Dorsey's defense of Twitter's independence came in response to a question at the Goldman Sachs conference in San Francisco Tuesday about recurring rumors that someone new wants to acquire Twitter. "We want to make sure that we are building something that is not only sustainable, but thrives," Dorsey said. "We have a lot left to prove, but we are proving it every day." ( georgia.wells@wsj.com ; @georgia_wells)

2020 GMT -- With Oracle planning to quadruple the number its giant data-center complexes over the next two years, Deutsche Bank analyst Karl Keirstead has quadrupled his estimated growth rate for the company's capital spending in fiscal 2019. An Oracle spokeswoman declined to disclose the capex impact the 12 new so-called data center "regions," which can cost hundreds of millions of dollars each. But Oracle co-President Mark Hurd downplayed the impact with analysts on Monday, saying efficiency in the company's technology would mitigate some of the expense. "We elected to raise our capex estimates anyway," Keirstead said in an interview. The analyst, who has a "hold" rating on Oracle, raised his capex growth rate to 8% from 2% in a research report. Keirstead estimates that Oracle will spend $2.0 billion on capex in the current fiscal year that ends May 31, roughly flat from fiscal 2017. Keirstead now expects the business software giant to spend $2.16 billion in fiscal 2019. Oracle's three biggest U.S. cloud-infrastructure rivals--Amazon, Microsoft and Google--reported $41.6 billion combined in capital expenditures and capital-lease deals in the last calendar year. (jay.greene@wsj.com; @greene)

1956 GMT - Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey explained that when people think about a social network, they expect to see a post from friends and relatives--but that's not what users tend to find on Twitter, he said at a Goldman Sachs conference in San Francisco. "When people get to Twitter and they don't find their uncles, aunts...they get really disappointed," he added. Twitter is now focusing its messaging around why people come to Twitter--which is to figure out what is happening, he said. (georgia.wells@wsj.com ; @georgia_wells)

1735 GMT - Tim Cook defended the company's support of last year's corporate tax reform, saying the previous tax system was "bad for America" because it discouraged corporations from paying taxes on any overseas profit. Following criticism from a shareholder at the company's general shareholder meeting who questioned Apple's support of "corporate welfare, " Cook said the company "would not have supported something that we thought was bad for America." He explained that Apple supported reform because future revenue for most small and large companies will come from overseas and that without reform companies would continue to keep profits outside the US to avoid paying an additional 40% tax under the old system. He said the company also advocated eliminating corporate deductions, which wasn't adopted under the new tax system. (tripp.mickle@wsj.com)

1726 GMT - At a time when tech companies are facing criticism of gender and racial diversity, Apple CEO Tim Cook took time to highlight the company's improvements in diversity-related hiring in recent years. He said that female representation among hires under 30-years old has risen to 36% from 31% and hiring of under-represented minorities rose to 31% from 25%. He said that 50% of new hires last year were women or under-represented minorities. He added that having diverse employees was key to the company's ability to make "the best products." (tripp.mickle@wsj.com)

1718 GMT -- Tim Cook threw cold water on the prospects for a special dividend following repatriation. Speaking at the company's general shareholder meeting, the Apple CEO fielded a pointed question about whether the company would pay a special dividend or double its existing dividend. He said he isn't a "fan of" special dividends, adding " I don't think it helps the company or a lot of shareholders either." However, he said that the company and board remain committed to increase dividends annually and suggested they would provide an update on that in April. (tripp.mickle@wsj.com)

1718 GMT - Facing a pointed question from an Apple shareholder about how the company is preparing its next CEO, Tim Cook said that the board discusses succession at every meeting and that he's working hard, as Steve Jobs did, to prepare internal candidates. "I consider that one of my most important roles is the passing of the baton. The thing that I'm charged with for the board is to prepare as many candidates as possible so that they can look internally for that candidate." He said the board could also look externally but he wants to be sure there are plenty of options internally. Among those considered likely candidates are COO Jeff Williams, CFO Luca Maestri and SVP Angela Ahrendts. (tripp.mickle@wsj.com)

1652 GMT -- In a preliminary vote, Apple shareholders today voted in favor of the company's four major proposals at its general shareholder meeting, including the reelection of its board of directors. Investors rejected shareholder proposals for proxy access and the creation of a human rights committee. The votes were largely expected and had been supported by Institutional Shareholder Services prior to the general meeting. It means that Apple's board, which includes Vice President Al Gore, Disney CEO Bob Iger and Blackrock co-founder Sue Wagner, will continue to lead the company in the coming year. ( tripp.mickle@wsj.com )

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 14, 2018 04:20 ET (09:20 GMT)

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