The Week's Top Stories: Microsoft Cloud Soars and Facebook Feels the Heat

July 19, 2019

From Wall Street to Silicon Valley, these are the top stories that moved markets and had investors, business leaders, and entrepreneurs talking this week on Cheddar.

Tale of Two Tech Earnings: Two big tech earnings this week, two very different stories. Netflix ($NFLX) shares plunged more than 10 percent after it reported its first decline in U.S. subscribers in eight years. The streaming giant lost more than 100,000 domestic subs in the second quarter when it was estimated to have gained 300,000. It also reported 2.7 million new global subs, though that was also well below the estimates of 5 million. Netflix blamed a weak content slate with no major "Stranger Things"-like draws, though it predicted strong third-quarter growth due to new seasons in tentpole series like "Orange Is the New Black" and "The Crown". It was a different feeling altogether at Microsoft ($MSFT), which topped estimates on both revenue and earnings due to strong growth in its cloud computing unit. Microsoft shares soared 12 percent ー it is currently the only American company with a trillion-dollar market cap. See more

Facebook on the Hot Seat: Facebook ($FB) spent two days as the focus of Congressional scrutiny into its forthcoming Libra digital coin. In a rare showing of bipartisan unity, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle expressed deep skepticism that the social-media giant has earned the public's trust to develop its own currency. David Marcus, the chief of Calibra, the Facebook subsidiary overseeing the Libra development, struck a humble tone in front of the House Financial Services Committee. Marcus repeatedly emphasized that Libra would be decentralized and controlled by a consortium rather than Facebook itself, but said Facebook would not move forward with the project without addressing regulatory concerns. Libra has become a target of policymakers at home and abroad ー both President Trump and Fed Chair Jerome Powell have expressed misgivings about Facebook's move into cryptocurrency. The price of bitcoin briefly slid below $10,000 during the testimony before recovering. See more

Bud Shedding Assets: AB InBev ($BUD), the Belgian beer giant, is going back to the drawing board after a failed Hong Kong IPO for its Asian unit. That $10 billion IPO was supposed to be the world's biggest of the year before the company scrapped it citing "prevailing market conditions." Instead, the Budweiser and Corona maker will sell off its $11 billion Australian business to Japan-based Asahi. The sale will help Asahi expand internationally, and help AB InBev pay down its $100 billion debt load that it took on following the purchase of SABMiller in 2016.

Boeing Takes a Charge: Boeing ($BA) says it will take a $4.9 billion charge to compensate airlines for having to cancel thousands of flights with the 737 MAX fleet remains grounded worldwide. The aftermath of two deadly crashes of that jet within five months of each other will cost Boeing $5.6 billion just in the second quarter alone. The aerospace giant told investors it expects to have the MAX back in the skies by the end of the year, though some analysts still think a 2020 return is more likely. And though Boeing remains mired in one of the biggest crises in its history, you wouldn't know it by looking at the stock. Shares are trading in the $370 to $380 range, not too far below the March high of about $420. Much of that has to do with the nature of the airplane manufacturing business: Boeing is one of just two games in town, and even a major safety issue like the MAX crashes is unlikely to drastically affect its overall business (so long as the flying public will get on the MAX when it comes back). See more

Amazon Probed: Amazon ($AMZN) is not immune from the increased scrutiny from global policymakers and regulators on the tech industry. The EU's top antitrust regulator said it would formally open a probe into whether the e-commerce giant uses third-party data to benefit its own products to the detriment of third-party merchants. At issue is Amazon's unique "dual role" as a platform for independent sellers as well as a seller of goods and services itself. The EU investigation could last years, and a fine could conceivably amount to 10 percent of Amazon's global revenue, which as of now, would be around $23 billion. Amazon says it will fully cooperate with the probe.