DealBook Briefing: Apple’s Gift to Shareholders, Courtesy of the Tax Cuts

Good Wednesday morning. Just in: Amazon has reportedly countered Walmart’s bid for control of India’s Flipkart. On the earnings calendar: Tesla, where Elon Musk will face plenty of questions. Some links require subscriptions.

Apple’s big tax cut plan: stock buybacks

Repurchasing $100 billion worth of shares should use a lot of Apple’s famous $252 billion cash hoard. But it isn’t an investment in R.&D. or hiring, and it disproportionately affects wealthier stockholders rather than most people.

The buybacks aren’t coming at the expense of U.S. investment or job-creation, Apple says. (Its C.F.O., Luca Maestri, said Apple was indeed investing, but that didn’t mean it should keep extra cash on its balance sheet.) But there’s a pattern of American companies using their tax windfalls to reward investors rather than to expand.

Peter Eavis’s take: The amount sounds like a lot, but Apple has a huge stock market value, and investors are now used to buybacks.

How Apple’s business looks: Pretty good. Higher iPhone prices helped. And services revenue is growing strongly.


Today’s DealBook Briefing was written by Andrew Ross Sorkin in New York, and Michael J. de la Merced and Amie Tsang in London.


How activist investors shook Xerox

Carl Icahn and Darwin Deason can celebrate a major achievement: getting the onetime American icon to replace its C.E.O., Jeff Jacobson, and chairman, Robert Keegan, and to rethink its planned merger with Fujifilm. (They own 15 percent of the company between them.)

More from David Benoit of the WSJ:

The fight may not be over: Fujifilm said today that it’s appealing the injunction.

A must-read: What C.E.O.s get wrong about activists, by Frank Partnoy and DealBook friend Steven Davidoff Solomon. And unrelatedly, are they oversharing?

What regulators will ask about the T-Mobile deal

As the T-Mobile and Sprint C.E.O.s make the rounds in Washington this week to pitch their $26.5 billion deal, three regulators have a role:

• The Justice Department, which has been harder than expected on M.&A., will assess whether consumers face higher prices.

• The F.C.C. will consider whether it’s in the national interest to let the national wireless market shrink from four providers to three.

• Cfius will rule on how the deal might affect national security.

The F.C.C. chairman has sounded warm about consolidation, and controlling shareholders of both companies have passed Cfius reviews before. But regulatory approval is still an open question, and Sprint and T-Mobile’s share prices reflect that.

The political flyaround

• California sued the Trump administration over the E.P.A.’s efforts to weaken car emissions standards. (NYT)

• Robert Mueller reportedly warned President Trump’s legal team that he may seek a subpoena. James Comey thinks the president should submit to an interview. But there are reasons it could prove tricky. Rod Rosenstein described receiving threats, and said that the Justice Department “is not going to be extorted.”

• Scott Pruitt’s trip to Morocco in December was partly planned by a lobbyist who then landed work from the Moroccan government. (NYT)

• Mr. Trump’s former doctor, Harold Bornstein, said that said two Trump Organization executives had “raided” his office last February to seize the president’s medical records. (NBC News)

The difficulties of a multifront trade fight

As President Trump continues to negotiate with the E.U., Canada and Mexico after extending tariff exemptions by 30 days, his administration is finding that fighting a trade battle on multiple fronts is tough, Peter Eavis writes.

Canada and Mexico’s reprieve from aluminum and steel tariffs may advance Nafta negotiations, but the E.U. got its concession without apparently giving anything up, probably putting it in a stronger position. And the longer the U.S. and the E.U. are at an impasse, the less likely it is that they can push back against China together.

He said it: “There will be pain, but the idea there will be Armageddon and everything will be horrible simply is not true,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said at the Milken Institute Global Conference yesterday.

Elsewhere in trade: The Treasury Department has given Rusal a potential way off a sanctions blacklist. T hat could prevent its delisting from the London Stock Exchange — and ease panic in the global aluminum markets.

Facebook resumes empire building

Yes, the social giant introduced a tool at its F8 developer conference to let people wipe their browsing history on the site. And Mr. Zuckerberg acknowledged the rough times he and the company have endured this year, wincingly joking about his congressional testimony. But the company’s attitude toward growth hasn’t changed. “The world would lose if Facebook went away,” he told developers.

Facebook said it was working on a portable Oculus virtual reality device and — what got everyone’s attention — a dating app that sent shares in the Match Group plunging. (The C.E.O. of IAC, which owns Match Group, responded: “Their product could be great for U.S./Russia relationships.”)

Elsewhere in social media: Snapchat’s users didn’t like its redesign, and investors didn’t like its parent company’s results. The creators of Signal say Amazon has threatened to remove their messaging app from its CloudFront service unless they stop disguising web traffic’s origins. Iran blocked Telegram.

Elsewhere in tech: Netflix wasn’t at the Milken Institute Global Conference, but everyone was talking about it. Amazon is still choosing a second home city, but it’s building in Boston and Vancouver. Can Google’s collegelike culture survive? U.S. regulators are examining whether Ether’s creation broke securities laws.

Lantern Capital won The Weinstein Company

That’s despite an 11th-hour bid from Inclusion Media, whose $315 million offer — Lantern’s was $310 million — included a settlement fund for Harvey Weinstein’s victims and was backed by several of them. The board of the bankrupt movie studio said it didn’t consider Inclusion’s bid credible.

Next stop: The judge in The Weinstein Company’s will decide whether to approve Lantern’s deal.

Elwhere in misconduct news: Wendell Jamieson, who resigned as the NYT’s metro editor, had been accused of inappropriate behavior by at least three female employees. Time’s Up has backed #MuteRKelly.

The deals flyaround

• J Sainsbury’s C.E.O. probably shouldn’t have sung “We’re in the money” as he waited for a television interview about his bid for the Asda supermarket chain — at least, not with the camera rolling. (NYT)

• Vista Outdoor is selling its gun-making business. (NYT)

• Birchbox reportedly sold a majority stake to an existing investor, Viking Global, leaving other shareholders with nothing. (Recode)

• Cisco sold its video business back to Permira for $1 billion, a fifth of what it paid in 2012. Cisco also bought Accompany, an A.I.-based relationship analysis start-up, for $270 million.

Revolving door

• Dan Loeb is stepping down as chairman of Success Academy Charter Schools after five years. (NYT)

• The medical advice start-up HealthTap fired its C.E.O., Ron Gutman, over accusations he intimidated employees. (Recode)

• MetLife’s C.F.O., John Hele, will leave after the company reported “material weakness” in its financial statements. (FT)

• Jess Verrilli, who went from Twitter to GV to Twitter, is back at GV. (Recode)

• Morgan Stanley named Clare Woodman as its first female head of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. (FT)

The speed read

• Goldman Sachs has just two women on its 11-member board, lagging other banks. (The Street)

• A common job-interview question helps maintain the gender pay gap. (NYT)

• Some rust belt cities have kept their sheen, but it may just be good luck. (NYT)

• AllianceBernstein is reportedly moving to Nashville to cut costs. (WSJ)

• How a crackdown on aggressive borrowing in China is hurting Hollywood. (The Information)

• BP’s C.F.O., Brian Gilvary, dismissed a claim that its C.E.O., Bob Dudley, had been poisoned in Moscow as “a complete urban myth.” (CNBC)

• Britain is to order its overseas territories, including the Cayman Islands and Bermuda, to publicly identify company owners. (FT)

• Switzerland is prosecuting two PetroSaudi International officials over alleged dealings with the Malaysian state investment fund. (WSJ)

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