DealBook Briefing: Comcast Seizes the Lead From Murdoch in the Race for Sky

Good Wednesday morning. Twitter’s earnings beat expectations. On today’s earnings calendar: AT&T, Boeing and Facebook. Some links require subscriptions.

The fight for Sky is officially on

In formally making a 22 billion pound ($30.7 billion) bid for the British broadcaster, Comcast is challenging Rupert Murdoch for control of a crown jewel he wants dearly.

How the offers stack up:

• Comcast: £12.50 a share, and pledges to maintain Sky News’s independence

• Fox: £10.50 a share for the 61 percent of Sky it doesn’t yet own. (Disney, which had already agreed to buy the bulk of Fox in a separate deal, has also offered to buy Sky News to satisfy editorial independence concerns.)

Given the higher price of Comcast’s bid, Sky withdrew its recommendation for Fox.

The big questions: What will Fox and Disney do now? (Fox said it’s considering its options.) And will anyone’s shareholders — apart from Sky’s — support a bidding war?

In other big deal news: Shire said it’s willing to recommend Takeda’s new $64 billion takeover bid, which would be one of the biggest pharmaceutical deals of late. But shares in Takeda slumped, raising questions about whether Shire investors will agree.

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

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Why so serious, investors?

Stocks have fallen for the fourth day in a row — the S.&P. 1.3 percent, the Dow 1.7 percent — as investors appeared dismayed by earnings news that was supposed to have lifted their spirits. As of this morning, global stocks were down. Some of the issues:

• Alphabet investors appear worried about its spending on new businesses. Could that drag down other tech giants?

• 3M met expectations, but lowered the high end of its earnings guidance. Its stock tumbled 8.5 percent.

• Caterpillar beat expectations — but its stock sank after it too issued a gloomy earnings forecast.

• The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note broke through 3 percent yesterday, raising concern about how reliant the U.S. economy is on low interest rates.

• Trade war jitters haven’t gone away.

One lonely island of green amid a sea of red? Bitcoin.

Peter Eavis’s take: Looking back, stocks appear expensive, at 21 times the S.&P. 500’s earnings for 2017. This large gap between future and historical valuations creates a chasm that stocks can fall into if profits, or earnings outlooks, disappoint.

Behind the fight over a key banking rule

Wall Street executives are eagerly awaiting a relaxation of the supplemental leverage rule, which governs how much their firms can borrow. The Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of Currency are for it; the F.D.I.C. and Lael Brainard, an Obama administration appointee at the Fed, are opposed.

Peter Eavis outlines the arguments:

Why relax the rule? It’s making it too hard for banks to do business. “The best analogy is that it’s like having the same speed limit for every road in the country,” Greg Baer of the Clearing House Association told Peter.

Why keep it? The rule provides adequate protection in case there’s another downturn, and banks have been doing fine otherwise. “U.S. bank lending has been healthy over recent years and profits are strong,” Ms. Brainerd said in a speech last week.

The political flyaround

• A federal judge ruled that the DACA program must continue and accept new applications, because the Trump administration didn’t adequately justify ending it. (The decision was stayed 90 days.)

• Mick Mulvaney encouraged banking lobbyists to pressure lawmakers into shrinking the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which he leads. (NYT)

• The Supreme Court has continued to narrow the grounds for obstruction of justice, Peter Henning writes. It also barred human rights lawsuits against foreign companies and upheld a way of challenging patents.

• Steven Mnuchin, Larry Kudlow and the U.S. trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, will go to Beijing for trade talks next week. (NYT)

• Two Democratic senators have asked banks to turn over evidence tied to any accounts held by oligarchs connected to Vladimir Putin. (WSJ)

• The E.P.A. announced plans to restrict which kinds of studies it could use to justify rules. Senator James Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma and Scott Pruitt’s longtime political patron, now supports investigations into the E.P.A. chief.

• The Kushner Companies reportedly turned to BofI Federal Bank for $57 million to help finance a troubled Jersey City development. (Bloomberg)

The deals flyaround

• Still the big question in the CBS-Viacom talks: What about Bob (Bakish, Viacom’s chief)? (WSJ)

• Sinclair revised its plans to win regulatory approval for its takeover of Tribune, but many TV stations it proposes selling would still go to sister businesses. Chris Ruddy of Newsmax said the deal would be “the biggest game change in American politics.”

• The Justice Department’s star witness against AT&T’s bid for Time Warner conceded on the stand that he had miscalculated a data point. (Bloomberg)

• Turns out mutual funds are pretty good at valuing privately held start-ups. (The Information)

• WeWork is reportedly hired a dozen banks to help it sell $500 million worth of junk bonds. (FT)

• SoftBank is reportedly considering moving its stakes in ride-hailing companies like Uber into its Vision Fund. (FT)

• Sequoia Capital will finally take public pension fund money — up to $350 million from Washington state for its latest fund — and open up its finances in the process. (Axios)

Keeping up with the Johns

The NYT’s updated Glass Ceiling Index, which counts the female and male leaders in leadership positions throughout America, shows some striking findings:

• There are more Republican senators and Democratic governors named John than there are women in either group.

• There are almost as many C.E.O.s named John in the Fortune 500 as female C.E.O.s in that group.

Elsewhere in gender and the workplace: Uber said that women held 18 percent of its tech jobs, trailing others in Silicon Valley. Chinese tech companies are hiring “motivators”: attractive women to chat-up male programmers.

How much do you know about what Facebook knows?

Even as the tech giant rolls out more granular privacy controls, European regulators and other critics are asking if the company is taking too much user data.

One bigger issue: Adding controls doesn’t necessarily lead to users sharing less data, critics contend. “Privacy control settings give people more rope to hang themselves,” the behavioral economist George Loewenstein told Eduardo Porter.

In other Facebook news: The academic at the center of the Cambridge Analytica scandal talked down the effectiveness of his profiling. The company replaced its head of U.S. policy, Erin Egan, though she’ll remain chief privacy officer. Her interim replacement will be Kevin Martin, a former Republican chairman of the F.C.C.

Elsewhere in tech: Amazon will start delivering to car trunks. Jeff Bezos said that big tech companies deserved scrutiny. Apple put $16 billion into a Dublin escrow account to start complying with a European Commission tax order. Yahoo’s successor must pay a $35 million fine over the handling of a 2014 data breach. Regulators are wary of start-ups using presales of cryptocurrency tokens. Bill Harris, formerly of Intuit and PayPal, says flatly that Bitcoin is “a colossal pump-and-dump scheme.”

Revolving door

• Atlas Mara, the African financial firm founded by Bob Diamond, has hired John Staley as C.E.O. (FT)

• The health care venture formed by Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase reportedly plans to hire a C.E.O. within two months. (Axios)

• Gregory Craig, the Skadden partner who oversaw a report for Ukraine that is under investigation by Robert Mueller, has left. (Bloomberg)

• Citigroup’s C.E.O., Mike Corbat, may be in line to become chairman too. (Bloomberg)

• The president of Sears’s real estate business, Jeff Stollenwerck, plans to leave. (Reuters)

The speed read

• Jim Hackett has shuffled Ford’s executive ranks and promised new S.U.V.s and electric cars. But analysts want a clearer, and faster, turnaround plan. (NYT)

• French police detained the logistics tycoon Vincent Bolloré for questioning over port deals in two African countries. (WSJ)

• Millions of dollars went from The Weinstein Company to the Weinstein brothers and the executive David Glasser even after the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke. (WSJ)

• At Pimco, one man used to make many key investment decisions. Now software will. (WSJ)

• Global investment banks may still struggle to control securities joint ventures in China, the Asia Securities Industry & Financial Markets Association said. (FT)

• Zhao Changpeng, founder of Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, is being sued by Sequoia Capital over a funding deal. (Bloomberg)

• A protest march greeted the Wells Fargo shareholders’ meeting, where investors backed executive pay plans. (Bloomberg)

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