DealBook Briefing: Has Walmart Beaten Amazon for Control of Flipkart?

Good Monday morning. Mike Bloomberg opened his wallet for climate change. And learn more about “transshipping,” one of President Trump’s big trade bugbears. Some links require subscriptions.

Behind the bidding for India’s e-commerce leader

The U.S. retail giant is reportedly close to buying a majority stake in Flipkart, the top e-commerce company in India, at a $20 billion valuation, according to Bloomberg. Existing investors like Tiger Global Management and SoftBank have agreed to sell substantial portions of their shares, giving Walmart a stake of 60 percent to 80 percent.

Why it’s important: Both Walmart and Amazon have hungrily watched India, where the e-commerce market trails only the U.S. and China in terms of size but where foreign retailers have struggled. But don’t expect Amazon, Flipkart’s biggest rival, to give up.

Move over, Spotify: Tencent Music reportedly plans to interview potential underwriters for a U.S. I.P.O., with a valuation exceeding $25 billion, according to WSJ. (It could also be the latest instance of a spinoff helping its Chinese parent’s financial fortunes.)

Elsewhere in deals: Elliott Management wants Hyundai to reorganize its divisions and pay out more dividends. HNA cut its stake in Deutsche Bank amid its downsizing. How China is buying into Europe. Deutsche Telekom plans to fight Vodafone’s plan to buy Liberty Media’s German and Eastern Europe cable division. The parent company of Poker Stars agreed to buy Sky Betting & Gaming for $4.7 billion to get a foothold in Europe. Fresenius walked away from its $4.3 billion deal for Akorn, a maker of cancer drugs.


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


Mike Bloomberg opens his wallet to fight climate change

Even after the Trump administration withdrew from the Paris climate accord, Mr. Bloomberg insisted that the U.S. keep up its financial obligations to the U.N. body overseeing the pact — using $4.5 million of his own money. “I’m going to send them a check for the monies that America had promised to the organization as though they got it from the federal government,” Mr. Bloomberg told CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

The former N.Y.C. mayor has shown he has no problem speaking out on his personal causes, even if they’re in opposition to President Trump’s policies. And he’s willing to put his own money to work as well.

What Mr. Bloomberg isn’t doing: Running for president — at the moment. “I think I can as a private citizen help in some of those things and that’s what I want to do with my life,” he said.

Meet the trading practice that Trump hates

“If you talk China, I’ve watched where the reporters have been writing 2 percent of our steel comes from China. Well, that’s not right,” President Trump said last month, before criticizing transshipping. The practice, which disguises the origins of metals and other imports, is a reason behind the U.S.’s fight with China — and the E.U., South Korea and Canada have moved to crack down on illicit uses of the maneuver. (Certain instances can be legal.)

Meanwhile, Steven Mnuchin is weighing a trip to Beijing, in the hopes that talks could avoid a full-blown trade war.

Elsewhere in trade: The E.U. and Mexico forged their own pact on Saturday, sending a message to Washington. And a trade war could hurt Google’s Android.

The political flyaround

• An NYT investigation into Scott Pruitt’s career before the E.P.A. found close ties to lobbyists — and an instance of a house purchase involving a lobbyist, a shell company and a questionable sale price. (NYT)

• Mike Pence’s older brother, Greg, is running for Congress — and his stewardship of a local gas station operator that went bankrupt is taking fire. (NYT)

• The Republican tax cuts sliced $18 billion off the book value of 100 big U.S. public companies — but that math may change as a lower tax rate takes hold. (FT)

• Will Kellyanne Conway finally take a role in the White House communications department? (Axios)

• Has the office of the presidency become too big to manage? (The Atlantic)

Facebook’s hot seat moves to Europe

Mike Schroepfer, the company’s chief technology officer, will appear on Thursday before the British government committee investigating fake news and social media following the Cambridge Analytica scandal. (No Mark Zuckerberg this time.)

Testifying tomorrow before that committee will be Aleksandr Kogan, the academic who passed user data to Cambridge Analytica. Mr. Kogan apologized for his role, but said he was considering suing Facebook for suggesting that he had acted unethically. (The star witness last week — albeit in absentia — was the man who set up Cambridge Analytica’s parent company decades ago.)

Elsewhere in Facebook: How the newsfeed played a central role in inciting violence in Sri Lanka. A deeper look at how much influence Campbell Brown, the former journalist who now leads news partnerships at the company, actually has.

Amazon critics are wary of their newest ally

For years, the e-commerce giant has taken arrows from all corners, from labor unions to think tanks to competitors. Now President Trump has joined the fray, but not everyone is comfortable being on the same side.

The issue: Mr. Trump’s attacks appear rooted in personal animus, clouding what others feel are legitimate criticisms. Matt Stoller of the Open Markets Institute told the NYT, “What he’s doing is a threat to democracy, but so is Amazon.”

Elsewhere in Amazon news: The average Amazon employee is in a warehouse, not a data lab, and earns a median annual salary of $28,446. Many Americans believe the e-commerce titan has the most positive social impact of any big tech company, according to a new survey. (Another survey found that more than half of Americans want more regulations of tech companies.)

The problem with banks’ answer to Venmo

It’s the same issue that dogged Craigslist, PayPal and Venmo early on: fraud. Now Zelle, a payment service used by the likes of Bank of America and Chase, is grappling with what some analysts told the NYT is an alarming series of incidents. “I know of one bank that was experiencing a 90 percent fraud rate on Zelle transactions, which is insane,” said Genevieve Gimbert, a partner in PwC’s financial crimes unit.

The problem: Customers often aren’t notified when money is transferred; customers are subjected to phishing attacks that drain money from their accounts; buyers have no protections if sellers don’t provide paid-for goods.

Why it matters: Banks want their share of digital payments, and 18 so far have signed up with Zelle.

Elsewhere in finance: UBS’s strong first-quarter earnings were overshadowed by the bank’s wealth-management unit missing estimates.

The tech flyaround

• Gary Gensler has gone from Goldman Sachs trader to financial regulator under President Barack Obama to lecturer at M.I.T., where he plans to extol cryptocurrencies’ virtues and warn of their regulatory problems. (NYT)

• Meet the kolion, a Russian cryptocurrency that is gaining favor in rural areas — and being watched warily by Moscow. (WSJ)

• NewsGuard, a service that uses trained journalists to rate thousands of news and information sites, is starting a hotline for reporting fake news sites. (Axios)

• Major American consumer brands said that Alibaba retaliated when they refused exclusive partnerships with the company. The Chinese e-commerce company has struck deals to get its digital assistant into Audi, Volvo and Mercedes-Benz cars in China.

• Google has been criticized for its responses to upcoming European data rules. (FT)

• Electric scooters are causing havoc in San Francisco and L.A. The C.E.O. of one big maker, Bird Rides, says ¯_(ツ)_/¯. (NYT)

• Australia’s competition regulator said it would examine contracts between Uber and the restaurants that use Uber Eats. (Reuters)

• Flickr has a new owner: Yahoo unexpectedly sold the picture-sharing site to SmugMug. (Recode)

The speed read

• How Martin Sorrell’s departure from WPP has set off an intense debate about the future of the ad industry. (NYT)

• Matthew Barzun, a former U.S. ambassador to Britain, will lead the new British media outlet set up by James Harding, the former head of BBC News. (BuzzFeed)

• Volkswagen is trying to remake its company culture. It’s not going so well. (NYT)

• Brooks Brothers is celebrating its 200th anniversary with a return to tradition. (NYT)

• No fewer than nine groups have come together to work on a “people’s vote” on whatever deal the British government negotiates with the E.U. (NYT)

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