DealBook Briefing: Activist Investor + #MeToo = Athenahealth Sale?

DealBook Briefing: Activist Investor + #MeToo = Athenahealth Sale?

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Michael de la Merced’s take: Ousting a C.E.O. usually makes a company more likely to be sold — especially if it’s under pressure from an activist. That’s likely to apply here. And given the challenges that Athenahealth faces in finding new business lines and updating its operations, it probably should be sold.

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


Photo Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee. Credit J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press
The congressional plan to rein in Trump’s tariffs

Senator Bob Corker, a Republican, has introduced a bipartisan bill requiring Congress to approve tariffs imposed for national security — Mr. Trump’s justification for levies on metals from Canada, Mexico and the E.U. (All are retaliating.)

The president asked Mr. Corker not to file the bill, which would be the most drastic move yet by Congress to check the White House’s protectionist policies. Whether Mr. Corker can get it passed with a veto-proof majority is up in the air.

Expect Mr. Trump to face more objections at the G-7 summit in Quebec, where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada has promised “very direct conversations” about trade. France and Germany say similar things.

But don’t expect him to listen: The WSJ predicts that Mr. Trump will persist with his aggressive trade policies, whatever they do to international relations.

Elsewhere in trade

• Businesses are worried about the state of the Nafta talks.

• JPMorgan Chase’s top quantitative strategist says the trade disputes have already destroyed more than $1 trillion in market value.

• The U.S. plan to save ZTE may flout national security advice.

Photo Warren Buffett, left, and Jamie Dimon, center. Credit Donald Bowers/Getty Images For Fortune
How Warren Buffett and Jamie Dimon plan to fight financial short-termism

In an op-ed for the WSJ, the investor and the JPMorgan Chase C.E.O. lay out a manifesto, supported by the Business Roundtable, for eliminating quarterly earnings estimates at public companies:

Companies frequently hold back on technology spending, hiring, and research and development to meet quarterly earnings forecasts that may be affected by factors outside the company’s control, such as commodity-price fluctuations, stock-market volatility and even the weather. The pressure to meet short-term earnings estimates has contributed to the decline in the number of public companies in America over the past two decades.

The political flyaround

• Ivanka Trump reportedly connected Michael Cohen with a Russian weight lifter, who offered a meeting with Vladimir Putin, saying it could help the development of a Trump building in Moscow. (BuzzFeed)

• In asking for relief from U.S. sanctions on companies that do business with Tehran, European countries all but conceded that their efforts to save the Iran nuclear deal are failing. (WSJ)

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• Mick Mulvaney has fired the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s expert advisory board. He plans to bring in a smaller group. (NYT)

• Prime Minister Theresa May is feuding with her cabinet over whether Britain should follow E.U. customs rules after Brexit. (Bloomberg)

Photo Google's Android operating system. Credit Stephen Lam/Reuters
The E.U. may take aim at a Google cash cow

The European Commission is considering a big antitrust fine over promotion of Google products in the company’s Android mobile operating system, according to the FT.

The context: The E.U.’s antitrust chief, Margrethe Vestager, has been looking into whether Google improperly forced phone makers to favor services like the Chrome web browser and Google search. She has made no secret of wanting to be tough on America’s tech giants.

The question: Would anything change? Not much did when Google was fined $2.7 billion over its approach to comparison shopping. With a market value of $789 billion, the company can shrug off far more than that.

Elsewhere in Google news: Shareholders criticized the company’s approach to diversity at its annual meeting yesterday. And it will stop running political ads in Washington state because of its new disclosure rules.

The deals flyaround

• The conglomerate Fortive has bid $2.7 billion for Johnson & Johnson’s medical equipment sterilization business. (WSJ)

• Seventeen Chinese banks plan to go public and raise up to $14 billion. Demand may be tepid. (FT)

• Honest Company, the personal-care brand co-founded by Jessica Alba, collected a $200 million investment two years after failing to go public. (Bloomberg)

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• Byron Trott, Warren Buffett’s favorite banker, reportedly plans to raise $9 billion for his merchant bank’s next fund, its biggest to date. (FT)

• Coinbase’s latest acquisition, Keystone Capital, suggests the cryptocurrency start-up wants to be a fully fledged broker-dealer. (WSJ)

Photo Credit Pau Barrena/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
The 5G race might matter less than you think

The Trump administration has asserted that the superfast wireless technology known as 5G will be critical for national security. It even blocked Broadcom’s hostile bid for Qualcomm over fears that it would slow America’s 5G development.

But would that matter? Klint Finley of Wired coaxed some caveats from the co-author of a wireless trade body’s report on the subject:

Roger Entner, a founder of Recon Analytics and co-author of the CTIA report, concedes that it might not matter much if the US introduces 5G a few months later than China. Europe was quicker to roll out 2G, and Japan was the first with 3G, but that hardly deterred Apple and Google from dominating the smartphone market. But Entner argues that if China beats the US by a year or two, it could damage the US’s ability to compete in the global technology market.

Elsewhere in 5G news: Paul Jacobs, the former C.E.O. of Qualcomm, is setting up his own 5G firm.

The tech flyaround

• Amazon might soon sell home insurance. (The Information)

• The head of the S.E.C. said it wouldn’t change securities rules to accommodate cryptocurrencies. (CNBC)

• Facebook has announced a lineup of news programs specifically for its video platform. (Variety)

• Cybersecurity experts are doing very well out of insurers. (FT)

• Fidelity is said to be considering cryptocurrency trading. (Business Insider)

Did Toys ‘R’ Us have to die?

Bloomberg Businessweek asks if the retailer could have had a happier fate, finding a disastrous $7.5 billion leveraged buyout made that impossible:

It’s become clear that Toys “R” Us didn’t only have an improvident amount of debt — it also had a debt structure as complex and precarious as a Jenga tower, which obscured the company’s tenuous finances.

Revolving door

• G.M.’s president, Dan Amman, is stepping down from Lyft’s board. It’s a bad sign for ties between the two companies. (Bloomberg)

• The editor of The Daily Mail, Paul Dacre, is stepping down after a 26-year reign at the British tabloid that was as politically divisive as it was commercially successful. (FT)

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• The SoftBank Vision Fund poached Faisal Rahman from Deutsche Bank to run its Middle Eastern operations. (Bloomberg)

The speed read

• Britain’s most expensive divorce involves a Russian oligarch and a $500 million yacht dry-docked in Dubai. (NYT)

• Asking for a raise works much better if you’re a white man, a study has found. (WaPo)

• China is building a global power network, and perhaps aiming to create a global electricity standard. (FT)

• The restaurateurs April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman have split their restaurant empire, after Mr. Friedman was accused of sexually harassing employees. (NYT)

• E-scooter sharing companies might not be the devil. They might be the future. (NYT)

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