Facebook launches option for video calls with up to 50 people without time limit – Telemundo Nueva Inglaterra

Facebook revealed that it is launching a tool called Messenger Rooms with which users will be able to make video calls with up to 50 people. This is the latest move by the social network ‘due to the popularity, in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic, of other applications such as its Zoom or Houseparty with similar group video contact capabilities.

The news was given this Friday by the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg through Facebook Live.

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Posted by Facebook on Friday, April 24, 2020

According to our sister station CNBC, the tool will be free will allow Facebook and Messenger users to create group video calls of up to 50 people at a time, increasing the current limit of the Messenger app from 8 people.

According to CNBC, the 50-person limit for Messenger Rooms will not be available immediately. Facebook users will see a lower limit at launch, but it will soon rise to 50 people, a company spokesperson told CNBC. The limit will vary for users at launch, the spokesperson said.

By comparison, Zoom allows up to 100 people to video chat for free for up to 40 minutes. Houseparty supports up to eight people.

Video calls in Messenger Rooms have no time limit and will include features like augmented reality filters that allow people to add masks to their faces. Video call hosts will also be able to block calls and delete users. Facebook and Messenger users can create Messenger rooms, and they can invite anyone to join, including people who don’t have a Facebook account.

Messenger Rooms will begin rolling out to users on Friday, and will expand to more regions in the coming weeks. “You can start and share video calls on Facebook through your wall, Groups and Events, so it is easy for people to visit it. We will soon add ways to create video call rooms from Instagram Direct, WhatsApp and Portal too”, explained the social network.

WhatsApp also expands capacity

Facebook also announced that it is doubling the limit of people in WhatsApp video calls from four to eight people.


In addition, the company is introducing a video calling feature on Facebook Dating so that users of that service can have virtual dating.

Zoom improves your security

The video conferencing platform Zoom, which has achieved a sudden popularity success with the COVID-19 pandemic, announced this week an update to its software, where, it says, it has improved the encryption system to respond to criticism received for lack of security.

The San Jose, California-based firm explained in a statement that Zoom version 5.0 adds support for encryption with 256-bit AES encryption GCM, providing “increased protection for meeting data and resistance against tampering. ”

The update available this week will also allow the account administrator to choose which regions of the data center their meetings and webinars use for real-time traffic at the account, group, or user level.

On the other hand, the company has grouped all the options related to security in the same icon, which is accessed through the menu bar of the digital meeting, the “waiting room” option has been activated by default and allows videoconference hosts report a user whose participation has not been allowed.

“I am proud to achieve this step in our 90 day plan, but this is only the beginning. We will earn the trust of our customers and bring them happiness with our firm goal of providing the safest platform, ”said Zoom CEO Eric S. Yuan.

Zoom’s success and sudden growth as a result of the increase in teleworking and digital encounters following the confinement orders for the COVID-19 pandemic has been accompanied by many complaints about failures in communication security and little respect for the privacy of users.

One of the most common problems that its users are encountering is that Internet users who have not been invited appear by surprise in teleconferences, a phenomenon baptized as “zoombombing” and which has caused educational institutions, governments and companies to stop using the platform. and, in the case of Google, their employees have even been banned.

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Resistance to food delivery services is growing in the United States

San Francisco Tad’s Steakhouse doesn’t want to be prescribed anything. “15 percent discount on all food and beverages” is written large in the shop window of the traditional steak house on Ellis Street in San Francisco Downtown. Locals and tourists have come to Tad’s since 1955 to enjoy the famous “Broiled Steaks”. But the corona virus is also an existential threat for restaurants.

Today, a table across the front door blocks the way, only from outside you can order to take away. The issue takes place one door further, large arrows glued to the windows point the way.

The question on Tuesday is whether the discount also applies to the delivery service. The answer comes clearly from the depth of the sales room: “No. You only get a discount if you take it with you. ”In fact, there is no mention of bargains on the Tad’s menu on the website of the delivery service Grubhub.

Full price is calculated here. Because Grubhub charges the restaurant hefty fees. The operator has to recoup them via the food price. The resistance is growing. In a lawsuit before a federal court in Manhattan, three New York consumers now want contract terms of the four major providers Grubhub, Doordash, Over Attack Eats and Postmates.

According to the commercial broadcaster CNBC, they require restaurants to charge delivery customers and customers in the restaurant the same prices. This is done against the background of “exorbitant” claims of ten and 40 percent of the invoice price as a commission for the platforms that the companies would have to bear alone. In order to achieve this, the heavyweights abused their market power.

List of plaintiffs could get longer

The restaurants, especially now, during the corona crisis, had only the choice to raise prices for all customers in order to be able to use the services of the companies – or to forego important sales.

The procedure is designed as a so-called “class action”, which means that other plaintiffs can join at any time. Since the plaintiffs are claiming damages back to 2016, among other things, this can grow to a considerable risk for the companies. The delivery services have not responded to requests, CNBC said.

The 15 percent discount on Tad’s does not seem to be arbitrary. It corresponds exactly to the rate that has been the legal upper limit in San Francisco since Friday before Easter that start-ups can demand. San Francisco’s Mayor London Breed wants to prevent the delivery men from ruining small businesses so that they can keep themselves afloat.

Because the top fees hit the family-run individual restaurants hardest. You have practically no other choice. Large chains like McDonald’s or others have enough power to negotiate individual rates or threaten to build their own delivery services. All delivery companies are affected by the order.

Margins of many restaurants at risk

The mayor of the west coast metropolis is more than just upset. “While some delivery services cut fees for their customers, they continue to be charged for restaurants.

Payments between 10 and 30 percent (of the price of the product ordered) represent a significant part of restaurant sales – especially in times when deliveries make up a large part of sales. Such fees can wipe out a restaurant’s entire margins, ”the measure said.


The order has been enforced by the city since Monday and will apply “to the end of the local state of emergency” imposed on San Francisco.

The delivery services are already striking back. In an email sent to the food magazine “SF-Eater”, Grubhub, one of the largest delivery services in the United States, is said to have asked its customers to protest against this order the day before the announcement.

The costs for the customers would increase by “five to ten dollars per order”. This in turn hurts the restaurants that rely on delivery services. This damage will go beyond any possible advantage.

Still, Laurie Thomas of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association believes San Francisco’s path is right. Since the beginning of April, delivery services have been asked to voluntarily cut rates during the crisis, which was categorically rejected.

Only on Thursday before Easter, Doordash announced in a blog entry that they would temporarily reduce all fees for “partners” with five or fewer locations by 50 percent, at least until the end of May.

Not the first scandal for the industry

In mid-March, Grubhub had already refused to change the fee structure and only offered to defer payment of amounts due. And only for selected companies under certain conditions.

“These companies benefit immensely from a public health emergency while restaurants and their employees are suffering,” said Aaron Peskin, a member of the city council in San Francisco. “They try to take responsible measures in the middle of a general emergency, while at the same time denying their own employees the necessary protective items such as masks and gloves and not offering them any health insurance.”

It is not the first time that new economy companies have attracted attention in times of emergency. During massive hurricanes and snowstorms in New York in 2014, angry customers posted Uber bills over several hundred dollars for routes that would normally only cost a handful of dollars.

Uber comes under pressure

The so-called “surge pricing” was used, in which the prices rise the more the demand and supply of drivers diverge.

In the end, Uber agreed to strictly limit this practice during declared emergencies. The city of New York even wanted to consider withdrawing the license. It cannot be accepted that poor people cannot use the taxi to buy groceries during a natural disaster, only the rich.

The then Uber boss Travis Kalanick initially reacted condescendingly to angry online posts. “Go get popcorn,” he advised disgruntled customers on his Facebook-Side means something like “take it easy again”. “We don’t own the cars and the drivers are not our employees,” he tried to take responsibility before New York and other cities dealt with the problem.

Kalanick is no longer CEO, and Uber and competitor Lyft will exist in 2020 even without price explosions in the event of national emergencies. Now the question is what happens to food delivery services when they are suddenly no longer a luxury, but an important part of the business chain.

More: A Berlin founder looking for investors in Silicon Valley – a frustration report

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Dow Jones, Nasdaq, S & P500: US exchanges remain on recovery

Dusseldorf For the third day in a row, the US stock markets posted gains on Wednesday. In addition to the hope that the worst of the corona pandemic in the United States will soon be over, leftist Senator Bernie Sanders’ exit from the Democratic pre-election campaign provided additional boost to the stock markets.

The Dow Jones index rose 3.4 percent to 23,433 points, the broader S&P 500 rose 3.4 percent to 2,749 points, and the technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite gained 2.6 percent to 8090 points.

“Sanders’ exit eliminates the residual risk that some of his political ideas will be implemented,” said Ed Mills, Raymond James political scientist at CNBC. The now likely presidential candidate of the Democrats, ex-vice president Joe Biden, is considered to be less radical towards financial markets and corporations. Sanders had, among other things, caused nervousness among private insurance companies in the United States with his demand for health insurance for all citizens.

The US stock market also started on Tuesday with strong gains – but then had the sharpest turnaround since October 14, 2008. The three major indices closed with slight losses.

The US stocks are still in a bear market. This is achieved when prices have fallen by more than 20 percent compared to the high. Three of the past four weeks ended the indices with losses.

For this week, however, the courses after the rally on Monday have been up so far. One reason for this is the positive signals from Asia regarding the coronavirus pandemic. There were no new deaths in China for the first time on Monday, the former epicenter of the pandemic, the Wuhan region, is no longer isolated and even industry is slowly starting up again.

In the last week of March, the decline in sales in the Chinese car market was only 24 percent compared to the same period in the previous year. For comparison: In February, sales of the corona virus had dropped 80 percent. The Chinese car market is the largest in the world.

Also positive signals from the USA

There are also first positive signals for the development of the pandemic in the USA: “As far as we can see there is a flattening (the curve),” said the governor of the US state of New York, the center of the pandemic in the USA. The number of deaths continues to rise, however: 731 people died in New York alone on Tuesday of COVID-19, 1,800 across the country – a new high. US President Donald Trump said the crisis was at its peak.

A theory from the University of Washington is now assuming fewer deaths in the United States than previously feared. Around 60,000 deaths are now predicted by August 4. As of Tuesday, the estimate was 82,000. The calculation model is part of a series of studies cited by the United States Presidential Office.

In addition to the pandemic, investors are also focusing on countermeasures. In the United States, Democrats and Republicans are discussing an increase in aid. At the end of March, an economic stimulus package worth around $ 2.2 trillion had already been decided. The government now wants to provide another $ 250 billion, the opposition Democrats are demanding $ 500 billion.

Bank analysts JP Morgan assume that further government stimulus packages are a prerequisite for sustainable share purchases.

Look at other asset classes

The drop in demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic is severely affecting the raw materials markets. The price of aluminum drops 1.4 percent to a four-year low. At $ 1457.50 a ton, the metal used in automobile and aircraft construction is as cheap as it was last four years ago. The price of copper loses similarly and is $ 4,964 per ton.

Meanwhile, traders further hoped that “Opec +”, which includes other exporting countries such as Russia in addition to the members of the export cartel, will agree on a significant reduction in production volumes at their meeting on Thursday.

If the USA pulls together with the “Opec +”, even a relatively low throttling of ten million barrels per day could give the oil price a strong boost, predicts Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst of the brokerage firm AvaTrade. “Without the US on board, even a 15 million barrel reduction would probably not raise the price above $ 40.”

On Wednesday, the US oil grade WTI rose by almost eleven percent to $ 26.16 a barrel (159 liters). This helped the stocks of the oil companies Exxon and Chevron at course gains of more than six percent each. The papers of the slate oil producers Marathon, Occidental and Apache even advanced up to 16 percent. This group would particularly benefit from a production brake, because experts say that because of the complex fracking process, they only start to cover costs from an oil price of around $ 50.

Focus on individual values

UPS and FedEx: The titles of the two groups rose by up to six or more than eight percent. The package deliverers were boosted by the announcement of Amazonto temporarily suspend its own delivery service in the USA. According to the “Wall Street Journal”, the online retailer wants to use the freed-up resources and employees to cope with the sharp rise in orders.

American Express: On Wednesday, the financial service provider’s share gained 5.1 percent. In doing so, it continued its positive trend: Monday saw an upward trend of more than ten percent, followed by another 3.8 percent on Tuesday.

Moleculin: The papers posted a record price jump of 150 percent to $ 1.27. The pharmaceutical company had released encouraging test results for a corona drug. Competitor Aker reported progress in the development of a vaccine against the Covid-19 pathogen. Its shares peaked at $ 22 to $ 6.96 and were still trading at $ 5.95 at the close.

MC Donalds: The fast food company has suffered a sharp slump in business due to the corona pandemic. In the past month, comparable revenues worldwide fell by a good 22 percent compared to the previous year, as McDonald’s announced in Chicago on Wednesday. The world’s largest burger chain also said, however, that it raised $ 6.5 billion on the capital market in the first quarter and suspended share buybacks to protect its liquidity in the corona crisis. The stock climbed 1.08 percent.

With agency material

More: Cash for citizens: Economists praise the helicopter money

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Aid program for US SMEs starts off bumpy

Denver, Washington The Bank of America was the first large bank to implement government regulations. The staff worked through the night to launch an app for small and medium-sized businesses on Friday morning who want to apply for government aid loans. On Thursday evening there were still important guidelines from Washington that could still be entered at the last moment.

Other banks weren’t that quick. Wells Fargo, the battered San Francisco institute, which has a particularly large number of medium-sized customers, refused on Friday to accept applications such as the Citigroup and many other banks too. Industry leader JP Morgan Chase started in the afternoon at 9 a.m. instead of as originally planned.

Since then, America’s mid-sized companies have been trying to get the much-needed aid. Just one hour after the program started, Bank of America counted 10,000 applications. Ideally, loans should be approved on the day of application, but only in a fraction of the cases. By Friday afternoon, around 13,700 applications worth $ 4.3 billion had been approved, according to the head of the SME agency SBA Jovita Carranza on Twitter.

$ 350 billion is earmarked as part of the $ 2.2 trillion small and medium-sized enterprise relief package. However, given the great need, Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin has already signaled that he is ready to ask Congress for additional funds. “First come, first serve” is the principle according to which the loans are granted. Anyone who is late is therefore left empty-handed. It is all the more frustrating for companies if the house bank is not yet ready for the applications.

Meanwhile, many could not wait for the money from Washington, as a look at the labor market statistics shows. Last week, 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits. The week before, there were 3.3 million. This caused the unemployment rate for March, which was also published on Friday, to skyrocket from 3.5 to 4.4 percent. That is the highest value since 2017.

State loan guarantee

The program, which is entitled “Paycheck Protection Program” (PPP), provides that companies can get the loans waived if they use the money for wages, rent payments and the like. The state guarantees 100 percent of the loans.

Many banks were still unclear on Thursday evening as to who qualified for the program and who did not and how the submitted documents should be checked. The rate at which banks can charge loans was also changed at the last minute. At first it was said that banks could charge up to four percent, then there was still 0.5 percent under discussion, now it is one percent.

New tensions are already emerging between Wall Street and Washington. Brian Moynihan, head of Bank of America, said on CNBC that his institution treats clients who have a business account with the bank and who have taken out loans. “This speeds up the process,” says Moynihan.

Republican Florida Senator Marco Rubio, on the other hand, condemned this preference. “It is not part of the legislative package and should be abolished,” he commented on Twitter.

Small and medium-sized companies make up the major part of the American economy, they provide a good 80 percent of all jobs, as from analyzes of German bank emerges.

Lenders’ hotlines are overloaded

Elsewhere, Americans also encounter chaotic conditions. The aid package also provides that homeowners can suspend their mortgage payments so people can stay in their homes. But the lenders’ hotlines are overloaded. Homeowners complain that they are on hold for hours and are unable to get a contact person.

The US Federal Reserve criticized this action on Friday and, together with other major regulators, specifically called on mortgage service providers to help their customers. In return, regulatory requirements for institutions should be relaxed.

In the meantime, an unusual coalition is forming in Washington to help the US economy with another stimulus package beyond the corona crisis. Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi are usually in deep dislike. But on this issue, the Republican US President and the Democratic majority leader in the House of Representatives are pulling together. Both are in favor of another corona package, which would be the fourth since the pandemic broke out in the United States.

Trump’s and Pelosi’s opponent is Mitch McConnell and is the majority leader of the Republicans in the Senate, alongside the House of Representatives the other chamber of the US Parliament. McConnell and most of his group are currently opposed to such a package, which both chambers of parliament and the president would have to agree to. McConnell wants to wait and see whether further programs are really necessary and, above all, “to ensure that every further measure is actually related to the current health crisis”.

According to Trump and the Democrats, the fourth corona package should not focus on fighting the corona pandemic directly, but rather on investments in the infrastructure of the United States, for example in roads and telecommunications networks. A classic economic stimulus program that is primarily intended to create jobs.

Democrats want more money for poor households

On Twitter, Trump suggested a volume of $ 2 trillion for the package. It would also be the late implementation of one of his election promises from 2016. At that time, Trump had pledged to invest up to a trillion dollars in the US infrastructure. However, after the election, the idea spread in constant dispute with the Democrats.

The Democrats want to add further spending on social policy and climate protection to the package. For example, poor households are to receive grants to pay their water bills during the health crisis. According to the will of the Democrats, the ramshackle rail network in the USA is also to be renovated. Remote regions are also to be given better broadband access.

The Republican majority in the Senate can only get used to a much more modest infrastructure program that plans to spend $ 287 billion over five years, mostly on better roads. But with every week that unemployment rises in the United States, the pressure on Republican senators to give up their aversion to a new, large stimulus package increases.

More: America’s oath of revelation: Corona and the US system errors.

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Corona pandemic: slump in oil prices weakens US economy

new York The situation was “just sobering” two weeks ago, Dan Eberhart recalls. The head of Canary Oil, an oil service provider from Denver, Colorado, fired the first 40 employees at the time and hoped desperately for a signal from the White House. But since then the situation has deteriorated dramatically. “The whole industry will soon jump over the cliff,” he believes. “We just don’t know where the floor is.”

The oil price has dropped to its lowest level in 18 years this week. Hardly anyone is driving a car these days, airlines are canceling their flights on a grand scale. The oil producers are not only struggling with the slumping demand in the corona crisis. They also suffer from the oversupply because Saudi Arabia and Russia are currently flooding the market with oil in a price war.

Trump announced on Thursday that Russia and Saudi Arabia would cut production, which caused the oil price to skyrocket again.

What would particularly delight drivers in normal times is currently endangering the American dream of independence in energy supply. It was above all the controversial fracking that enabled the United States to significantly increase its domestic production and thus become an oil exporter and thus independent. However, the costs for this type of production are high and are no longer worthwhile given the low oil prices on the world market.

Lydia Boussour, economist at Oxford Economics, predicts: “The oil price crash has a negative impact on the US economy.” If the oil price decline persists, the American economy will cost around 0.2 percent of GDP.

“Destruction of Demand”

Already last year, when the price of oil fell but was still far from today’s level, the problems worsened for many companies. According to Hayes and Boone’s, a law firm specializing in energy and restructuring, a total of 50 oil companies applied for bankruptcy protection – including 33 oil and gas producers and 15 service providers for oil fields.

Even the big names like Chevron and Schlumberger from Texas announced billions of dollars in depreciation. They are also reducing their investments in shale – in other words, in fracking funding.

The low oil price has also brought the US President on the scene. He wants to meet with the CEOs of the largest oil companies on Friday to discuss ways out. Various options are likely to be negotiated: Will there be government aid to the US oil industry? Or are punitive tariffs on oil from Saudi Arabia conceivable? Among other things, the state could buy and store oil. The oil companies were left out of the latest aid package.

The meeting is scheduled to take place on Friday at the White House. According to the report of the “Wall Street Journal”, CEO Darren Woods from Exxon Be mobile, Mike Wirth from Chevron, Vicky Hollub from Occidental petroleum and Harold Hamm from Continental Resources. The news of the meeting alone boosted the oil price on Wednesday.

Loud Goldman Sachs the new oil price war is “not just the biggest economic shock of our life”. The oil industry is “in the crosshairs”. And this at a time when the coronavirus is already making things difficult.

“This destruction of demand is catastrophic for us,” says the head of Canary Oil about the effects of the corona crisis. His company is an oil field service provider that carries out oil field drilling for customers in the oil and gas industry, rents fracking equipment and offers maintenance and repairs.

The oil manager has been at the head of Canary Oil for 15 years and is well wired to the White House. He has been collecting donations for Republican senators for years and regularly calls Trump’s economic adviser Larry Kudlow.

He already had the President himself on the phone. Most recently, he appealed to the White House on the CNBC: “Trump should actively try to solve the problem with Russia and Saudi Arabia.”

Eberhart, who is active in major oil states in Colorado, North Dakota and Oklahoma, is seeing a number of companies shut down capacity, fire people, draw lines of credit.

Colorado’s friting company Whiting Petroleum had used its entire $ 650 million credit facility last week to be on the safe side. That should actually help service the outstanding bonds. As early as Wednesday of this week, however, the company had to apply for bankruptcy protection.

Funding at a record level

Eberhart is also in negotiations with his banks. The companies in the oil industry are notorious for their high levels of debt. “Many did not recover very well from the last slump in oil prices in 2014,” explains Eberhart. “Hardly anyone has a buffer for bad times.”

In addition, storage capacities are becoming scarce across the country. “For the first time ever, we don’t have enough,” says Eberhart. Regulators in Texas are therefore considering officially reducing production capacity for the first time in decades.

The prices for storage on ships have quadrupled. Storage prices in tanks in Cushing, Oklahoma, have also doubled in the past three weeks. Eberhart is convinced that this could lead oil producers to reduce their capacities.

So far, however, there has been no sign of a capacity shutdown. Despite the low oil price and high storage costs, the US oil companies have recently produced record quantities of oil so that they do not have to accept a drop in sales. According to the Energy Information Administration, the US oil industry has continued to produce 13 million barrels of oil a day.

That is only slightly below the record production volumes of the past. The demand for oil does not justify this: it fell from 8.8 million barrels to 6.7 million barrels a day last week. A year ago, demand was 9.2 million barrels.

“Right now we have a supply and a demand problem,” explains Helima Croft, head of RBC Capital Markets’ global raw materials strategy. She estimates that as more states call on citizens to stay at home, demand will drop to 6.2 million barrels a day.

More: The battle for the oil price: how are Saudi Arabia and Russia positioned?

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Xerox withdraws billion dollar offer for HP

HP headquarters

The hostile takeover of the computer manufacturer was canceled.

(Photo: AFP)

San Francisco The US printer manufacturer Xerox In the middle of the corona virus pandemic, the planned hostile takeover of the computer company HP stops. Xerox described Tuesday night’s move as disappointing, but necessary to focus on addressing the current crisis.

Xerox had $ 35 billion for the much larger one HP offered, which makes about six times as much annual turnover. The group should have largely financed the acquisition through new debt.

Not only the financial uncertainty caused by Corona seems to have made the deal impossible, but also the impact of the pandemic on the business of both companies: Xerox mainly sells large printers that are used in offices and are currently hardly used and least of all are bought. HP, on the other hand, benefits more from the trend towards home office.

The Silicon Valley pioneer makes two thirds of its sales with home computers, and its printers are also aimed at private individuals. In the crisis, Xerox’s business is under more pressure than HP’s.

The value of Xerox stock has halved in the past five weeks, while HP’s share certificates have fallen by around a quarter, about the same as the overall market.
Both papers suffered from the end of the takeover fantasy: Xerox shares fell by more than two percent in morning trading in New York, and HP shares fell by more than nine percent.

Icahn is already moving on

The streak puller behind the deal was the activist investor Carl Icahn, who at least temporarily held larger shares in both companies. Icahn already seems to have shifted his focus: In an interview with CNBC, the billionaire said recently that the shares of some corporations are now being “given away”. He had long considered the stock market overvalued, but now there are stocks of some solid companies to buy cheap.

The withdrawal is considered a victory for HP boss Enrique Lores, who had rejected the takeover offer published for the first time in November as too low. In February, Xerox increased its offer again, whereupon Lores showed unwillingness to talk.

Now the Spaniard, who has only been leading HP since November, is confident that HP can survive the crisis on his own: “We have a healthy cash position and a balance sheet that enables us to tackle unexpected challenges like a pandemic while at the same time being strategic To keep options open for the future. ”

HP has invested heavily in the development of industrial 3D printers in recent years. These were used in the times of Corona in the production of face or respiratory masks.

More: Follow the current developments in the corona crisis in our news blog.

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Amazon under pressure due to strike organizer’s termination

Amazon

Demonstrators in front of Amazon’s fulfillment center in Staten Island: The fired employee had started a protest.

(Photo: AP)

new York The world’s largest online retailer Amazon is at risk of being fired by an employee who had co-organized a strike for allegedly poor working conditions in the corona crisis. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday (local time) that it had ordered an investigation into the incident by the city’s human rights officer.

The fired employee had started a protest because Amazon was insufficiently protecting its employees in a warehouse in the Staten Island district of New York from the corona virus. However, the company denies this. A spokesman for the company told CNBC that the man had been fired for violating quarantine requirements and thereby endangering colleagues.

Previously, New York’s powerful Attorney General Letitia James had described the dismissal as “immoral and inhumane” and had announced that she would consider all legal options. She also called on the National Labor Relations Board to investigate.

Amazon’s delivery services are important suppliers in the Corona pandemic in New York, but have recently been heavily criticized for their working conditions.

More: Amazon’s papers benefit from the corona crisis – at least in comparison to those of other companies.

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Hedge fund legend Ackman bets against the stock market panic – and wins billions

Bill Ackman

The hedge fund manager makes a recovery bet in times of virus panic.

(Photo: Bloomberg / Getty Images)

new York It was an emotional interview Bill Ackman gave last week on CNBC. The otherwise cool hedge fund manager became personal. The 53-year-old’s voice came to a halt again and again when he spoke about the corona virus: “Everyone believes that there is a 99 percent chance that it will turn out lightly for you.

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Airbnbs IPO due to slump in sales on the brink

San Francisco, Dusseldorf Tom’s email inbox in the second week of March popped up as many cancellations as before in ten years. The Berliner rents out two of his apartments in the Mitte district via the Airbnb platform. And tourists usually love his apartments: in 2019, the apartments were 95 percent fully booked.

But now nobody is interested. Museums in the capital are closed due to the corona virus, trade fairs canceled. This affects not only Tom, but countless landlords – and thus the platform itself.

Border controls, travel bans and contact bans as well as curfews hit Airbnb as hard as few other companies. Worldwide sales of the platform from San Francisco collapse dramatically, as data from market analyst Airdna show, which are exclusively available to the Handelsblatt.

So far, the company of founders Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia and Nathan Blecharczyk has weathered many setbacks. But Corona could now hit the core of the company. The virus threatens one of the highest rated startups in the world.

The numbers show: According to Airdna, sales on the platform in Germany were still € 31 million in mid-February, at the end of last week it was just over € 13 million. Airbnb takes a commission from this turnover, which is between 14 and 20 percent.

Airbnb’s business is slumping in other European markets: In France, where Paris is one of the most important Airbnb travel destinations worldwide, sales fell from around 120 million euros in mid-February to 55 million euros in mid-March. It also halved in Italy and Spain from around 60 million to less than 30 million each.

Airbnb is responsible for part of the drop in sales: The platform canceled the cancellation fees for bookings by mid-April. The majority of the costs are borne by hosts anyway, who are now being forced to reimburse them 100 percent.

Landlords have to rent apartments regularly again

Tom says he can understand: “Firstly, because Airbnb itself is currently accumulating losses and nobody knows how long it will take. Furthermore, today’s guests are also tomorrow’s guests, ”he says. “At some point the crisis will be over, and then the guests will remember the good-natured way Airbnbs.”

Tom rents his apartments permanently through the platform. Landlords like him are often criticized for exacerbating the housing shortage in cities like Berlin. That’s why he doesn’t want to read his last name in the newspaper. However, he does not violate the Berlin misappropriation law, among other things because he advertised on Airbnb before it entered into force in 2014.

Rentals have long been a lucrative business for him. Initially, Tom and his wife had only wanted to finance their own apartment with the rental and then wanted to build a second mainstay. In the meantime, they only live on it. But the more dependent the hosts are on their Airbnb rentals, the harder the crisis hits them.

graphic

“We sometimes throw up vomit and clean the toilets ourselves,” says Tom. Renting apartments through Airbnb – that is lucrative, but also work. In the best case, they would need two hours for cleaning when changing tenants.

There are also check-in, laundry and the organization of bookings. According to his own statements, they have about 1000 euros in running costs per month, he says – for ancillary costs, basic costs such as broadcasting fees, tax consultants, insurance and depreciation.

And now that: All bookings were canceled in April, half so far in May, June and July, and 25 percent of bookings had already been withdrawn in August, says Tom. “The virus hits us like any medium-sized hotel.”

He now expects a kind of “market shakeout”. Some Airbnb rental companies would rent apartments to students again. He knows from landlord forums that many should have little choice: “Many only had dollar signs in their heads and were unreasonable when it came to the topic.” No tourists for months? Nobody expected that.

Number of landlords is falling

The Airdna figures also show that some landlords are already turning away from Airbnb: In Germany, the number of landlords fell from 162,000 to 151,000 between January and March. The trend is similar in larger markets: In the United States, the number dropped from 1.045 million accommodations to around one million, in China from 700,000 to less than 600,000. The company does not comment on Airdna’s figures.

However, there are now Signs that there is an effect on the housing market – In cities popular with tourists worldwide, more apartments have been regularly offered for rent since the outbreak of the corona crisis.

The corona pandemic hits the entire travel industry hard: the booking platforms Booking and Expedia have lost 40 and 60 percent of their value since mid-February. The Marriott hotel chain sent tens of thousands of its employees on unpaid forced leave. But for Airbnb the global travel freeze comes at a particularly bad time: the start-up actually wanted to go public in the course of the year.

Before the corona crisis, the Airbnb IPO promised to be the largest technology IPO of the year. The platform is already one of the most valuable start-ups in the world. In its last round of financing in mid-2016, the travel platform was valued at $ 31 billion or $ 105 per share by investors such as Andreessen Horowitz or Google’s investment arm Capital G.

Airbnb chief Brian Chesky

The head of the placement platform could upset many employees with a postponement of the IPO.

(Photo: JEENAH MOON / The New York Times / R)

When Airbnb took over the booking platform Hotel-Tonight in March 2019, which Airbnb partially owned, the value of Airbnb was even valued at more than $ 35 billion or $ 120 per share. For individual transactions in the secondary market, the value of Airbnb stock rose up to $ 166, which would have been an overall valuation of $ 52 billion.

With this tailwind and worldwide recognition, Airbnb boss Brian Chesky even flirted with a direct listing as Airbnb’s way to the stock exchange. With such a listing without syndicate banks, the company does without the PR roadshow and the security mechanisms on the first day of trading, which are intended to prevent a sudden price crash. But Airbnb seemed stable enough to be able to do without all of that.

Also a series of failed IPOs by prominent technology companies like Lyft, About or WeWork in the course of 2019, Airbnb was unable to do anything from the perspective of its investors: after evaluating the trading journal of seven investment funds that hold shares in Airbnb, they still valued an Airbnb share at the turn of the year 2019/20 at $ 120 on average. Some of the funds publish the value of their shares every quarter – they have to re-evaluate Airbnbs value as of March 31.

Deep red numbers

However, negative headlines began to accumulate in the second half of 2019, and not just in the numbers. The most dramatic incident for the company happened at a Halloween party. Five people were shot in an Airbnb apartment in the United States. A horror not only for those affected, but for all landlords and the company. At the time, the company announced, among other things, to take more action against unauthorized parties.

After Airbnb concluded 2017 and 2018 with an EBITDA profit in the low double-digit million range, the company slid deep into the red in 2019. According to a report by the digital trade media “The Information”, greatly increased marketing spending in the first quarter of 2019 caused a loss of $ 306 million – twice as much as in the same period last year.

The loss in the fourth quarter of 2019 also doubled over the comparable period to $ 276.4 million, as Bloomberg recently reported.

Even the marketing turbo could not ensure that sales increased accordingly. While it increased 32 percent to $ 1.1 billion in the fourth quarter of 2019, it grew more slowly than in the previous year.

This year alone Airbnb’s losses are expected to be in the hundreds of millions. However, the mediation platform is not yet in a threatening situation. Airbnb currently has $ 4 billion in liquidity, a spokesman said – $ 3 billion in the bank and a $ 1 billion line of credit that Airbnb has yet to touch.

The finance agency Bloomberg, on the other hand, had cited insiders two weeks ago that the company had only two billion dollars in cash, one billion less than half a year earlier.

The corona crisis now puts founder Brian Chesky under pressure: The growth, which had previously slowed down, should now be a thing of the past. The first three months of the year are considered to be a rather weak travel quarter anyway – but no one knows how long the corona effect will sweep away the platform. And nobody on Wall Street is waiting for a loss-making start-up with lean or no growth.

Employees insist on going public despite everything

According to media reports, Airbnb is currently exploring the valuation at which another private financing round could take place. Ron Conway, one of Airbnb’s first investors, told CNBC on Friday that it was receiving numerous calls from major tech investors who were about to invest right now.

The only question is how low the rating could go. Even the $ 31 billion mark from the last round of 2016 should no longer be sustainable in the current situation, according to insiders. Not only four years of added value would be lost – a “down-round” financing at a lower value awakens the sense of shame in the growth-spoiled Silicon Valley.

The Corona crisis could actually give Airbnb the perfect opportunity to cancel the IPO. Cash reserves should be enough even in a cruel 2020, and once the crisis is over, growth rates could look all the more impressive. But if the company were to cancel, the company would face an uprising of many long-term employees who could then go away empty-handed.

As reported by “The Information”, the company distributed so-called “restricted stock units” (RSU) to many employees who came to Airbnb during a large recruitment wave in 2014 and 2015 instead of the usual stock options and only allowed them to sell them on secondary markets to a very limited extent.

These RSUs are not converted into shares until they go public and have an expiry date – seven years after issue in the Airbnb case. In November, the first employees would lose their chance of a big payday, and the next ones would be in mid-2021: a catastrophic signal for morale at headquarters at 888 Brennan Street in downtown San Francisco.

Last summer, employees wrote a letter to Chesky and his co-founders Joe Gebbia and Nathan Blecharczyk, and pressed for an IPO – which responded in September with the one-line IPO announcement for the following year.

“We only see our package of measures as a first step”

Now Airbnb doesn’t seem to have any good alternatives anymore. Sitting out the crisis and living off cash reserves is risky, but accepting a downround is embarrassing. A direct listing seems ruled out in the current market mood and would also not wash any additional money into the cash register. According to the “Wall Street Journal”, Airbnbs Board is currently advising on a classic IPO – with banks and millions of euros that Chesky actually wanted to save.

Airbnb therefore asked for help last week. In an open letter to US politicians, Chris Lehane, the company’s top lobbyist, asked for emergency loans for the hosts on the platform, who are now breaking out of business. From the hope of the stock exchange to the supplicant – in times of Corona this is quick.

Airbnb rental company Tom has made for bad times. Only after a year would the absence of tourists become critical for his family, he says. Therefore, he can now make his own contribution to the crisis. From the end of March, he rented temporarily at cost price to guest employees of the Berlin Charité and the Robert Koch Institute, whose houses can be reached on foot from his apartments.

More: Cancellation costs due to the corona virus – this is the location for travelers

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Share prices in Tokyo rise – Seoul loses a lot

Tokyo Asia’s stock markets reacted very differently to the coronavirus crisis on Monday morning. While the Tokyo Stock Exchange was stable in trading and China’s Shanghai Composite Index only lost three percent, prices in South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia plummeted again.

One reason observers believe is that the US Senate was unable to agree on an aid program with the House of Representatives. The markets were also worried by James Bullard, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, that the US unemployment rate could rise to 30 percent in the second quarter. S&P futures fell temporarily by five percent. However, local developments in Asia also acted as a catalyst in some cases.

The stock exchange in Japan was closed on Friday, and on Monday it still seemed to be in a kind of holiday mood: the market did not experience rollercoaster rides on the courses, but remained stable for a long time in the morning. The Nikkei 225 index temporarily rose by more than one percent and, at 16,633.46 points, was 0.50 percent lower than the lunch break on Thursday. In contrast, the broader Topix index fell by one percent to 1,270.39 points

The business newspaper “Nikkei” saw two trends at work that were balanced. On the one hand, foreign investors would continue to sell shares, the newspaper said. On the other hand, the announcement by the central bank to buy more listed equity funds reduces the risk in the eyes of local investors that the collapse on the stock market will continue unabated.

On Friday, South Korea’s Kospi index skyrocketed by more than seven percent after a currency swap agreement between nine central banks. On Monday, the fear of the pandemic had the investors firmly under control again: trading was interrupted twice in the first half hour in order to slow the price crash.

The measure achieved a stage success. After the Kospi index had only dropped by six percent, prices rose again from ten o’clock local time. At 11:47 a.m., the Korean leading index was 1,487.23 points, five percent below the previous day’s closing price.

Singapore is sealing itself off

The Hong Kong Hangseng Index lost 4.3 percent, the Chinese Shanghai Composite Index two percent. However, other markets in the region were hit harder. In Singapore, the Straits-Times index also lost 8.2 percent after gains on the previous trading day up to 10:55 am local time. Because in addition to the general global malaise, the city-state threatens to lose its function as a traffic and trade hub for the time being under the increasingly tough entry restrictions at home and abroad.

The air Line Singapore Airlines showed investors the dramatic extent on Monday with tangible measures. The company announced that it would reduce its air traffic by 96 percent until further notice. In the future, only nine of the 147 aircraft will go into regular flight operations. The Group’s budget airline will park 47 of its 49 aircraft on the tarmac. And the outlook is bleak.

It is unclear when normal flight operations can resume, the global airline said. She is currently trying to counter the collapse with emergency measures such as a reduction in the salaries of board members and employees.

In Australia, the banking sector temporarily drove the crash of the Australian “All Ordinaries”. The sub-index of financial institutions temporarily lost more than ten percent as investors try to keep pricing in bad news. On CNBC TV, James Sullivan, JP Morgan’s head of Equity Research for Asia (excluding Japan), said: “It is correct to say that Asian markets will continue to respond to the negative sentiment coming from Europe and the United States.”

More: Read the current developments on the corona virus in the live blog.

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