Show Me the Money! Forbes Unveils Its Annual List of People With Money to Show; UK Shows Google What Happens When You Don’t Shut Down Haters; Twitter Did Something Impressive. Just Not With Its Earnings

Rich-y rich…

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Image courtesy of iosphere/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s that time of year again. The one where Forbes reminds us just how much money we don’t have relative to the richest people in the world. And here goes. There are 13% more billionaires this year than last year and their combined net worth totals almost $7.7 trillion. Yes. Trillion.  The number one spot goes to Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates who’s net with totals $86 billion. When Gates is not busy fixing the world and explaining to the President why his budget ideas are bad ideas, he runs the world’s largest charitable organization. Naturally, the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffet, comes in a close second with a net worth of $75.6 billion, while Amazon’s Jeff Bezos makes his debut into the top three with a net worth of $72.8 billion. And even though we only finally see a woman on this list at the number 14 spot, there’s still some uplifting news. For instance, the number of women who ma∂e it onto the list has increased 170% since 2009. Also, there’s a record 56 women on the list who are self-made billionaires. If you’re curious to see who did and didn’t make the list, click here to find out. And spoiler alert: Perhaps President Donald Trump really ought to consult Bill Gates on any and all future budget concerns for the country, considering he lost a billion in the last year and ranks #544.

Dis-content…

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Just when you thought Google could do no wrong, the search engine giant finds itself in the midst of some major policy revamping after a bunch of big-name advertisers pulled their marketing  – and whole lot of money – because it was showing up on /sexist/hate-filled/offensive/anti-semitic/terrorist-promoting content. The trouble started when major brands, including the BBC and department store chain Marks & Spencer, noticed their ads being being placed alongside content promoting violent extremist groups. Last I heard, department stores were no great fans of terrorism. Now, part of the policy revamp includes broadening Google and YouTube’s definitions of hate speech, which is always a good thing since hate manages to always rear its ugly face no matter how subtly its presented. Also, content won’t be able discrimnate against groups based on their identity, socieo-economic class and country of origin. Such measures ought to make it a tad bit more difficult for the haters to get their odious messages out. In addition to some added controls and a few default settings, Google should end up creating a kinder, gentler platform. Hopefully…

Speaking of which…

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Even though Twitter doesn’t exactly have the fiscal luxury to delete accounts, to its credit, the social media company did just that and put the kibosh on close to 380,000 of them because of their links to terrorism. So lousy earnings aside I say “Kudos” to Twitter.  Those accounts were just the ones it took down between July and December of 2016.  Since August of 2015, over 635,000 accounts have been removed for the same reason. The information was disclosed in its latest transparency report and these actions are part of an effort to weed out extremist groups and other assorted haters. Interestingly enough, almost 75% of the accounts that were removed from Twitter were discovered by technology created just for this purpose for Twitter, while 2% of those accounts came down after governments made requests for the company to get rid of them.

 

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Love is…An IPO; Volkswagen’s “Goodwill”; Snapchat Vs. Facebook Video Smackdown

For the love of money…

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Image courtesy of atibodyphoto/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

While the odds of meeting “the one” via online dating are slim, that hasn’t stopped Match Group Inc from making a regulatory filing for an initial public offering on NASDAQ under the ticker symbol MTCH. The company, which also owns Tinder and OKCupid, is looking to raise close to $404 million in order to pay of some of its debt to billionaire Barry Diller’s IAC InterActiveCorp. The company’s, whose value is estimated to be around $3 billion, is looking to sell some 33.3 million shares for somewhere between $12 – $14 a pop. Indeed, online dating is very big business, despite the odds. In 2014, Match Group pulled down $148 million in profit on $88 million in sales. In the last twelve months, the company saw about $1 billion in revenue with sites getting 59 million monthly active users along with 4.7 million paid members. The sites run on 38 languages in close to 200 countries. A lot of the big bucks are coming from mobile users as evidenced by the fact the 68% of new registrations came from mobile devices in just the first six months of the year. So whether you find love, or not, is besides the point. The money comes from the quest to find it.

A little desperate?

Image courtesy of Paul/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Paul/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You know its bad when they start handing out $500 Visa gift cards. And that’s exactly what Volkswagen decided to do in the wake of the company’s emissions software scandal that magically allows some cars to release up to 40 times the legal amount of nitrogen oxide into the air we breathe. The embattled auto company is also giving away $500 in dealership credit. Oh, and three years of free roadside assistance. Did I say free? Well, you basically relinquish your right to sue Volkswagen if you happen to own or lease one of their 11 million affected cars. Don’t worry, though. Only 482,000 of them are currently polluting the United States. So say goodbye to personal lawsuits or class-action participation. Like the one that’s suing Volkswagen to get it to buy back your vehicle for the exact amount you paid. Of course, that’s assuming the lawyers arguing that case actually win. Then there’s the potential $18 billion criminal lawsuit looming against Volkswagen for violating the United States Clean Air Act. Except, you can’t be a part of that one since it would be coming from the government. But you would lose out on any potential future compensation. Once you sign up for one of Volkwagen’s “goodwill package,” you are on your own.  Some Audi drivers will be eligible for the deal, as well. In order to get your $500 Visa gift, dealer credit and free roadside assistance, you have to go to VWDieselInfo.com and sign your life away. Sort of. Then wait four weeks to go shopping. You have until April 30, my emissions spewing friend.

Do I smell an IPO?

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Snapchat dissed Facebook once by rejecting the social networks’s $3 billion offer to buy it back in 2013. Now, the messaging app is nipping at Facebook’s heels as it just announced that its daily video views tripled to 6 billion…since May. Facebook’s video views, while doubling to 8 billion, are not considered nearly as impressive, since Facebook’s views are coming from desktop computers and mobile devices, while Snapchat’s views are exclusively done on mobile devices. Those video advertising’s numbers pull in way more cash than your plain old digital ads. One research firm predicts a 42% jump in digital video revenue to $7.5 billion and you can be sure Snapchat and Facebook are going to be fighting it out for as big a share as possible. Especially where apps are concerned, those digits are huge. But there seems to be some dispute as to what counts as a video view and it all depends on where you’re watching it. If you happen to be spending some quality time with your Facebook account, the social media counts a view as three seconds or more. Youtube counts 30 seconds as a bona fide view. But Snapchat charges for views that just less than a second. You be the viewing judge.

Amazon is Be-Twitched; Let’s Hear it for the S&P 500; Oh, Burger King

Getting Twitch-y with it…

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Image courtesy of bulldogza/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Streaming video-game service Twitch just scored a premium deal with Amazon. The super e-tailer just picked up Twitch for close to a billion dollars. Not bad for a service that lets its users watch other people play games. Yes, it’s true. People like to watch other people play games. Whether they’re skilled gamers or total amateurs. The Twitch acquisition happens to be Amazon’s biggest purchase to date. But what was it about Twitch that made Amazon want to add it to its collection? Well, besides the fact that Twitch gets more than 50 million monthly users with about 7 million logging on each day, its users typically linger at the site for around two hours  – that’s two hours of major advertising potential that Amazon is all too eager to tap into. Incidentally, Google was rumored to be the one picking up Twitch. But wouldn’t you know  it….some pesky antitrust issues were getting in the way, presumably because Google already owns the competition – YouTube.

Gimme an S, gimme a P…

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Image courtesy of Photokanok/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The S&P 500, which so often toys with our fiscal emotions, just hit the 2000 mark today. Oddly enough, even though it took the index thirteen years to go from 1500 to 1600, since March of 2009, the index has rallied in a very bullish market, with companies listed on it gaining around 200%. Companies listed in the S&P inlcude Apple, Google and Facebook.  The index is seen as important in terms of the Wall Street psyche. Which is all well and good, since these days the index seems to be indicating that stocks – some anyway – are worth the investment.

Can’t tax this…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In the latest exodus of major companies, Florida-based Burger King is getting set to cross the Canadian border as talks are in the works for a merger between the burger powerhouse and Canadian-based coffee and donut chain Tim Hortons. Besides the fact that Canadians are just so gosh darn nice ( I know this to be true as some of my best friends are Canadian), the country’s corporate tax laws are equally lovely – and considerably lower. Wall Street seemed to also be pleased by the news of this merger as shares of both companies took a nice hike north  – no pun intended – well maybe a little. This move is sure to help Burger King stake out some territory in the increasingly competitive breakfast arena. Of course leave it to politicians who would like to spoil a perectly lucrative merger as tax inversions tend to infuriate them. After all, they don’t so much appreciate US companies defecting in favor of better tax rates. But then perhaps those politicians should focus their efforts on tax reforms instead of trying to prevent these inversions. Some factions in Canada aren’t too thrilled about the inversions either as Canadian comapnies get conveniently scooped up by its neighbors to the south. It should be duly noted that this merger will not dramatically decrease Burger King’s tax rate which is already at a 27 % tax rate, compared to the usual US corporate tax rate of 35%. But Canada’s corporate tax rate is a major bargain at 15%. And who doesn’t like a bargain, eh?