Google is shutting down chat app Allo

Google plans to kill chat app Allo by the middle of next year, the company said in a blog post, confirming a report earlier on Wednesday about the product’s imminent demise.

Despite owning the world’s dominant smartphone operating system in Android, Google has never been able to create a chat experience to rival Apple’s iMessage or Facebook’s Messenger and WhatsApp.

Allo, which launched two years ago to much fanfare, will only work until March 2019, at which point users will have to download any conversations they want to save. Meanwhile, Google will focus fully on the development of Messages, its other chat app for Android phones. Earlier this year, Google announced that it was working with mobile carriers on a new Rich Communication Services (RCS) standard, an upgrade to classic SMS texting, to make messaging work better across Android devices, and bring users features like read receipts and seamless group chats.

That initiative was the beginning of the end for Allo, which saw its product lead defect to Facebook earlier this year.

Google also said in its blog post that it plans to support another one of its chat apps, Hangouts, until it makes two of its enterprise apps, Hangouts Chat and Meet, available for non-paying users.

A Google employee tweeted earlier on Thursday that Meet and Chat would launch for regular consumers next year:


European markets close at 2-year low; Stoxx 600 slips 3.3 percent

European stocks cratered on Thursday, amid fears of slowing growth, falling oil prices and a fresh flare-up in tensions between the world’s two largest economies.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 fell more than 3.3 percent with all and major bourses sectors in negative territory. The index clsoed at 342 points, marking a two year low. It was the worst daily percentage drop for the STOXX 600 since Brexit.

Germany’s Dax market, when measured on an intra-day basis has closed in bear market territory. 21 percent lower than its high in late January.

FTSE FTSE 100 6704.05
-217.79 -3.15% 1061628447
DAX DAX 10810.98
UNCH 0% 0
CAC CAC 4780.46
UNCH 0% 144862545

Market focus is largely attuned to the arrest of a top executive at Chinese tech giant Huawei, amid investor concern that the news could derail progress in U.S.-Sino trade talks.

Europe’s basic resources stocks — with their heavy exposure to China — tumbled 4.2 percent during the session. Britain’s FTSE 100 index slumped 3.6 percent Thursday, as mining stocks plummeted. London-listed Antofagasta led the sectoral losses, down more than 7 percent.

Meanwhile, autos stocks — seen as a trade war proxy because of the sector’s export-heavy constituent’s — were also among the worst performers, down more than 4.5 percent. Faurecia and Daimler both dropped more than 6 percent.

Tech stocks were also down more than 3 percent on Thursday, following the arrest of Huawei’s global chief financial officer in Vancouver on Wednesday. Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, was arrested by Canadian authorities on December 1, reportedly over the possible violation of sanctions against Iran. She now faces extradition to the United States.

Looking at individual stocks, Italy’s DiaSorin tumbled toward the bottom of the European benchmark Thursday morning, after Kepler Cheuvreux cut its stock recommendation to “hold” from “buy.” Shares of the Milan-listed company fell more than 7 percent on the news.

Trade tensions

Wanzhou’s arrest has sparked concern of a major collision between the U.S. and China, at a time when both economic powers were set to begin three months of negotiations aimed at de-escalating their global trade war.

The U.S. and China had agreed to temporarily hold off on imposing additional charges against each other’s goods over the weekend. President Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping’s trade truce prompted global stocks to surge higher at the start of the trading week, but fading optimism over the political deal has since pared equity market gains.

U.S. stocks fell sharply on Thursday as continuing fears over U.S.-China trade relations and concern over a possible global economic slowdown kept investors on edge.

At the European closing bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had dropped 758 points, bringing its two-day losses to 1,500 points as Apple shares fell. The S&P 500 fell 2.8 percent, led by a decline in bank shares like J.P. Morgan Chase, while the Nasdaq Composite also dropped 2.4 percent. The S&P 500 fell back into correction territory, down 10 percent from its 52-week high.

Oil slump

Back in Europe, market participants closely monitored a much-anticipated meeting between OPEC and non-OPEC members in Vienna, Austria on Thursday and Friday. The 15-member group and its allied partners reportedly agreed to cut oil production, but the cartel is not releasing details of the deal until it reaches an agreement with allied producers including Russia.

Oil prices tumbled more than 3 percent on Thursday as OPEC reportedly agreed to cut production, but ended its closely-watched meeting without a decision on how much crude the cartel will take off the market.

International benchmark Brent crude fell $1.66, or 2.7 percent, at $59.90 a barrel around 11:03 a.m. ET (1603 GMT), after falling to a session low at $58.36. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude was down $1.79, or 3.4 percent, at $51.10, falling back towards the session low of $50.23.


Newcastle United could be the latest Premier League soccer team to have American owners in $382 million takeover

The owner of English Premier League team Newcastle United, Mike Ashley, is reportedly in talks with an American financial investment firm over a potential sale of the club.

A successful deal would bring his tumultuous 11 years in charge at the club to an end. Ashley is also the majority shareholder in U.K.-based sporting goods chain Sports Direct and gave an interview to Sky News earlier this week saying discussions over a sale “are at a more progressed stage than they have ever been.”

Fabian Schar of Newcastle United battles for possession with Bernard of Everton during a Premier League match on December 5, 2018 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. 

Jan Kruger | Getty Images Sport | Getty Images
Fabian Schar of Newcastle United battles for possession with Bernard of Everton during a Premier League match on December 5, 2018 in Liverpool, United Kingdom.

It’s now believed the bid he was referring to is from the financial advisory company Rockefeller Capital Management. Rockefeller is thought to be working with former Manchester United and Chelsea Chief Executive Peter Kenyon as part of a consortium, but it’s not known if a formal bid has been lodged yet.

Ashley could be considering as many as three other offers from interested parties — all thought to be around his £300 million ($382 million) valuation.

“I am hopeful — for the Newcastle fans, for the club, for everybody, that I will be able to step aside and we will be able to get an owner in that will please everybody,” Ashley said Monday, adding that he was not in exclusive talks with any party.

Ashley bought a controlling stake in the club in 2007 for around £134 million. He has a reported net worth of $3.8 billion and has often been criticized for a lack of investment in the playing squad at Newcastle. He added that any potential buyer must be able to provide transfer funds.

“I’m very keen to sell it to the right buyer so that everybody’s happy,” he added. “That would be good news.”

The club based in the north east of England has officially been up for sale for a year, but according to Ashley recent bids were all deemed to be unsuitable.

In order to complete any takeover, all bids are subject to the Premier League’s fit and proper person’s test, which could take as long as two weeks to complete. This would make Ashley’s estimation of a finalized deal by January 1 seem ambitious at this stage.


Walgreens launches next-day prescription delivery with FedEx to compete with Amazon

Pedestrians walk past a Walgreens store in New York. 

Michael Nagle | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Pedestrians walk past a Walgreens store in New York.

Walgreens is working with FedEx to launch a nationwide next-day delivery service for prescription drugs as the top pharmacy chains gear up to compete with Amazon.

Amazon bought online pharmacy PillPack in June, but the deal has not closed yet, giving Walgreens and its rivals the chance to head off a possible disruption in the pharmacy space.

Even before the e-commerce giant announced the acquisition, pharmacies had anticipated that Amazon would branch out into delivering prescription drugs. Competitor CVS rolled out its own delivery service for prescription drugs in June, just days before the deal.

Walgreens already offers same-day delivery in select markets, and the pharmacy chain will continue to expand that program next year.

The delivery service is part of Walgreens Express, which also lets customers preview the cost of their prescriptions and prepay for those that are eligible. Patients can pay $4.99 to have their qualifying prescription drug delivered as early as the next day or choose to pick it up in stores, checking out in a special express line.

“Next-day prescription home delivery is another convenience-driver, alongside our industry-leading number of extended hours pharmacies and one of the most downloaded digital apps in the category, designed to put care in the hands of our patients,” Richard Ashworth, president of operations for Walgreens, said in a statement.

Walgreens and FedEx have already partnered to let customers pick up and drop off packages at almost 8,000 pharmacies nationwide.


Police raids were not the fault of Deutsche Bank management, CFO says


Money laundering investigation not connected to current management: Deutsche Bank CFO

Investigation not connected to current management: Deutsche Bank CFO   16 Hours Ago | 03:05

Police raids on Deutsche Bank’s offices in Frankfurt last week were not the fault of the current management team, according to the firm’s chief financial officer (CFO).

Two Deutsche Bank staff members are suspected of helping clients set up off-shore businesses to launder money gained from criminal activity.

The wrongdoing is alleged to have continued through to 2018 but the bank’s financial chief, James von Moltke, told CNBC’s Annette Weisbach Thursday that current executives shouldn’t shoulder the blame.

“To date, we are not aware of any wrongdoing on our part, so we will await the conclusion of the prosecutors,” Von Moltke said.

James von Moltke, chief financial officer of Deutsche Bank AG, speaks during a fourth quarter results news conference in Frankfurt, Germany, on Friday, Feb. 2, 2018. 

Andreas Arnold | Bloomberg | Getty Images
James von Moltke, chief financial officer of Deutsche Bank AG, speaks during a fourth quarter results news conference in Frankfurt, Germany, on Friday, Feb. 2, 2018.

Following the comments, Deutsche Bank shares pared losses slightly, but remained around 3 percent lower for the session amid a wider sell-off in global markets.

The public prosecutor’s office in Frankfurt said an evaluation of data from the Panama Papers had triggered suspicion that the bank may have helped customers create offshore companies in tax havens around the world.

In 2016 alone, more than 900 customers with a business volume of 311 million euros ($353.6 million) were thought to have been cared for by a Deutsche Bank subsidiary based in the British Virgin Islands, the prosecutor said.

Von Moltke rejected the suggestion that Deutsche Bank’s present board had been weakened by the raid, adding that the current management team had made “enormous efforts” to improve controls on its system to better understand clients.

Shares of the bank slipped heavily following news of the

e police action and the firm’s corporate bond value also fell.


Why the US government is so suspicious of Huawei

A man walking past a Huawei P20 smartphone advertisement is reflected in a glass door in front of a Huawei logo, at a shopping mall in Shanghai, China December 6, 2018. 

Aly Song | Reuters
A man walking past a Huawei P20 smartphone advertisement is reflected in a glass door in front of a Huawei logo, at a shopping mall in Shanghai, China December 6, 2018.

The arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Canada for possible Iran sanctions violations yesterday has deeper roots in a difficult legal history between the hardware giant and U.S. regulators and intelligence agencies.

The U.S. government has spent the better part of the last decade taking issue with the company over topics including the firm’s alleged espionage ties to the Chinese government and allegations of a long history of intellectual property theft. Huawei is one of China’s largest companies, with a reported $100 billion in revenue in 2018 and 180,000 employees across 170 global offices.

Starting around 2010, U.S. intelligence officials began warning agencies, and then private companies, of what it said were clear-cut cases of the company serving as a proxy for espionage conducted by the Chinese government, a claim frequently made publicly by former National Security Agency director Michael Hayden.

In 2012, the U.S. House Intelligence Committee released a report which followed an investigation into the company and its competitor ZTE.

“The Committee received almost no information on the role of Chinese Communist Party Committee within Huawei or specifics about how Huawei interacts in formal channels with the Chinese government,” the report said. “Huawei refused to provide details about its business operations in the United States, failed to disclose details of its dealings with the Chinese military or intelligence services and would not provide clear answers on the firm’s decision-making processes.”

At that time, the Intelligence Committee also called into question the company’s dealings in Iran, which Huawei had pledged to scale back in accordance with international sanctions.

“Huawei refused to provide any internal documents relating to its decision to scale-back operations in Iran or otherwise ensure compliance with U.S. laws,” the report said.

Huawei has also had trouble breaking into the U.S. market because of the U.S. intelligence reports. In 2011, the company tried to acquire 3Leaf, a deal that was nixed after government pressure.

The company’s equipment has been banned by several different agencies because of the espionage and security fears, and those bans ramped up in 2018, when President Trump disallowed U.S. government use of Huawei products and those made by ZTE, following a CIA and NSA warning in February. In January, AT&T abandoned its plans to launch a new flagship phone from Hauwei.

Huawei was also heavily rumored to be behind Trump’s decision to stop the Broadcom/Qualcomm merger. Also this year, a start-up backed by Microsoft and Dell, sued Huawei for alleged widespread IP theft. Most recently, the FCC also banned Huawei equipment from small and regional carriers earlier this year.

Huawei has strongly denied the claims made against it. Donald Purdy, both a Huawei executive and the former top cybersecurity official at the Department of Homeland Security, said in an op-ed in Fortune in June that the moves would hurt development expansion of 5G service in the U.S.

“Policymakers should bear in mind that overreaching or poorly targeted regulations usually have unintended consequences, such as those that will surely result from the FCC’s proposal to force rural carriers to remove China-sourced equipment from their networks,” he said. “In many cases, Huawei’s is the only equipment that America’s small, independent carriers can afford.”


Lyft files to go public, signalling it could be the first major tech IPO of 2019

A Lyft Amp with driver and passenger on January 31, 2017 in San Francisco, California.

Kelly Sullivan | Getty Images
A Lyft Amp with driver and passenger on January 31, 2017 in San Francisco, California.

Ride-hailing company Lyft on Thursday confidentially filed a statement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for an initial public offering, signalling it could be the first major tech IPO of 2019.

Lyft and rival Uber have each teased 2019 public offerings. The companies have been adding offers and services practically in tandem in recent months as they get closer to a contest on the public markets.

Airbnb, Slack and data-mining firm Palantir are also reportedly eyeing IPOs next year.

Lyft did not specify the number of shares it was selling or the price range for the offering. The offering is likely to exceed the $15.1 billion valuation Lyft posted in June.

The IPO is expected to commence after the SEC completes its review process, Lyft said in its filing. CNBC reported in October that Lyft had selected J.P. Morgan Chase to lead the IPO effort. Credit Suisse and Jefferies are also involved as underwriters in a more junior capacity, people familiar with the matter told CNBC at the time.


Hermes reigns in Glassdoor’s latest ‘Best places to work’ in France survey, outshining the likes of Ubisoft and Amazon


In its fourth year of running a top employers list for France, Glassdoor has seen several companies — like Thales and Airbus — make a reappearance over the years. This December however, the company that’s been hailed as the best place to work for 2019 is a newcomer to France’s list: fashion designer Hermes.

It’s fair to say that France is renowned for its luxury brands, yet Hermes is the only group from this field to make it into this year’s top 10, with Louis Vuitton and L’Oreal coming in at 11 and 16 respectively. Instead, a few other industries fill the top 10, including transportation and retail.

To compile, Glassdoor assessed the input that workers give when offering feedback, in addition to recent ratings, which are on a scale from 1 to 5. The top 10 firms found in this Glassdoor list surpassed the average global rating of 3.4; with each group receiving a figure of 4.2 or higher.

CNBC Make It breaks down the top 10:

10. Amazon

Coming in at number 10 is e-commerce titan Amazon. With a global workforce of more than half a million, Amazon is renowned for its job creation with the e-commerce group stating that in the past five years, it’s created over 125 jobs every day in the States alone.

While office perks vary from country to country, some benefits mentioned include access to medical care and career development programs.

9. Leroy Merlin

Another retailer that’s winning over workers as well as consumers is French-headquartered Leroy Merlin.

Leroy Merlin store in Bonarka City Center. 

Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images
Leroy Merlin store in Bonarka City Center.

The DIY group’s operations are featured in about a dozen countries, with 100,000 staff members employed to keep the retailer functioning around the clock.

Having placed on Glassdoor’s “Best Employers” for France since the survey began in 2016, the retailer attributes one reason why it remains popular among employees, is that it sees people as the “central resource” of the business.

8. Thales

Moving up from last year’s no. 24 spot, Thales is all about being a responsible leader in the transport, security and defense spheres. While Thales has attributed “acting responsibly” as a crucial quality to its long-term success, it’s not the only qualities it aims to foster.

Inside the firm, Thales is dedicated to supporting its staff, through promoting diversity, team collaboration and career development — it even has an in-house university to support employees through any part of their profession.


Sears Chairman Eddie Lampert submits $4.6 billion proposal to save Sears

A man walks by a Sears store.

Andy Clark | Reuters
A man walks by a Sears store.

The fund run by Sears Chairman Eddie Lampert, ESL Investments, submitted a $4.6 billion proposal on Thursday to help save the bankrupt retailer with the purchase of 500 stores.

Sears Holdings, which owns Sears department stores and Kmart, filed for bankruptcy on Oct. 15. In previous court filings, it has said it was in talks with ESL about a “going concern bid” that could help the company emerge from bankruptcy.

The offer outlined Thursday included up to $950 million in cash through an asset-based loan facility, a “credit bid” of $1.8 billion and the assumption of roughly $1.1 billion in liabilities. The liabilities assumed include gift cards, points from its Shop Your Way loyalty program and protection agreements from Sears Home Services. Other funds include additional cash, notes and the rollover of cash collateral.

NYT's Jim Stewart on his interview with former Sears CEO Eddie Lampert

NYT’s Jim Stewart on his interview with former Sears CEO Eddie Lampert   11:03 AM ET Fri, 19 Oct 2018 | 05:08

Should the offer be approved, it would help about 50,000 of Sears’ 68,000 employees retain their jobs, ESL said. The new company would reinstate the severance program it had in place prior to Sears’ bankruptcy filing, ESL also said.

“ESL Investments continues to believe in Sears Holdings’ immense potential to evolve and operate profitably as a going concern with a new capitalization and organizational structure,” ESL wrote in the letter.

ESL may face other competition in its bid for Sears. A “stalking horse bidder” will be named on Dec. 15 in bankruptcy court. That bidder will set the floor for other potential offers. It could not be immediately determined whether others are looking to buy the company.

The offer itself will not ensure Sears’ survival. ESL will need support from its creditors and approval from the bankruptcy court to proceed with its offer.

The company’s unsecured creditors have already said they would prefer the company liquidate rather than sell to ESL, believing it is more valuable in pieces than as a company under ESL’s ownership.

The use of existing debt to buy a company out of bankruptcy through a so-called credit bid is a controversial practice. Some view credit bids as giving investors who buy a distressed company’s debt at cheap prices an unfair path to ownership.


Untuckit, the company known for its untucked shirts, is looking to raise money at a valuation greater than $600 million

Shoppers browse clothing inside an Untuckit LLC store at the King of Prussia mall in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania,  Oct. 20, 2018. 

Jeenah Moon | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Shoppers browse clothing inside an Untuckit LLC store at the King of Prussia mall in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania,  Oct. 20, 2018.

Men have worn untucked shirts for years. When a company came along to sell only shirts that are designed to be untucked – not surprisingly that market turned out to be pretty lucrative.

That company, known as Untuckit, has hired a prominent investment bank to raise money and help fuel its growth, according to people familiar with the situation. Untuckit is seeking a deal that will value it at more than $600 million and has Morgan Stanley out looking for the funds.

In doing so, it follows a similar path forged by other brands like sustainable sneaker brand AllBirds, which in October raised $50 million from T. Rowe Price, Fidelity and Tiger Global.

Untuckit has roughly $150 million in sales and is profitable, the people said. It raised $30 million from venture firm Kleiner Perkins last June, reportedly valuing it at more than $200 million.

The people asked not to be named because the information is confidential. Untuckit and Morgan Stanley declined to comment.

Untuckit is the brainchild of Executive Chairman Chris Riccobono and CEO Aaron Sanandres. Riccobono had been struggling to find a dress shirt that wasn’t too big or too baggy. He worked to develop a professional solution with his fellow Columbia Business School classmate.

The two launched the brand online in 2011. Four years later, they opened its first brick-and-mortar store in New York’s SoHo district. The co-founders were early believers in the idea that e-commerce companies can benefit from storefronts, which can help to alleviate marketing and delivery costs.

Untuckit now has 50 stores nationwide and has said it aims to open 100 stores over the next five years.

The brand has also expanded beyond men who want to go untucked. It now sells shirts, dresses, tees and jackets for women, as well as shirts and bottoms for boys.