COMPANY NEWS IN BRIEF

15 September 2021 | Business

BAT made dubious payments to Africa

Tobacco giant British American Tobacco (BAT) allegedly made hundreds of "questionable payments" in 10 African countries over five years to influence health policies and sabotage competitors, a watchdog claimed Tuesday.

The London-headquartered multinational allegedly doled out more than US$600 000 in cash, cars, per diems and campaign donations to dozens of politicians, lawmakers, civil servants, journalists and staff at rival companies between 2008 and 2013.

In two reports released Tuesday, global tobacco industry watchdog STOP said BAT acted "as if it were above the law", bullying its way into a relatively under-tapped market of African youths.

The findings are based on whistle-blower testimonies, leaked documents and court records analysed by the University of Bath's Tobacco Control Research Group (TCRG).

Researchers identified 236 "questionable payments" made in Burundi, the Comoros, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia totalling US$601 502.-Nampa/AFP

Google fined US$177 million

A South Korea's antitrust regulator has fined Alphabet Inc's Google 207 billion won (US$176.64 million) for blocking customised versions of its Android operating system (OS), in the US technology giant's second setback in less than a month.

The Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) on Tuesday said terms with device makers amounted to abuse of Google's dominant market position that restricted competition in the mobile OS market.

Google in a statement said it intends to appeal. It said the ruling ignores benefits offered by Android's compatibility with other programs and undermines advantages enjoyed by consumers.

The fine comes on the day an amendment to South Korea's Telecommunications Business Act popularly dubbed the "anti-Google law" came into effect.

The law now bans app store operators such as Google from requiring software developers use their payment systems a requirement which effectively stopped developers from charging commission on in-app purchases. -Nampa/Reuters

Volkswagen in talks to tighten its grip

Volkswagen is in talks to tighten its grip on a majority-owned joint venture in China, sparking tensions with the German automaker's other Chinese partners who fear they could be side-lined, sources familiar with the matter said.

The world's second-biggest carmaker secured a controlling 75% stake in a venture with China's JAC in 2020 after Beijing relaxed rules that had previously barred foreign firms from owning majority stakes in local auto companies.

Volkswagen, which took control of one of JAC's plants in the eastern city of Hefei last year, is now in talks to buy another as part of a big expansion in electric vehicles (EV), three sources with knowledge of the matter said.

That has rattled Volkswagen's other Chinese partners, SAIC Motor and FAW, which want the German group to commit more models to their own ventures, sources at Volkswagen, the Chinese firms and joint ventures told Reuters.

The stakes are high. Boosting its majority-owned business would mean Volkswagen wouldn't have to share so much profit with state-run partners and can accelerate its EV push without having so many partner negotiations in the world's biggest car market. -Nampa/Reuters

Oracle revenue falls short

Enterprise software firm Oracle Corp fell short of Wall Street expectations for first-quarter revenue on Monday, hurt by competition in the cloud computing space.

Shares of the Austin, Texas-based company pared losses and were down 1.4% in extended trading after the company forecast second quarter adjusted earnings per share above expectations.

The company expects adjusted earnings per share to be between US$1.09 and US$1.13, above analysts' average estimate of US$1.08, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Analysts say Oracle, whose shares have risen about 40% this year, is well positioned to benefit from cloud computing but a crowded space of rivals, including Microsoft Corp's Azure, Amazon.com Inc's Amazon Web Services, Salesforce.com and IBM Corp, will keep the heat on the company.

To bolster its footing in the cloud computing space, Oracle, which counts Zoom Video Communications (ZM. O) as one of its customers, has been ramping up investment to set up more data centres that can be rented out to clients as they expand and shift operations to the cloud. -Nampa/Reuters

Intuit to buy Mailchimp

Intuit Inc, known for its small-business accounting and DIY tax-filing software, said on Monday it will acquire digital marketing company Mailchimp for about US$12 billion in a cash-and-stock deal.

The deal, expected to close by the second quarter of fiscal 2022, is Intuit's biggest-ever acquisition. It will be financed through cash on hand and new debt of about US$4.5 billion to US$5.0 billion, Intuit said. Last year, the company bought personal finance portal Credit Karma for just over US$7 billion.

The deal for Atlanta-based Mailchimp, which operates a marketing platform for small- and mid-market businesses, will help Intuit add insights to its Quickbooks platform that tracks spending.

"There is incredible power in combining the customer data and the purchase data, and we wanted to put the power of the data in our customers hands," said Sasan Goodarzi, Chief Executive at Intuit.

The deal comes at a time when fintech companies like Intuit are benefiting from a recovery from the pandemic-induced slump among small businesses. The company has projected profit and revenue levels above estimates for fiscal 2022.-Nampa/Reuters

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