Moderna’s Vaccine, TikTok’s Data Practices and Tesla Stock

Moderna scores a government deal, TikTok gets caught violating data practices and Tesla announces a stock split.
(By Mongkolchon Akesin)
(By Mongkolchon Akesin)
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Good morning! Today’s word count is 1,217 words, or a 7-minute read. Let’s get to it:

“U.S. stocks rose, signaling that the S&P 500 is back on track to continue this month’s rally a day after the benchmark posted its biggest decline in almost three weeks,” The Wall Street Journal writes.

  • S&P 500: $3,355.46
  • Nasdaq: $10,878.10
  • Bitcoin: $11,399.33
  • U.S. 10-Year: 0.683%

Moderna Inks Covid-19 Vaccine Deal with U.S.

The U.S. government and Moderna have agreed to a $1.5 billion deal to purchase 100 million doses of the company’s experimental coronavirus vaccine, which is currently in late-stage human trials. The vaccine will be free of charge to Americans, and the government can purchase up to an additional 400 million doses.

Why It Matters

It’s the latest move in a line of deals securing vaccine doses for the country.

  • The U.S. has agreed to spend more than $9 billion on vaccine candidates, also funding research and supplies like vials and syringes.
  • Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer—BioNTech, Sanofi-GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca-Oxford also reached billion-dollar deals to provide the U.S government with vaccine shots.

Health officials see vaccines as the best way to curb the spread of the virus, and Moderna’s candidate, which was co-developed with the National Institutes of Health, has shown promise.

  • It produced an immune response in 45 healthy volunteers in an early-stage study and was “generally safe and well-tolerated.”
  • The company is now the most advanced in development, with a 30,000-person late-stage study in progress.
  • “Public health officials have said they may learn in November or December whether the Moderna vaccine works.”

Still, it’s a cautioned optimism.

  • Moderna’s vaccine uses a novel gene-technology called messenger RNA, “which carries instructions from DNA to the body’s cells to make certain proteins.”
  • An mRNA vaccine has never been approved to prevent any infectious disease, and Moderna has never received the approval of any drugs or vaccines.

Numbers to Consider

  • $950 Million – The amount of U.S. funding Moderna has received to develop and test its vaccine.
  • $15 to $25 – The estimated vaccine price per dose for Moderna’s vaccine.


TikTok Collected User Data in Violation of Google’s Android Policies

Maybe concerns over TikTok’s data practices have been worth all of the hoopla. An analysis from The Wall Street Journal found the Chinese app circumvented a privacy safeguard in Google’s Android operating system to collect unique identifiers from millions of mobile devices. Hidden by an “unusual added” layer of encryption, the move allowed TikTok to track users online without their knowledge or permission and directly violating Google’s policies. TikTok ended the practice in November.

Why It Matters

This type of data collection is explicitly banned.

  • TikTok was harvesting unique, unchangeable identifiers of users on Android devices called MAC addresses.
  • The identifier is permanently assigned to a device and can track people without their consent.
  • The collection of such is seen as an “invasive privacy risk” and is banned by Google’s developer policy for Android.
  • Apple also banned the practice in 2013.
  • TikTok collected MAC addresses for at least 15 months, passed it to ByteDance and took steps to “obfuscate” how it transmitted back to its servers.

TikTok’s future is on unsteady ground.

  • ByteDance, TikTok’s Beijing-based parent company, has faced criticism over concerns that data collected by TikTok could be used to help the Chinese government.
  • TikTok has said it doesn’t share data with the Chinese government and wouldn’t do so if asked, maintaining it collects fewer personal data than Facebook and Google.
  • Last week, President Trump signed an executive order banning the app in the U.S. unless an American company buys its U.S. operations.
  • ByteDance has until September to make a deal, and Microsoft and Twitter have both shown interest.

Numbers to Consider

  • 1.4 Percent – The share of Android apps that collect MAC addresses, according to a 2018 study by AppCensus.
  • 100 Million – TikTok’s estimated American userbase.


A Quick Look

Tesla Announces Stock Split in Bid for Small Investors

  1. Tesla announced a five-for-one stock split Tuesday to make its share price more accessible to investors and employees. Tesla shareholders as of Aug. 21 will receive four extra shares of common stock after the close of trading on Aug. 28.
  2. Tesla’s stock has more than tripled this year, giving the Elon Musk-led company a market capitalization of $256 billion. The company’s shares rose roughly 6 percent in after-hours trading following the announcement. It opened at $1,470 Wednesday.
  3. Tesla reported $129 million in profit during the quarter ending in June, its fourth consecutive quarter of profitability.


Worth Your Time

How Will I Know: Bolstered by its reliable video game business, and Covid-19 keeping people at home playing video games, Tencent recorded a robust second quarter with increases in net profit and revenue. While the upturn is encouraging for the Chinese company, Tencent’s business faces a myriad of uncertainties after President Trump “issued an executive order that will effectively ban the company’s WeChat messaging app in the U.S. in 45 days.” The order bars U.S. companies from engaging in transactions with Tencent and has created an unclear picture of whether the move applies to operations outside of the U.S. (THE INFORMATION)

Jump On Demand: Rapid-response Covid-19 antigen testing supplies have become an indispensable tool in the fight against the pandemic. But as the virus spreads, Quidel Corp. and Becton Dickinson & Co., the only two companies with emergency authorization to supply rapid diagnostic tests, are struggling to meet demand. (WALL STREET JOURNAL)

Front Line: “Qualcomm Inc.’s legal victory in a high-stakes battle with the U.S. government raises the opportunity for the smartphone chip giant to enjoy a period of relative calm and growth propelled by rising appetite for new 5G handsets.” After five years featuring antitrust allegations, legal battles with customers, U.S.-China trade tensions and a $100 billion-plus hostile takeover attempt, Qualcomm has emerged “largely unscathed.” In the process, it has become “kind of national champion in the Trump administration’s competition with China over technology, particularly in superfast 5G networking.” (WALL STREET JOURNAL)


In case you missed it, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden picked California senator Kamala Harris as his running mate.

Airbnb plans to confidentially file to go public with the SEC later this month, and shares could begin trading by the end of the year.

Scribd, a $450 million e-book and audiobook subscription seller, has acquired presentation software maker SlideShare from LinkedIn.

Media titan and billionaire Sumner Mogul, whose empire included CBS and Viacom, has passed away at 97.

The SEC and FBI are examining investments sold by YieldStreet Inc., an online platform that “pitches itself as giving people the chance to get in on deals usually reserved for the largest investors.”

Facebook announced it removed nearly 40 percent more content categorized as terrorism in Q2 compared to the first three months of the year.

A senior Labor Department official says funding an extra $300-a-week in federal unemployment benefits could run out in six weeks.

The Big Ten and Pac-12, two of the NCAA’s Power 5 conferences, have postponed their college football seasons and fall sports as pressure mounts for the SEC, ACC and Big 12 to follow.

A Couple Cents Content

Read Justin Oh’s breakdown of the Teladoc-Livongo merger. (POST)

Interested in real estate investing? Justin Oh takes a look at how Fundrise could be a useful tool for investors. (TIKTOK)

The “Netflix of Factual TV” is going public through a SPAC. Check out Justin Oh’s breakdown. (TIKTOK)

Any interest in sports business news? I’m starting to pump out some short-form video content like this: (TIKTOK)

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