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Covid-19 Vaccines, Google Antitrust Concerns and TikTok’s Changes

BioNTech expresses confidence in its Covid vaccine, Google tries to ward off an antitrust probe and TikTok mulls changes to its corporate structure.
Doctor Holding Syringe
"Doctor holding syringe with Coronavirus" (CC BY 2.0) by focusonmore.com
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July 10, 2020 – BioNTech expresses confidence in its Covid vaccine, Google tries to ward off an antitrust probe and TikTok mulls changes to its corporate structure.

Today’s word count: 1,340 words (9 minutes)

German Biotech Sees Its Coronavirus Vaccine Ready for Approval by December

BioNTech’s chief executive, Dr. Ugur Sahin, says he’s confident his firm’s Covid-19 vaccine candidate will “be ready to seek regulatory approval by the end of the year,” according to The Wall Street Journal. Initially a cancer-treatment company, BionNTech has partnered with Pfizer in the fight against coronavirus and is one of several firms worldwide that have started human trials on a vaccine. Pending approval by authorities, BioNTech expects to begin its final stage of testing, Phase 3 trials, at the end of July, with a 30,000-person randomized study.

Why It Matters

BioNTech’s vaccine uses experimental technology known as messenger RNA (mRNA). It’s an innovative approach that uses a genetic mechanism to induce antibodies protecting against the virus. No vaccine based on this technology has been approved for clinical studies, but if successful, it would be cheaper to manufacture than traditional vaccines. And BioNTech’s candidate showed promising results in an early-stage study (it has yet to be peer-reviewed).

Still, a viable inoculation doesn’t change the fact that Dr. Sahin doesn’t expect the world to reach sufficient global immunity levels for ten years. As the virus becomes more widespread, it becomes difficult to reach the 90 percent herd immunity mark.

Sahin says if BioNTech’s vaccine gains approval, mass usage could start immediately around the world. While distribution depends on each country’s logistical capacities and public acceptance, the firm could have several hundred million doses produced in anticipation of approval.

Numbers to Consider

  • 17 â€“ The number of companies worldwide that have started human trials on a Covid-19 vaccine.
  • 2021 â€“ BioNTech’s expected timeline for producing 1 billion vaccine doses.
  • $15 Billion â€“ BioNTech’s market value as of Wednesday.

Read More: (WALL STREET JOURNAL)

Google Can Ward off EU Antitrust Probe into Fitbit Deal with Data Pledge

Google reached an agreement to purchase Fitbit last year, but the deal has stalled because of antitrust concerns in the European Union. As the tech giant attempts to prevent a full-scale investigation, it could rectify the situation by promising the EU not to use Fitbit’s health for targeted advertising.

Why It Matters

The deal offers Google a foothold within the fitness tracking and smartwatch market. Apple dominates the space, but it’s relatively crowded with Samsung, Huawei and Xiaomi all pushing products. Google has said its acquisition will increase competition in the sector and make products more affordable for consumers.

The possibility of Google’s entry has irked EU regulators, though. Parties on both sides of the Atlantic have expressed concerns about Google using “Fitbit’s trove of health data to boost its dominance in online advertising and search.” Although, the tech giant has stressed the deal is “about devices and not data.” This month, the EU polled rival wearable makers, app developers and healthcare providers for their takes.

Reuters reported that as much as a promise could allay concerns, according to people familiar with the matter. The European Commission is scheduled to decide the deal on July 20. Google has until July 13 to offer any counters. Otherwise, the EU could launch a four-month-long investigation following its preliminary review.

Numbers to Consider

  • $2.1 Billion â€“ Google’s agreed-upon price for Fitbit.
  • 3 Percent â€“ Fitbit’s share of the global wearables market.
  • 29.3 Percent â€“ Apple’s worldwide leading share.

Read More: (REUTERS)

TikTok Confirms It’s Mulling Changes to Corporate Structure as Trump Threatens Ban

TikTok is contemplating changes to its corporate structure to appease U.S. government concerns. Concerns have arisen over the Chinese-owned company’s access and use of American user data. ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, is reportedly considering setting up a headquarters outside of China and creating an independent board for the popular short-form video app.

Why It Matters

It’s been a complicated few weeks for TikTok. India banned the app in response to border battle with China. After the Chinese government passed a new “draconian” national security law for Hong Kong, the app pulled out of the territory. As the Trump Administration threatens to ban the app in the U.S. due to national security concerns, Tik Tok is doubling, or even tripling down on its efforts to distance itself from its Chinese roots.

Under the new structure, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer would report directly to the newly created board. ByteDance poached Mayer from Disney earlier this year to “put an American face on the company,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

TikTok’s efforts still may not be enough to appease the Trump Administration, according to legal experts. The U.S. State and Defense departments already don’t allow employees to use TikTok on government devices. “A new board and overseas HQ won’t address the questions of who has ultimate control of the hugely popular app,” The Information writes.

Numbers to Consider

  • $3 Billion â€“ The profit ByteDance reportedly made on $17 billion of revenue, according to Bloomberg.
  • 2.2 Billion â€“ TikTok’s estimated users worldwide, according to Sensor Tower
  • 315 Million â€“ How many users downloaded TikTok in the first quarter.

Read More: (THE INFORMATION)

A Quick Look

Nvidia Eclipses Intel as Most Valuable U.S. Chipmaker

  1. There’s a new king in the chip-making business. For the first time, Nvidia has risen past Intel as the U.S.’s most valuable semiconductor company.
  2. Nvidia’s shares reached a record-high $404 Wednesday. Its market capitalization hit $248 billion, a shade above Intel’s $246 billion.
  3. As Intel has suffered a 3 percent drop in 2020, Nvidia continues to surge. The firm is up 68 percent this year, with investors betting a pandemic-related shift to remote work will “continue to fuel fast growth in Nvidia’s datacenter business.”
  4. Nvidia’s shares are trading at 45 times expected earnings, while Intel’s trade at 12 times expected earnings.

Read More: (REUTERS)

Worth Your Time

Critical Error: If you’re on the wrong side of Tesla right now, the punches are only getting harder to stomach. The electric-car maker has seen its market value jump up 25 percent in just over a week. It’s a tough blow for bearish investors, which Tesla CEO Elon Musk celebrated by immediately selling out a line of Tesla “short shorts.” (WALL STREET JOURNAL)

Race Against Time: Spartan Energy soared on Thursday as it took the lead of a bidding war for electric-vehicle company Fisker. As Tesla continues to dominate, investors are in the midst of a frenzied search for the next electric-vehicle giant and have gravitated to other firms such as Nikola and Workhorse. Spartan Energy, backed by Apollo Global Management, is reportedly close to “clinching” the $2 billion deal. (MARKETS INSIDER)

Alive on Arrival: A new stimulus package for coronavirus-related economic aid could arrive by the end of July. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday the Trump Administration is working closely with the Senate to pass a new bill as enhanced unemployment benefits come upon expiration. (WALL STREET JOURNAL)

It’s Time to Ride: Coinbase is going public, as early as this year. The $8 billion cryptocurrency exchange, home to digital currencies including bitcoin and Ethereum, hasn’t yet filed paperwork with the SEC but is evaluating investment banks and law firms. The move could draw heavy scrutiny from regulators, as a proposed listing would be the first by a major U.S. crypto exchange. (THE INFORMATION)

Go Out and Get It: A bitter battle is unfolding for Brooks Brothers after the clothing retailer filed for bankruptcy this week. Sparc Group, backed by Authentic Brands Group and the Simon Property Group, and WHP Global are crafting buyout offers. Both plan to keep Brooks Brothers intact, citing its robust brick-and-mortar approach and are competing behind the scenes to provide the right financing to revive the brand. (WALL STREET JOURNAL)

A Couple Cents Content

After a long wait, Justin Oh offers his Peloton valuation model, a stock he says he’s “very bullish” on. (POST)

In case you missed it, check out the A Couple Cents live show from Thursday, covering where to park your money, the great financial divide, Peloton and career advice. (YOUTUBE)

I wrote about the unintended, pandemic-related boom Wirecard is missing out on as it crumbles under the weight of its fraud (POST)

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Thanks for reading!

— Justin Birnbaum

Image:Doctor holding syringe with Coronavirus” (CC BY 2.0) by focusonmore.com

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