China’s Meituan reported quarterly loss as it expands into new area

BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese food delivery company Meituan reported a loss on Friday for October-December after two consecutive quarters of profit, as it expanded into the community group-buying business that relies heavily on subsidies.

It reported a loss of 2.24 billion yuan ($343 million) versus profit of 1.46 billion yuan in the same month a year earlier, the company said in a stock exchange filing.

Meituan, whose services also include restaurant reviews and bike sharing, said total revenue rose 34.7% in October-December from a year earlier to 37.92 billion yuan ($5.80 billion). That compared with the 39.17 billion yuan average of 14 analyst estimates, IBES data from Refinitiv showed.

Community group buying, which lets communities set up groups for bulk buying, is one of Meituan’s new initiatives that grew by 51.9% year-on-year in quarterly revenue to 9.24 billion yuan.

Food delivery, which accounts for over half of Meituan’s total revenue, posted revenue growth of 37.0% to 21.54 billion yuan. Its in-store, hotel and travel operation saw revenue growth of 12.2% to 7.14 billion yuan.

($1 = 6.5417 Chinese yuan renminbi)

China’s Xiaomi fourth-quarter profit rises 36.7% on handset demand

Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi Corp reported a 36.7% rise in fourth-quarter net profit on Wednesday, just as its major Android rival fell out of the market.

Adjusted net profit for the quarter ending Dec. 31 rose to 3.2 billion yuan ($490.84 million), beating analyst expectations of 2.9 billion yuan.

Sales hit 70.5 billion yuan, up 24.8% year-on-year.

The results come as Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, the company’s main rival, steadily retreats from the global smartphone market due to U.S.-led sanctions.

Twitter boss Jack Dorsey’s first tweet sold for $2.9 million as an NFT

LONDON (Reuters) – Twitter boss Jack Dorsey sold his first tweet as an NFT for just over $2.9 million dollars on Monday.

The tweet is in the form of a non-fungible token (NFT) – a kind of unique digital asset that has exploded in popularity so far in 2021.

Each NFT has its own blockchain-based digital signature, which serves as a public ledger, allowing anyone to verify the asset’s authenticity and ownership.

The tweet – “just setting up my twttr” – was Dorsey’s first tweet, made on March 21, 2006.

The NFT was sold via auction on a platform called Valuables, which is owned by the U.S.-based company Cent.

It was bought using the cryptocurrency Ether, for 1630.5825601 ETH, which was worth $2,915,835.47 at the time of sale, Cameron Hejazi, the CEO and co-founder of Cent confirmed.

Cent confirmed the buyer is Sina Estavi. Estavi’s Twitter profile, @sinaEstavi, says he is based in Malaysia and is CEO of the blockchain company Bridge Oracle. Estavi told Reuters he was “thankful” when asked for comment about the purchase.

On March 6, Dorsey, who is a bitcoin enthusiast, tweeted a link to the website where the NFT was listed for sale. He then said in another tweet on March 9 that he would convert the proceeds from the auction into bitcoin and donate them to people impacted by COVID-19 in Africa.

Dorsey receives 95% of the proceeds of the primary sale, while Cent receives 5%.

Cent CEO Cameron Hejazi said that his platform allows people to show support for a tweet that goes beyond the current options to like, comment and retweet.

“These assets might go up in value, they might go down in value, but what will stay is the ledger and the history of ‘I purchased this from you at this moment in time’ and that’s going to be in both the buyer, the seller and the public spectators’ memory,” Hejazi said, adding that this was “inherently valuable.”

Nike set to overcome short-term shipping woes – Analysts

(Reuters) – The supply chain hiccups that dented Nike Inc’s third quarter sales are mostly behind them, analysts said on Friday, after executives said the sporting goods giant had adjusted inventories and other areas to avoid a recurrence.

Nike missed analysts expectations for quarterly sales on Thursday, squeezed by global container shortages and congestion at West Coast ports as well as closures of brick-and-mortar stores due to lockdowns in Europe.

Nike forecast “low-to-mid-teens” full-year revenue growth, falling just short of heightened expectations of a 15.9% increase. Shares of the Oregon-based company were down nearly 3% in early trading.

Yet Nike executives said the supply issue, which has widely impacted makers of cars, clothing and fitness equipments, is mostly behind them, adding that they now expect a “more consistent flow of inventory,” an explanation most analysts viewed as plausible.

“While it’s reasonable to leave some flexibility amid COVID disruptions and U.S. port delays, we think guidance will prove ultra-conservative in several areas,” Credit Suisse analyst Michael Binetti said in a research note.

At least four brokerages raised their price targets on the stock, with Credit Suisse increasing it to $176 versus a median of $165.

“We’ve now effectively absorbed the longer lead times through our third quarter,” Chief Executive Officer John Donahoe said on a post earnings call, adding that the company expected “a more consistent flow of inventory in the fourth quarter, recognizing that transit times are elevated versus the prior year.”

Nike executives added that inventory levels in North America now were being better managed to meet heightened demand and allow for more full-price sales.

“With bottlenecks being managed, brand health strong, higher-margin digital resonating, and China outperforming, momentum is healthy,” RBC Capital Markets’ Kate Fitzsimons said.

The company’s revenue from online sales increased 59% in the third quarter, while Greater China revenue grew 42%.

Nike shares have more than doubled in the past 12 months, helped by a surge in demand for athletic wear from people confined to their homes.

H&M sales recover in March as stores reopen after lockdown

Sales at fashion group H&M fell slightly less than expected in the three months through February and rose in the first half of March as pandemic restrictions were eased in some markets, allowing hundreds of stores to reopen.

The world’s second-biggest apparel retailer said on Monday net sales fell 27% from a year earlier, or 21% measured in local currencies, to 40.1 billion crowns ($4.72 billion).

Analysts had on average forecast a 30% decline in net sales in the period – H&M’s fiscal first quarter – according to Refinitiv SmartEstimate.

“Sales development was significantly affected by the COVID-19 situation, with extensive restrictions and at most over 1,800 stores temporarily closed,” H&M said in a statement.

“Since the beginning of February, a number of markets have gradually allowed stores to reopen and at the end of the quarter around 1,300 stores remained temporarily closed.”

H&M said sales in the March 1–13 period were up 10% in local currencies as many countries, including its biggest market Germany, begun allowing some stores to reopen. On March 13, around 900 of H&M’s around 5,000 stores remained closed due to government lockdowns to fight the pandemic.

($1 = 8.4917 Swedish crowns)

Broadcom shares fall as chip sales disappoint

Shares of Broadcom Inc fell slightly on Thursday after the company reported chip sales slightly below Wall Street estimates, joining a growing list of chip industry peers hit by the global semiconductor shortage.

Broadcom reported semiconductor solutions revenue of $4.90 billion for its fiscal first quarter ended Jan. 31, slightly below analyst estimates of $4.95 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Shares of the chip company, which is a major supplier to iPhone maker Apple Inc, were down 1.9% at $435 in extended trading.

Broadcom forecast second-quarter revenue of about $6.5 billion, compared with analysts’ estimates of $6.33 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

For the fiscal first quarter, Broadcom’s infrastructure software business had sales of $1.74 billion, beating Wall Street estimates of $1.64 billion, according to Refinitiv data. The strong software revenue helped overall sales rise to $6.66 billion in the fiscal first quarter from $5.86 billion a year earlier. Overall first-quarter sales beat analyst expectations of $6.62 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Excluding items, the company earned $6.61 per share in the fiscal first quarter, beating analysts’ estimate of $6.56 per share.

A ramp-up in 5G technology adoption is expected to boost demand for higher-priced chips used in phones and is likely to benefit semiconductor firms such as Broadcom.

The company, which also makes chips for data centers and servers, also stands to benefit from an extended remote working trend as people wait for vaccines to roll out.

Aston Martin expects better 2021 sales after deep losses

Carmaker Aston Martin said a turnaround plan would see it takes the first steps towards profitability and boost sales this year after a deep loss in 2020 when the firm raised fresh funding, changed boss and was hit by the pandemic.

Aston went further into the red with a 466-million pound ($660 million) loss last year, compared with 120 million pounds in 2019, as sales to dealers fell by 42% to 3,394 vehicles, also hit by the closure of showrooms and factories due to COVID-19.

In 2021, it expects “to see the first steps towards improved profitability” and on Thursday maintained an outlook of around 6,000 sales to dealers as a new management teams turns around the company’s performance.

Popular for being James Bond’s carmaker of choice, the firm has had a difficult time since it floated in 2018 as it failed to meet expectations and burnt through cash, prompting it to seek fresh investment from billionaire Executive Chairman Lawrence Stroll.

“I am extremely pleased with the progress to date despite operating in these most challenging of times,” he said.

The company said demand for its first sport utility vehicle, the DBX, which rolled off production lines in 2020, was strong as it enters a lucrative segment of the market where it hopes to widen its appeal.

($1 = 0.7065 pounds)

Exclusive: Equinor considers more US asset sales in global strategy revamp

OSLO (Reuters) – Norway’s Equinor is looking to sell more assets in the United States and exit several other countries as part of a major global reshuffle as it tries to return to profit after writing down $25 billion of U.S. assets over the past decade.

While the company, like other energy majors, has been hit by last year’s fall in oil and gas prices, Equinor’s new head of international business, Al Cook, said it lacked scale in the U.S. shale market and had underestimated the strength of local competition.

Equinor disposed of its operated shale assets in the Eagle Ford in 2019, and last week said it had agreed to sell its assets in the Bakken shale oil province in the states of North Dakota and Montana for around $900 million.

“All our operated onshore positions in the U.S. are under the same kind of review that we’ve done in the Bakken,” Cook, told Reuters in an interview.

“We’ve got an operated position in the Utica, we’ve got an operated position in the Austin Chalk, those are under very active review right now,” he added.

As of the second quarter of 2020, Equinor had around 232,000 net acres in the Appalachian Basin, including 27,000 acres it operates, and around 114,000 net acres in Louisiana Austin Chalk, roughly half of which is operated.

Cook said Equinor was slow to realise U.S. production was not cost effective at low oil prices as the country essentially took over OPEC’s swing producer role.

However, Equinor will keep and possibly expand its operations in the Gulf of Mexico, its large non-operated position in Appalachian gas and its wind business in the U.S. northeast – following a similar strategy to that in the UK where it is a major gas supplier and wind power producer.

“We think that can become a profitable, low carbon business which will flourish under the kind of measures President Joe Biden is taking in the U.S. … and in time we will look at converting that natural gas into a hydrogen business,” Cook said.

“FAT CHICKEN, SHARP BEAKS”

Equinor currently has a presence in more than 20 countries outside Norway, generating a third of its total production or around 700,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day.

Cook – who joined Equinor in 2016 after a decade at BP, including working as chief of staff for then CEO Bob Dudley – said that while he hopes overseas output will rise, it was likely to be from fewer countries.

“With the low oil price, our chickens came home to roost, and we found out that they’ve got very fat and they have very sharp beaks…and they caused a billion dollar write downs.”

Equinor has already exited or announced it will exit from around 10 countries since the end of 2019, including South Africa, Indonesia, New Zealand, Uruguay, Turkey, Australia and the United Arab Emirates.

In a major shift, it will no longer seek “material” operated onshore positions abroad, but instead partner with experienced local operators such as Rosneft in Russia, YPF in Argentina and Chesapeake in the Appalachian, Cook said.

It will also focus on previously developed areas with a faster return on investment and less on frontier exploration.

“We can’t do exploration where we say one day this would produce oil and gas, because one day the world will not need all oil and gas,” Cook said.

The company has recently written down the entire value of its liquefied natural gas (LNG) development in Tanzania.

“We have to look at what we are good at. We are good at subsurface, we are really good at finding oil and gas… we are good at offshore environments with big waves and high winds,” he said, adding that was a good fit with Norway, the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, Brazil and the UK, as well as with Canada and Azerbaijan.

“We want to produce more, at least in the next decade, but we want to produce with fewer emissions.”

Huawei’s U.S. suppliers try to reverse Trump’s late sales denials

(Reuters) – Semiconductor firms are seeking extra time to appeal last-minute Trump administration moves to block sales to Chinese telecoms company Huawei, hoping against the odds that the Biden administration will reverse course, five sources said.

Several company executives who declined to be identified by name said they ultimately do not think the Biden administration will significantly soften the hardline position. “Everyone is deflated,” said one company executive.

Billions of dollars of U.S. technology and chip sales to Huawei hinge on how the Biden administration applies export restrictions the Trump administration put in place.

The companies hope that with more time to make their cases before an interagency panel and a potential policy shift at least some of the rejected Huawei sales will be allowed.

The Commerce Department did not respond to requests for comment. A Huawei spokeswoman said the company does not have any insight into the licensing process at Commerce.

Days before former President Donald Trump left office on Jan. 20, the administration notified Huawei suppliers, including chipmaker Intel, that the government was revoking certain licenses to sell to Huawei and intended to reject dozens of applications for others, Reuters reported.

The surprise flurry of “intent to deny” notices were among last-minute, tough-on-China moves aimed at boxing President Joe Biden into hardline polices against Beijing and cementing Trump’s legacy.

Among the decisions, the Trump administration denied 116 license applications worth $119 billion and approved four worth $20 million, according to a Commerce Department document dated Jan. 13 and seen by Reuters. Another 300 applications with stated values of $296 billion were pending, the document said.

Some companies whose license applications were rejected asked the Commerce Department for more than the standard 20 days to appeal their denials, the sources said. The department has granted 90-day extensions to some of the companies, the people said.

Huawei was placed on a trade blacklist by Trump in May 2019 over national security concerns after it was accused of being capable of spying on customers, as well as intellectual property theft and sanctions violations. Huawei has denied wrongdoing.

Since Huawei was blacklisted, the U.S. government approved about $87 billion worth of applications for sales to Huawei and denied $11 billion, according to the Commerce document.

‘UNTRUSTED VENDOR’

The Biden White House has described Huawei as an “untrusted vendor” and a national security threat. Biden’s nominee for commerce secretary, Gina Raimondo, pledged to protect U.S. telecoms networks from Chinese firms but declined to commit to keeping Huawei on a trade blacklist.

To remove the company from the blacklist, the Commerce Department would have to certify to Congress that Huawei has mitigated the national security threat it poses and that the firm has resolved charges of sanctions violations under a 2019 law.

“I don’t think you will see a change in policy on Huawei,” said James Lewis of the security think tank CSIS. “I think (the Biden administration) is mainly signaling, ‘We are going to do the same thing, but try to do it in a more business friendly way.’”

The Biden administration is reviewing China policy, and sources say it is too early to know what path the president will take on Huawei.

Trump had an inconsistent approach to Huawei, opening the door to more sales when he was seeking a trade deal but then coming down harder as tensions began rising over the coronavirus and Beijing’s crackdown in Hong Kong last year.

But few companies expected the big batch of rejections in mid-January, including license requests for chips used in 4G phones.

AstraZeneca forecasts 2021 growth after fourth – quarter sales beat

(Reuters) – AstraZeneca on Thursday forecast 2021 revenue growth after the COVID-19 vaccine developer beat analysts’ estimates for fourth-quarter product sales, as a wide range of therapies helped cushion the hit from the pandemic.

The British drugmaker said it expects 2021 revenues to increase by a low teens percentage, with “faster growth” in core earnings to $4.75 to $5.00 per share. Quarterly product sales of $7.01 billion surpassed a company-compiled consensus of $6.81 billion.

2020 was a crucial year for AstraZeneca. It teamed up with the University of Oxford to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, and made its largest ever deal by buying U.S. drugmaker Alexion for $39 billion as it bet on rare-disease and immunology drugs.

The London-listed company said its forecast did not include any impact from its COVID-19 vaccine, adding it intended to break out sales from the shot beginning in the first quarter this year.