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Can TikTok overhaul its image?
The red-hot video app TikTok has taken a beating from U.S. lawmakers and regulators over accusations that it is exposing America’s youth to Communist Party indoctrination and smuggling their data to Beijing’s servers. But in an interview with Raymond Zhong of the NYT, the company’s C.E.O., Alex Zhu, talked about how he was trying to assuage Washington’s fears.
No, TikTok does not censor videos that displease China, he said. And no, it does not share user data with China, or even with its Beijing-based parent company.
But it’s unclear how such assurances will be received in Washington. This may explain why there is a raft of other possibilities reportedly floating around at TikTok to help improve its reputation.
• In his NYT interview, Mr. Zhu did not rule out reorganizing TikTok as a separate company with a new board.
• And TikTok has “reduced the amount of content from China that appears on the app, hoping to minimize reminders of its Chinese roots,” the WSJ reports.
• Executives have also discussed “expanding operations in Southeast Asia, possibly Singapore — which would allow executives to distance the video-sharing app from China,” the WSJ adds, and also reportedly discussed “rebranding it in the U.S.”
Distancing TikTok from China “could be difficult to execute,” according to some investors in its parent company, ByteDance, who spoke to the WSJ. “But the discussions reflect how TikTok’s meteoric rise is under threat and how some close to the company increasingly view the company’s Chinese ownership as a liability,” the newspaper adds.
What’s next for T-Mobile’s C.E.O.?
T-Mobile announced yesterday that John Legere, its C.E.O. since 2012, would step down at the end of April after his contract expires, writes the NYT’s Edmund Lee.
Mr. Legere was credited with reviving the telecommunications company, by cutting prices and more than doubling its subscriber base.
And he did it with a flourish, making public appearances wearing bright magenta clothing and gleefully bashing T-Mobile’s rivals on social media.
His departure comes at a crucial time for T-Mobile, which is in the process of acquiring Sprint — a deal that will allow it to better compete with its larger rivals, Verizon and AT&T.
The merger will now be overseen by his successor, Mike Sievert, T-Mobile’s president and chief operating officer. Mr. Sievert is also expected to lead the combined company after the acquisition.
Mr. Legere’s departure could result in a big payday, with a potential exit package totaling an estimated $96 million, according to the research firm Equilar.
The news renewed speculation about a jump to WeWork for Mr. Legere, after reports circulated last week that the real estate company was considering hiring him as its leader. Mr. Legere cut down those rumors yesterday, saying he had not talked to WeWork about the job.
But Mr. Legere, 61, has no plans to retire: “I’ve got at least 30 or 40 years and at least five or six acts left in me.”
How Aramco’s I.P.O. ambitions were thwarted
Top investment bankers gathered in Riyadh on Saturday to deliver their final recommendations for the I.P.O. of Saudi Aramco, report Simeon Kerr, Arash Massoudi and Anjli Raval of the FT. And they weren’t what Saudi officials had hoped to hear.
The project has consumed the government of Saudi Arabia for the past few years. But the bankers explained that international investors were unwilling to buy shares in Saudi Aramco at anywhere near the $2 trillion valuation that was sought by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who wanted to use the money for economic reforms.
“No amount of sweeteners — from promises of higher dividends to bonus shares for local retail investors — had managed to change that reality,” the FT wrote.
The bankers presented what they thought was a moderate proposal to get a deal done, but they left without knowing what the country’s highest authorities had decided. On Sunday, Saudi Aramco announced its I.P.O. plans: a sale of 1.5 percent of the company at a valuation of up to $1.7 trillion.
The offering will now rely just on local investors. The deal will not be marketed in the U.S., Canada or Japan, and bankers told investors on Monday that roadshow events in London and other European cities, planned for this week, were canceled, Bloomberg reported.
When Donald met Jay
President Trump met yesterday with the Fed chair, Jay Powell, for the first time since calling the central bank chief and his colleagues “boneheads,” Jeanna Smialek of the NYT writes.
The president has made a habit of criticizing Mr. Powell, whom he picked to lead the Fed. In the months since they last met, “Mr. Trump has regularly taken to Twitter or television to criticize central bankers for keeping interest rates too high,” Ms. Smialek writes.
Mr. Trump called yesterday’s meeting “cordial,” saying on Twitter that “everything was discussed including interest rates, negative interest, low inflation, easing, Dollar strength.”
Mr. Powell did not discuss the outlook for interest rates with the president, the Fed said in a statement, “except to stress that the path of policy will depend entirely on incoming information that bears on the outlook for the economy.”
The Fed affirmed its independence, saying that Mr. Powell told Mr. Trump that the central bank would set monetary policy “based solely on careful, objective and non-political analysis,” the FT reports.
Are Trump’s on-off trade tactics working?
In recent months, President Trump has alternated displays of anger and warmth toward Beijing, pairing ambitious goals for a trade pact with even bigger threats should China not accede to his terms. How’s that going?, asks Ana Swanson of the NYT.
Despite claims that a “Phase 1” trade agreement has been reached, Mr. Trump appears to be having some difficulty actually signing a deal with China.
• “The two sides have been unable to reschedule a meeting between Mr. Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, in Chile that was canceled because of domestic protests,” Ms. Swanson writes.
• “Without a set deadline, the two sides have lost a source of external pressure to get the deal done.”
And Chinese officials are nervous about the effect that Mr. Trump’s seesawing could have:
• “Mr. Trump’s tendency to waver and increase his demands have made China wary of offering concessions, for fear that he will only demand more, people familiar with Chinese trade policy said.”
• They fear that if Mr. Trump gives fewer concessions than they anticipate, it could result “in an embarrassing trip for Mr. Xi, according to people familiar with their thinking.”
There is some hope that an agreement could be finalized in the next few weeks. But with trade uncertainty weighing on the economies of the U.S. and China, businesses will be hoping that Mr. Trump’s hot-and-cold approach does not undermine that possibility.
More: China is now the leading goods supplier to most countries.
U.K. election rivals try to woo business
The two main candidates for prime minister took to a stage yesterday to try to assure members of the Confederation of British Industry, Britain’s biggest business association, that they are supportive of businesses, Amie Tsang of the NYT writes.
Neither has a great track record with business leaders. The incumbent, Boris Johnson, used an expletive last year to describe his reaction to business concerns about Brexit. His challenger, Jeremy Corbyn, has caused alarm with proposals to nationalize some industries.
Mr. Johnson promised tax cuts, including an effort to stimulate small and medium-size businesses. (Though he said that a further cut to the corporation tax would be postponed.)
• Mr. Johnson also insisted that his party would seal the deal on Brexit, while accusing Mr. Corbyn of delaying Britain’s departure.
Mr. Corbyn made no apologies for his nationalization plans, but said that once Brexit was settled, his party intended to put hundreds of billions of pounds into green investment and a social transformation fund.
• He also promised the “certainty of a customs union and access to the single market” after Brexit, and said he would wrap up Brexit negotiations quickly.
Critics said that Mr. Johnson’s tax cuts would not do enough to slow the economic decline in some parts of the country, while Mr. Corbyn’s talk of nationalization still worries business leaders. And there’s a feeling among business executives that they are caught between a Brexit they don’t want and a firebrand socialist they fear.
Andy Boyd, who led Fidelity’s private investment team, is leaving the firm after 15 years.
Uber’s chief product officer, Manik Gupta, will leave the company on Dec. 13. Until a replacement is found, Mr. Gupta’s team will report directly to Uber’s C.E.O., Dara Khosrowshahi.
Andy Ward was named as the new executive vice president and publisher of Random House.
ServiceNow, a cloud computing company, hired Gina Mastantuono as C.F.O. She joins from Ingram Micro, where she held the same role.
Mina Chang, a deputy assistant secretary for the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations at the State Department, resigned after it came to light that she had made false claims about her charity work.
The speed read
• Alibaba will reportedly stop taking orders from prospective institutional investors for its $13.4 billion secondary I.P.O. earlier than expected after attracting strong demand. (Reuters)
• The private equity owner TA Associates has hired Goldman Sachs to help it explore a sale of Russell Investments, which manages $293 billion in assets. (FT)
• The beauty brand Coty is buying a controlling stake in Kylie Jenner’s cosmetics company, Kylie Cosmetics, for $600 million, valuing it at $1.2 billion. (FT)
• Sony Pictures Entertainment is buying AT&T’s stake in Game Show Network for $380 million, making it the sole owner of the channel. (WSJ)
Trump impeachment inquiry
• House Democrats are exploring whether President Trump lied in his written answers to the special counsel Robert Mueller, raising the prospect of an additional basis for an article of impeachment. (NYT)
• A detailed explainer on the Trump administration’s dueling foreign policy channels on Ukraine. (NYT)
• A fractured media culture has left many Americans struggling to figure out what is true, false or spin when it comes to impeachment news. (NYT)
Politics and policy
• A push by Senate Republicans to support Hong Kong protesters has been met with silence from President Trump. (Bloomberg)
• Two days after a mysterious, unannounced hospital visit by the president, Mr. Trump’s physician issued a late-night statement attributing it to “regular, primary preventative care.” (NYT)
• The Commerce Department extended for 90 days a license that allows companies to export goods to Huawei even though the company is on a trade blacklist. (NYT)
• In her second five-year term as the head of the European Commission’s antitrust division, Margrethe Vestager has assumed expanded responsibility over digital policy — and she plans to use it. (NYT)
• Google wants its new gaming platform, Stadia, to replace consoles. But it shouldn’t, at least not yet. (NYT)
• The F.T.C. said it was pursuing “multiple” antitrust investigations into major digital platforms alongside its already announced inquiry into Facebook. (WSJ)
• The F.C.C. chairman, Ajit Pai, said he would push for a public auction of 5G spectrum. (WSJ)
Best of the rest
• The Justice Department plans to abolish movie distribution rules that date to 1949, which are now effectively obsolete because of technological advancements like streaming. (NYT)
• Tata Steel said it planned to cut as many as 3,000 jobs in Europe to reduce costs, a move that comes as the steel industry faces growing headwinds. (Bloomberg)
• California will not buy vehicles from automakers that sided with President Trump on emissions. (NYT)
• The New York State Attorney General is reportedly investigating WeWork, including whether the company’s former C.E.O., Adam Neumann, had engaged in self-dealing. (Reuters)
• Chick-fil-A will stop making donations to two campaign groups after LGBTQ protests, angering conservative leaders. (WaPo)
• Fox Media has filed a trademark application for ‘OK, boomer,’ which it plans to use as the name of a TV show. (Business Insider)
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