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Elon Musk challenges Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal to a debate on bots



Centi-billionaire Elon Musk provoked Twitter and challenged the company’s CEO Parag Agrawal to a “public debate” about fake accounts and spam in the midst of a contentious legal battle over a $44 billion acquisition.

Musk filed a bid with the Securities and Exchange to acquire Twitter back in April this year. After the companies agreed to move ahead with a take-private deal, Musk said he was terminating his acquisition, and accused Twitter of presenting false numbers, including in its SEC filings, pertaining to the amount of monetizable daily active users, and the number of spam and bot accounts on the social network.

Twitter then sued Musk in a Delaware chancery court to ensure the deal would go through as promised, and Musk filed counterclaims and a countersuit there on July 29.

In a series of tweets that Musk began posting just before 1 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 6, Musk interacted with a fan who had summarized his accusations about Twitter including that it was stonewalling him and giving him, “outdated data,” and “a fake data set” when he asked the company for details about how it tabulates mDAU, and estimates for spam and bot accounts.

The Tesla and SpaceX CEO wrote, “Good summary of the problem. If Twitter simply provides their method of sampling 100 accounts and how they’re confirmed to be real, the deal should proceed on original terms. However, if it turns out that their SEC filings are materially false, then it should not.”

By just after 9 a.m. Saturday morning, Musk started a Twitter poll asking his followers to vote on whether “[l]ess than 5% of Twitter daily users are fake/spam.” Respondents to the informal poll could choose one of Musk’s provided answers which read either “Yes” followed by three robot emoji, or “Lmaooo no.” (The slang abbreviation “lmao” stands for “laughing my a– off.)

Musk also wrote Saturday morning: “I hereby challenge @paraga to a public debate about the Twitter bot percentage. Let him prove to the public that Twitter has <5% fake or spam daily users!”

A source close to the company says a debate is not going to happen outside of a pending trial.

Attorneys for Musk did not respond to requests to comment on Saturday, and an attorney for Twitter declined to comment on Musk’s Saturday tweets.

Twitter’s attorneys have argued in court filings that Musk gave the company just twenty-four hours to accept his offer before he would present it directly to Twitter shareholders, and waived due diligence including a chance to seek more information on false or spam accounts.

They wrote in court filings, “Musk’s repeated mischaracterizations of the merger agreement cannot change its plain words.”

At an annual shareholder meeting for Tesla on Aug. 4, Musk was asked to speak about Twitter during a question-and-answer session that followed a proxy vote.

He said, drawing laughter from the audience in attendance, “I obviously have to be a little careful what I say about Twitter because there’s this lawsuit and stuff.” He confirmed that the only two publicly traded securities he owns are Tesla and Twitter.

And then he spoke as if he still wants to become the owner of the social networking company, a stark contrast to arguments made by Musk via his attorneys in legal filings in Delaware in which Musk argues he should not have to go through with the deal.

At the Tesla 2022 shareholders’ meeting, Musk said: “I think in the case of Twitter since I use it a lot, shoot myself in the foot a lot, you know, dig my grave, etc. I think it’s — I do understand the product quite well, so I think I’ve got a good sense of where to point the engineering team at Twitter to make it radically better.”

He added that Twitter would “help accelerate” a “pretty grand vision” he had to build a business he’d been thinking about since his earliest years as a tech entrepreneur, X.com or X Corporation.

“Obviously that could be started from scratch,” he said, “but I think Twitter would help accelerate that by three to five years. So it’s kind of like something I’ve thought would be quite useful for a long time. I know what to do. Don’t have to have Twitter for that but, like I said, it’s probably at least a three-year accelerant and I think it’s something that will be very useful to the world.”

Musk didn’t go into any further details at that meeting. However, he reportedly said during a town hall meeting with Twitter employees in June this year that he wanted to grow Twitter’s user base to a billion people and saw Twitter as a platform that could evolve into an app like China’s WeChat, a “super app,” that incorporates everything from messaging, video and social media, to mobile and point-of-sales payments, with a robust app ecosystem.

Unless they reach a settlement first, Twitter and Musk are headed for a five-day trial in Delaware that starts on Oct. 17. The judge ruling on the case is Chancellor Kathaleen St. J. McCormick.

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Live updates: Russian official says Kursk airfield has been attacked; Ukraine comes under further missile strikes



Russian oil cap will work, EU ministers insist, despite Kremlin opposition and broad skepticism

Oil storage tanks stand at the RN-Tuapsinsky refinery, operated by Rosneft Oil Co., at night in Tuapse, Russia.

Andrey Rudakov | Bloomberg | Getty Images

A price cap on Russian seaborne oil will work, EU ministers told CNBC, despite attempts from the Kremlin to escape sanctions and a broad market skepticism over the measure.

The EU, alongside the G-7 and Australia, agreed on Friday to limit the purchases of Russian oil to $60 a barrel as part of a concerted effort to curtail Moscow’s ability to fund its war in Ukraine.

The price cap came into force on Monday. In essence, the measure stipulates oil produced in Russia can only be sold with the necessary insurance approval at or below $60 a barrel.

However, Russia has already said it will not sell oil to nations complying with the cap and that it is ready to cut production to maintain its revenues from the commodity.

Read the full report here.

— Silvia Amaro

Zelenskyy and army chief praise military’s bravery on Armed Forces Day

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised and congratulated the country’s military on Armed Forces Day in the country.

“Our Armed Forces protect their native land, and this gives the strongest possible motivation. They fight for freedom, and this always increases any strength. They defend the truth, which means they defend the future of Ukraine,” the president posted on Telegram.

“We are proud of you, we admire you, thank you. To each and every one! With deep respect [from] the President of Ukraine. Glory to the Ukrainian Armed Forces! Glory to Ukraine!” Zelenskyy said.

Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskyy visits Kherson City for first time after the withdrawal of Russian troops in Ukraine, on Nov. 13, 2022.

Narciso Contreras | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The Commander of Ukraine’s armed forces, Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, said earlier today that he believes the country’s armed forces will triumph against Russia.

“I am proud to serve my country side by side with you. Proud to be your Commander-in-Chief in this difficult time. I believe in each of you and in our victory,” he said on Telegram.

Ukraine’s Armed Forces Day takes place on Dec. 6 and was established by the Ukrainian Parliament in the early 1990s.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russian air base attacks likely to be seen as a failure of force protection, UK says

If attacks on two separate Russia air bases on Monday are found to have been deliberately carried out by Ukraine, Russia is likely to “consider them as some of the most strategically significant failures of force protection since its invasion of Ukraine,” the U.K. said Tuesday.

Explosions were reported at Russian air bases yesterday, one incident taking place at the Engels air base in the Saratov region, and the other at the Dyagilevo airfield near Ryazan, southeast of Moscow.

Two Tu-95 heavy bombers were reportedly damaged in the Engels blast, and three people were killed when a fuel tank exploded at Dyagilevo. The causes of the explosions have not been confirmed and Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for the attacks. Russia says the blasts were caused by drone attacks.

Russia’s Tupolev Tu-95 strategic bomber.

Source: Sergey Krivchikov – Russian AviaPhoto Team

Britain’s Ministry of Defense noted that the Engels site “is the main operating base of Russia’s Long Range Aviation (LRA) within western Russia and is home to more than 30 heavy bombers.”

“These aircraft contribute to Russia’s nuclear deterrent and have also frequently been used to launch conventional cruise missiles at Ukraine. The LRA is likely to respond by temporarily moving bombers to dispersal airfields,” the ministry said.

“The Russian chain of command will probably seek to identify and impose severe sanctions on Russian officers deemed responsible for allowing the incident,” the ministry said.

— Holly Ellyatt

Parts of southern Ukraine shelled ‘all night long’

Parts of southern Ukraine have come under sustained bombardment overnight, local officials reported Tuesday morning.

Russian forces launched a missile attack on the suburbs of the southern city of Zaporizhzhia overnight, according to the head of the Zaporizhzhia Regional Military Administration.

“One of the missiles hit the territory of Stepne [to the southeast of Zaporizhzhia]. As a result, critical infrastructure facilities and residential buildings were damaged. According to preliminary information, no one was injured,” Oleksandr Starukh posted on Telegram.

He said the priority for Russian forces is in “holding captured lines” in the Zaporizhzhia region, which is partially occupied by Russia.

Russian forces launched a missile attack on the suburbs of the southern city of Zaporizhzhia overnight, according to the head of the Zaporizhzhia Regional Military Administration.

Nurphoto | Nurphoto | Getty Images

The area around Nikopol, to the southwest of Zaporizhzhia and in the neighboring Dnipropetrovsk province, has also come under more shelling “all night long,” an official said.

“The shelling of [the] Nikopol district does not abate… The Russians were firing heavy artillery at Nikopol town, Chervonohryhorivka and Marhanets communities all night long. Almost 50 enemy shells slammed into peaceful towns and villages,” Valentyn Reznichenko, the head of the Dnipropetrovsk Regional Military Administration, said on Telegram. He said there were no casualties.

In Nikopol, more than 10 private houses, farm buildings, gas pipelines and power lines were damaged, he said. CNBC was unable to immediately verify the reports.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russian official says airfield in Kursk region has been attacked

The governor of Russia’s Kursk region said Tuesday that there was a drone attack near an airfield there.

Posting on Telegram, Governor Roman Starovoyt said “as a result of a drone attack, an oil storage tank caught fire in the area of ​​the Kursk airfield.” He said there were no casualties and the fire was localized.  “All intelligence agencies are on site,” he added.

CNBC was not able to immediately verify the information in Starovoyt’s post. Russian state news agencies reported the incident but did not add further details.

If verified, the incident comes a day after two separate explosions at Russian military air bases. Russia accused Ukraine of attacking its air bases using drones on Monday. Three people were killed in one of the incidents

Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for the attacks, which were unusual given that they took place deep within Russian territory. Kursk is on the border with Ukraine. Officials in Kyiv have not commented on the Kursk incident.

— Holly Ellyatt

India signals it will keep buying oil from Russia

India will prioritize its own energy needs and continue to buy oil from Russia, its foreign minister signaled Monday, as Western governments press Moscow with a price cap to squeeze its earnings from oil exports.

Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar made the comments after holding talks with his visiting German counterpart, Annalena Baerbock, in which they discussed bilateral relations and Russia’s war in Ukraine. Jaishankar said it isn’t right for European countries to prioritize their energy needs but “ask India to do something else.”

“Europe will make the choices it will make. It is their right,” he told reporters.

India has so far not committed to the $60-per-barrel price cap on Russian oil set by the Group of Seven major industrialized countries and European Union that is expected to come into effect Monday. The move is an attempt by Western governments to limit fossil fuel earnings that support Moscow’s budget, its military and its invasion of Ukraine, while also avoiding a possible sharp price spike if Russia’s oil is suddenly taken off the global market.

— The Associated Press

Russian terror is not only a threat to Ukraine, but to the entire region and beyond, Zelenskyy says

Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked European nations to stop buying Russian oil.

Ukrainian Presidential Press Service | via Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy emphasized the need for cooperation in combatting Russian aggression and terror in his nightly address, following another deadly wave of Russian missile attacks across Ukraine.

“When one terrorist destabilizes everyone’s lives, stopping terror is a joint task,” Zelenskyy said.

The strikes also caused power interruptions in neighboring Moldova once again, prompting Zelenskyy to acknowledge the spillover effects of the war.

“Russian terror again affects neighboring states,” he said. “And this once again proves that Russia’s ability to carry out such massive terrorist attacks is a threat not only to Ukraine, but also to our entire region. At least,” he added.

Ukrainian air defense shot down “most of” the 70 missiles launched by Russia, according to Zelenskyy. At least four people were killed and several others injured by the strikes, he reported. Energy infrastructure was also targeted, prompting more emergency blackouts in regions across the country still reeling from prior attacks.

— Rocio Fabbro

Air defense a top priority for U.S. security assistance to Ukraine, Defense Secretary says

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin attends a media statement after a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group at the American military’s Ramstein Air Base, near Ramstein-Miesenbach, Germany, September 8, 2022.

Thilo Schmuelgen | Reuters

United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin underscored U.S. commitment to supporting Ukraine’s defense against Russian aggression in a phone call with Ukrainian Defense Minister, Oleksii Reznikov.

“Secretary Austin reiterated air defense as a top priority for U.S. security assistance efforts, made evident by recent commitments to provide Ukraine additional munitions for U.S.-provided National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS) as well as capabilities to counter Unmanned Aerial System,” Pentagon Press Secretary Pat Ryder said in a readout of the call.

Ukraine first received NASAMS in early November. The interceptor systems have proved invaluable to Ukraine’s defense and security efforts, giving Ukraine the capability to shoot down Russian missiles before they strike.

Austin also pledged his “unwavering support” to Ukraine in its war against Russia, condemning “Russia’s brutal air attacks on Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure,” according to Ryder.

— Rocio Fabbro

Moscow says three killed in Ukrainian drone attacks on air bases deep inside Russia

A satellite image shows an overview of Engels Air Base, in Saratov, Russia, December 4, 2022. 

Maxar Technologies | Reuters

Russia said that three of its military personnel were killed in what it said were Ukrainian drone attacks on two Russian air bases hundreds of miles from the front lines in Ukraine.

Ukraine did not directly claim responsibility. If it did carry out the attacks, they were the deepest military strikes it has conducted inside the Russian heartland since Moscow invaded on Feb. 24.

One of the targets, the Engels air base near the city of Saratov, houses bomber planes that are part of Russia’s strategic nuclear forces.

“The Kyiv regime, in order to disable Russian long-range aircraft, made attempts to strike with Soviet-made unmanned jet aerial vehicles at the military airfields Dyagilevo, in the Ryazan region, and Engels, in the Saratov region,” the Russian defence ministry said.

It said the drones, flying at low altitude, were intercepted by air defences and shot down. The wreckage caused slight damage to two aircraft, it said, and four people were wounded.

The ministry called it a “terrorist act” aimed at disrupting its long-range aviation.

— Reuters

Russia launched a new wave of missile attacks, says Ukrainian air force spokesperson

A militant of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic inspects the remains of a missile that landed on a street in the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk, Ukraine February 26, 2022.

Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters

Russia launched another wave of missile attacks against Ukraine Monday, Ukrainian air force spokesperson Yurii Ihnat said in a press briefing that took place amid air raid alerts in Kyiv and across the country.

“This is not a drill,” Ihnat told reporters. “The missiles are already launched.”

The attacks used strategic aviation launched from three separate sites: the Volgodonsk region in western Russia, the Caspian Sea and from ships in the Black Sea, according to Ihnat. The most recent missile launches are a continuation of Russia’s attacks on critical Ukrainian infrastructure that began in early October, he said. To date, Russian strikes damaged approximately half of Ukraine’s energy systems, leaving many Ukrainians without electricity as temperatures drop.

Ilhnat warned that Monday’s launch could result in several waves of strikes, cautioning Ukrainians to take shelter. “Russians do this in order to disperse and confuse our air defense forces,” he said of the launch waves.

Several top Ukrainian officials have requested additional air defense capabilities, including fighter jets and advanced missile deterrent systems, over the past weeks as Russia ramps up its missile strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure.

— Rocio Fabbro

Read CNBC’s previous live coverage here:

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European stocks slip after hot services data spark Wall Street sell-off



European stocks slipped on Tuesday after a heavy sell-off overnight on Wall Street, when traders took hotter than expected US services data as a signal for further interest rate raises from the Federal Reserve.

The regional Stoxx Europe 600 and London’s FTSE 100 fell 0.6 per cent and 0.4 per cent, respectively, in early trading.

Contracts tracking Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 both traded in a tight range ahead of the New York open, after a sharp sell-off for US equities in the previous session.

The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite on Monday endured their largest daily declines since the day after the US midterm elections following a report from the Institute for Supply Management showed that its index, which tracks economic activity in the services sector, expanded for the 30th month in a row in November, rising to 56.5 from 54.4 in October.

The unexpectedly strong figure was interpreted by investors as a sign that the Fed may yet have to keep the world’s most important interest rate higher for longer in an attempt to cool the US economy. A cycle of rate rises has lifted the federal funds rate to a target range of 3.75 per cent to 4 per cent from zero at the start of the year.

“The latest ISM data underline the divergences evident in the US economy as spending continues to shift from goods to services,” said Mark Haefele, global chief investment officer for UBS’s wealth management group, pointing to November’s contraction in the US manufacturing sector.

“While inflation has likely peaked, price pressures in the services sector are proving slow to abate,” Haefele added, noting that “good economic news” lowered the chances of a so-called Fed pivot around inflation expectations.

Fed chair Jay Powell said in a speech last week that although price growth showed signs of cooling in October, “by any standard, inflation remains much too high”. Trading in futures markets shows investors expect US interest rates to peak at about 5 per cent next spring before falling slowly toward the end of 2023.

US government bonds rallied on Tuesday after selling off sharply following the ISM release, though sections of the Treasury market continue to signal an impending recession. The yield on the interest rate-sensitive two-year Treasury fell 0.02 percentage points to 4.37 per cent. The yield on the benchmark 10-year note also lost 0.02 percentage points at 3.58 per cent. Yields fall as prices rise.

Short-term debt yielding more than long-term debt tends to indicate an impending recession, and Julian Howard, lead investment director at GAM, said the Treasury market was “correctly hinting that the [US] economy is going to get really, really hit”.

In Asia, meanwhile, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index shed 0.4 per cent, though the index has rallied more than 17 per cent since its late October low. China’s CSI index of Shanghai- and Shenzhen-listed stocks gained 0.5 per cent as zero-Covid policies were eased across the country.

In commodity markets, the price of Brent crude, the international benchmark, fell 1.2 per cent to $81.61 a barrel.

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Could Biden’s Climate Agenda Trigger a New Trade War?



Europe is growing hot over the Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act, with opposition to the sweeping climate and economic bill dominating the U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council talks this week. Some analysts fear the disagreement could thrust two of the world’s biggest trading partners into a new economic war.

At issue is a portion of the law that offers $369 billion in subsidies and tax breaks to companies that develop green technologies — from electric vehicles and their components to solar panels and renewable energy equipment — in North America.

Brussels fears the I.R.A. gives American companies an unfair advantage. Last week, President Emmanuel Macron of France warned President Biden that any trade imbalance caused by the climate law, along with the CHIPS Act that is meant to bolster American semiconductor manufacturing, could drive a wedge between the allies. On Sunday, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the E.U.’s executive arm, said that Europe could retaliate with subsidies of its own to avoid losing manufacturing business to the United States. (The Swedish electric vehicle battery maker Northvolt, for example, said it would use an I.R.A. subsidy to relocate some production to the U.S.)

The subsidies have become a central talking point at the Trade and Technology Council. On Monday, the E.U.’s trade commissioner, Valdis Dombrovskis, and the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the two sides had discussed the future of U.S. industrial policy around climate, but announced no compromises. Last week, at the DealBook Summit, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told Andrew that she’d like to see the I.R.A. bring America’s trading allies closer together by, for example, building “adequate supply chains” around the rare raw materials needed by green technologies. “That is a form of ‘friendshoring,’” Ms. Yellen said.

Europe doesn’t have many options. If a negotiated solution fails, some European lawmakers have called for a formal complaint to the World Trade Organization. But because of inaction by the U.S., the trade organization’s appellate body, its main dispute-resolution function, has been in limbo for years.

“There’s potential for this to escalate into a larger conflict,” Niclas Poitiers, a research fellow specializing in international trade at Bruegel, a Brussels-based think tank, told DealBook. “How do you avoid that?”

Poitiers said that competing climate subsidies from the E.U. were unlikely, and the chances of establishing a carve-out in the U.S. law to create a kind of “green” free-trade agreement were remote. That could mean new tariff threats — and a return to the strained relations of the Trump presidency, when each side imposed billions in levies on products ranging from industrial metals to European spirits to Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

“If things really sour, you might see some kind of retaliatory tariffs,” Mr. Poitiers said. “But I don’t think this is anyone’s preferred objective.”

Restaurant groups escalate their fight against a California law on fast-food workers. An industry coalition said it has collected enough voter signatures to move forward with a ballot initiative seeking to block a state law setting minimum hourly wages. The measure could go up for a vote in 2024.

Meta threatens to remove news from its U.S. platform. The parent company of Facebook floated the possibility as lawmakers consider a bill that would make tech giants pay to carry news content on their platforms. It had a similar battle in Australia, against a plan championed by News Corp., and there it ultimately agreed to pay.

The jury is out in the Trump Organization’s criminal tax fraud trial. Jurors are debating charges by the Manhattan district attorney that the Trump family business evaded taxes on lavish executive perks. Meanwhile, the D.A.’s office has hired Matthew Colangelo, a former Justice Department prosecutor, to help lead another investigation into Donald Trump.

PepsiCo plans to lay off hundreds. The beverage and snack giant will cut jobs at its North American headquarters, the latest sign that a wave of belt-tightening in the face of a worsening economy is expanding beyond tech and media companies.

Nike cuts ties with Kyrie Irving. The sneaker giant formally ended its relationship with the pro basketball player, having suspended it a month after ago after he posted a social media link to an antisemitic film. Nike’s move also echoes one by Adidas, which dropped Ye, the rapper and designer formerly known as Kanye West, after he made antisemitic remarks.

Circle, the cryptocurrency company behind one of the market’s biggest stablecoins, said on Monday that it had called off its effort to go public via a merger with a blank-check fund, or SPAC. The about-face represents the intersection of two once-popular investing trends that have hit hard times.

Circle was up against a Dec. 10 deadline to get its deal done, but it hadn’t received approval from the S.E.C. more than a year after announcing the merger. Circle and its SPAC partner, Concord Acquisition Corp., revised their initial July 2021 agreement in February, doubling its valuation of the crypto company to $9 billion from $4.5 billion.

SPACs have had a rough time of late, with nearly 60 liquidating so far this year after being unable to complete a deal, according to SPAC Research. And crypto, of course, has been reeling since the collapse of the exchange FTX. (Circle, which runs the USD Coin, said it has minimal exposure to FTX.)

Circle still wants to go public, at some point. The company said its finances are healthy — it earned $43 million in the third quarter — and its C.E.O., Jeremy Allaire, tweeted that the crypto industry was “going to decisively leave the speculative value phase” toward a more stable and enduring one.

More crypto news:

  • Ordinary investors are wondering how to recover financially from the crypto plunge.

  • Nexo, a crypto lender, said it would leave the U.S. market after failing to reach agreements with state and national regulators.

  • Britain is finalizing sweeping regulations of the crypto industry, including how to handle the collapse of service providers and restrictions on advertising.

  • Swyftx is the latest crypto exchange to lay off staff, warning that trading volumes could sink again next year.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, the world’s biggest maker of leading-edge computer chips, will announce on Tuesday that it plans to drastically expand and revamp its factory in Arizona.

The $40 billion initiative — significant enough that President Biden and Tim Cook, Apple’s C.E.O., will attend a celebration of the announcement — is the latest sign that the business world is trying to reduce the risks that China poses to global supply chains.

The news is a win for Mr. Biden, who has made sophisticated semiconductor manufacturing in America a key part of his industrial and national security policy. His administration pushed for measures like the CHIPS Act to motivate companies to build U.S. facilities. “This announcement by TSMC is historic in every way,” Ronnie Chatterji, an acting deputy director of the National Economic Council, told The Times.

Left unmentioned publicly was another consideration: China’s increasing aggression against Taiwan, which analysts worry could add another choke point in an already fragile supply chain.

TSMC could eventually produce chips for iPhones in the U.S., after the company upgrades the two-year-old factory in Phoenix and builds a second facility in the state. The two American plants may ultimately produce only a fraction of what TSMC can make in Taiwan, but experts say they could provide an essential backstop for American tech customers in case of manufacturing emergencies.

Laura Murphy, a professor of human rights and contemporary slavery at Britain’s Sheffield Hallam University, on a new report that shows the global auto sector is highly reliant upon Chinese suppliers that researchers found to have participated in coercive labor programs in Xinjiang Province.

In late September, Marc Benioff was asked if his business software company, Salesforce, would continue its aggressive acquisition strategy even as corporate I.T. spending slumped. The C.E.O. confidently replied, “It seems to be working.” Less than three months later, Wall Street is worrying he may have missed the signs of a downturn.

Salesforce’s shares slumped 7 percent on Monday on news that one of its recent acquisitions, the workplace communication platform Slack, is losing a key asset: its C.E.O., Stewart Butterfield. He launched the business in 2013; Salesforce bought it last year for $27.7 billion.

Mr. Butterfield’s departure was expected, and had been in the works for months, the company said. But investors still seemed disturbed by the news. The company’s stock now has dropped nearly in half this year.

Even by the standards of Big Tech, Salesforces has been hit by a large exodus of key executives:

  • Dec. 2: Mark Carter, a top cybersecurity executive.

  • Dec. 1: Mark Nelson, head of Tableau, which Salesforce acquired in 2019.

  • Nov. 30: Bret Taylor, Salesforce’s co-C.E.O. (He plans to leave in January, and he’d only been in the role just over a year.)

  • Nov. 10: Gavin Patterson, chief strategy officer.

Salesforce has spent $50 billion on acquisitions since 2018. Those deals have kept sales rising quickly, but recent integration costs have sapped the firm’s bottom-line growth. It’s also attracted the activist hedge fund Starboard, which thinks Salesforce could improve its profit margins.

Slack was Salesforce’s largest-ever purchase. When the deal was struck, other pandemic investment plays, like Peloton and Zoom, were soaring. Now Salesforce looks like it might have overpaid.

And now Mr. Benioff and his team will have to run Slack themselves. Along with Butterfield, a number of other top Slack executives are leaving as well. Mr. Benioff on Monday named a Salesforce executive to run the brand. “Salesforce’s history of acquisitions could present a high degree of execution risk,” Bank of America analyst Brad Sills warned investors in a recent note to clients.


  • Microsoft proposed making the “Call of Duty” video-game franchise available to Sony’s PlayStation for at least 10 years, as part of efforts to win regulatory approval for its $69 billion takeover of Activision Blizzard. (CNBC)

  • An array of SPACs have disclosed accounting weaknesses, giving critics more ammo for warnings about the risks of these blank-check funds. (FT)

  • Inside Blackstone’s decision to block withdrawals from its $125 billion real estate investment fund. (FT)


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