Earnings: Tech companies’ profits surge
Amazon and Alph abet both extended their winning streaks last week, reporting impressive quarterly sales and profits, said Rolfe Winkler and Laura Stevens in The Wall Street Journal. Alphabet, the parent company of Google, saw its net profit grow 29 percent in the first quarter, dampening fears that an advertiser backlash on YouTube would eat into profits. Amazon reported a 41 percent profit surge, “marking its eighth straight quarter in the black,” even as it spends heavily on new ventures. The results served to reassure investors that the e-commerce giant “has turned into a profit machine as well as a growth machine.” The results drove both companies’ shares to new heights.
Those booming profits are helping a new generation of tech tycoons “gain ground on the old guard,” said Carleton English in the New York Post. Amazon’s monster earnings briefly propelled CEO Jeff Bezos’ personal fortune to more than $80 billion. That puts him within striking range of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, currently the world’s richest person with a net worth of $87 billion. Bezos, who is roughly tied with Zara founder Amancio Ortega for the No. 2 richest spot, has seen his net worth surge $14.2 billion this year. Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, worth $44.7 billion and $43.7 billion respectively, saw their fortunes increase roughly $1.5 billion each this week.
Washington: House votes to change overtime rules
The House of Representatives passed an overtime bill this week “that Republicans have promoted since the Newt Gingrich era,” said Jena McGregor in The Washington Post. The legislation would allow private-sector employees to opt for an hour and a half of paid time off instead of time-and-a-half pay when working extra hours. The bill’s fate in the Senate is unclear—similar bills have passed the House before— but the White House says it supports the legislation. Supporters say it gives hourly workers more flexibility, but opponents say employers could pressure workers into accepting time off in lieu of extra pay.
Energy: Saudi Arabia takes over largest U.S. refinery
“America’s largest oil refinery is now fully owned by Saudi Arabia,” said Matt Egan in CNN.com. Saudi Aramco, the kingdom’s stateowned oil company, took 100 percent control of Texas’ sprawling Port Arthur refinery this week, completing a deal announced last year. Port Arthur, “considered the crown jewel of the U.S. refinery system,” can process 600,000 barrels of oil per day, allowing Saudi Aramco to send more crude to the U.S. Aramco is preparing for an initial public offering next year that could be worth as much as $2 trillion.
Outsourcing: India’s Infosys to hire 10,000 Americans
India’s second-largest outsourcing firm is expanding in the U.S. amid fierce criticism from the Trump administration, said Saritha Rai in Bloomberg.com. Infosys, which employs about 200,000 people globally, announced this week that it will hire 10,000 Americans in the next two years and open four U.S. research hubs to develop technologies like artificial intelligence. The moves come after Infosys and other outsourcing firms “have come under attack for allegedly displacing American workers with employees from overseas.” President Trump signed an executive order last month to tighten restrictions on visas for foreign workers.
Media: Screenwriters, producers avoid a strike
Hollywood screenwriters and producers reached a tentative deal this week to avoid a strike “that could have crippled TV and film production,” said Lynn Elber in the Associated Press. The three-year agreement, which must be ratified by the Writers Guild of America, was announced just after the current contract expired early Tuesday. Guild members were poised for an “immediate walkout” after they voted overwhelmingly last month to authorize a strike. The union says the new deal includes $130 million more in pay than expected, including for residuals, and increased contributions for health benefits. ■