Cannabis: Big Tobacco joins the gold rush
Altria, the maker of Marlboro cigarettes, made its first move into the budding marijuana industry last week, said Tiffany Kary and Kristine Owram in Bloomberg.com. For $1.8 billion, Altria bought a 45 percent stake of Toronto-based marijuana producer Cronos, “on a simple premise: Cannabis is growing fast, and cigarettes are not.” With smoking rates in America falling and an increasing number of states legalizing pot, Canada, which legalized marijuana in October, becomes a “large laboratory for the nascent industry.” Altria also said it would kill two of its vaping products, fueling talk that a deal with vape-industry king Juul may be in the works.
Media: Verizon’s bad bet
Verizon’s multibillion-dollar bet on its media arm has not paid off, said Sara Fischer in Axios.com. The telecom giant said last week that after paying $10 billion in 2017 to create a media unit with the remnants of AOL and Yahoo—currently called Oath, but “soon to be rebranded as Verizon Media Group”—it would value the venture at about half of what it paid, taking a $4.6 billion write-down. Oath remains the fourth most visited media platform on the web, but “the company is struggling to make ad money off of that traffic.”
Security: Marriott hack linked to China
Hackers backed by the government of China are responsible for a major cyberattack on the Marriott hotel chain, said David Sanger in The New York Times. Last week, Marriott revealed that some 500 million guests of its hotels were exposed to hackers fishing for personal details, like credit-card numbers, addresses, and passport information—one of the largest known thefts of personal data. Officials have now determined that the attack was a “Chinese intelligence-gathering effort that also hacked health insurers and the security clearance files of millions more Americans.”
Ride hailing: Uber and Lyft vie for IPOs
“The race between Uber and Lyft to go public next year promises to extend their rivalry for customers to competition for global investors,” said Maureen Farrell and Greg Bensinger in The Wall Street Journal. Both companies last week filed paperwork for initial public offerings. Uber has raised about $20 billion so far from investors, compared with Lyft’s $5.1 billion. Going public is “likely to reshape both companies” and put more pressure on them to deliver profits.