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Apple becomes first company to hit $3 trillion market value, then slips

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Apple Inc on Monday became the first company to hit a $3 trillion stock market value, before ending the day a hair below that milestone, as investors bet the iPhone maker will keep launching best-selling products as it explores new markets such as automated cars and virtual reality.

On the first day of trading in 2022, the Silicon Valley company‘s shares hit an intraday record high of $182.88, putting Apple’s market value just above $3 trillion. The stock ended the session up 2.5% at $182.01, with Apple’s market capitalization at $2.99 trillion.

The world’s most valuable company reached the milestone as investors bet that consumers will continue to shell out top dollar for iPhones, MacBooks and services such as Apple TV and Apple Music.

“It’s a fantastic accomplishment and certainly worthy to be celebrated,” said Jake Dollarhide, chief executive officer of Longbow Asset Management in Tulsa, Oklahoma. “It just shows you how far Apple has come, and how dominant it is seen as in the majority of investors’ eyes.”

 

GRAPHIC – Apple’s soaring stock market value

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Apple shared the $2 trillion market value club with Microsoft Corp, which is now worth about $2.5 trillion. Alphabet Inc, Amazon.com Inc and Tesla Inc have market values above $1 trillion. Saudi Arabian Oil Co is valued at about $1.9 trillion, according to Refinitiv.

“The market is rewarding companies that have strong fundamentals and balance sheets, and the companies that are hitting these sort of huge market caps have proven they are strong businesses and not speculation,” said Scott Wren, senior global market strategist at Wells Fargo Investment Institute.

Apple’s shares have climbed around 5,800% since co-founder and former chief executive Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone in January 2007, far outpacing the S&P 500’s gain of about 230% during the same period.

Under Tim Cook, who in 2011 became chief executive following Jobs’ death, Apple has sharply increased its revenue from services like video streaming and music. That helped Apple reduce its reliance on the iPhone to about 52% of total revenue in fiscal 2021 from over 60% in 2018, pleasing investors worried the company relied too much on its top-selling product.

Still, some investors worry Apple is hitting the limits of how much it can expand its user base and how much cash it can squeeze from each user, with no guarantees that future product categories will prove as lucrative as the iPhone.

The rapid embrace of technologies such as 5G, virtual reality and artificial intelligence has also increased the allure of Apple and other Big Tech companies.

In China, the world’s largest smartphone market, Apple continued to lead for the second straight month, beating rivals such as Vivo and Xiaomi, recent data from CounterPoint Research showed.

With Tesla now the world’s most valuable automaker as Wall Street bets heavily on electric cars, many investors expect Apple to launch its own vehicle within the next few years.

“The icing on the cake, which may turn out to be the cake, is the potential for an EV car,” Rhys Williams, chief strategist at Spouting Rock Asset Management said.

Just as Apple’s market capitalization hits the $3 trillion milestone, its share price as a percentage of the Nasdaq 100 index’s value is bumping up against a key technical level. In recent prior times, the stock price has risen above such a level and then subsequently declined.

 

(Reporting by Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru, Additional reporting by Eva Mathews and Chavi Mehta in Bengaluru, Noel Randewich in Oakland, Calif., and David Randall in New York; Editing by Nick Zieminski, Cynthia Osterman and Matthew Lewis)

Sports

Mixed Martial Arts-Ngannou out-wrestles Gane to retain heavyweight crown

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Francis Ngannou out-grappled Cyril Gane at UFC 270 in Anaheim, California on Saturday night to retain his UFC heavyweight crown before wrestling with questions about his future amid a feud with the promotion over his contract.

Famed for his frightening knockout power, the Senegalese fighter changed tack to deal with the threat of his former sparring partner Gane to win a decision victory before revealing that he had torn knee ligaments in the run-up to the fight.

“If you feel like there’s a chance that you can do it (fight), then you have to do it. I believe in myself, I’ve been through a lot of stuff in my life,” Ngannou told a press conference.

The 35-year-old was homeless for a period after moving to France to become a boxer before coach Fernand Lopez introduced him to the MMA Factory gym in Paris, allowing him to sleep there while moulding him into one of the sport’s most feared fighters.

Despite being the defending champion, Ngannou’s purse for the title defence was $600,000 according to the California State Athletic Commission, a fraction of what he could earn from a boxing match with the likes of Tyson Fury.

That fee does not include any possible share of pay-per-view revenues that Ngannou may have been entitled to, but the fighter feels he deserves more.

“It’s not simply money. Obviously, money is a part of it but it’s also the terms of the contract, I don’t agree with it, I don’t feel like it’s fair, I don’t feel like I’m free, I don’t feel like I have been treated good,” Ngannou told reporters.

UFC president Dana White did not attend the post-fight press conference.

In the co-main event, Brazil’s Deiveson Figueiredo scored a unanimous decision victory over Brandon Moreno to win back the flyweight belt that he lost to the Mexican the last time the two met in June 2021.

 

(Reporting by Philip O’Connor; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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Britain’s MI5 spy service warns lawmakers over Chinese agent of influence

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Britain’s domestic spy service MI5 has warned lawmakers that the Chinese Communist Party has been employing a woman to exert improper influence over members of parliament.

MI5 sent out an alert and picture of the woman named Christine Lee on Thursday alleging she was “involved in political interference activities” in the United Kingdom on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party.

Speaker Lindsay Hoyle, who circulated MI5’s alert to lawmakers, said MI5 had found that Lee “has facilitated financial donations to serving and aspiring parliamentarians on behalf of foreign nationals based in Hong Kong and China“.

Hoyle said Lee had been involved with the now disbanded all-party parliamentary group, Chinese in Britain.

Britain’s interior minister Priti Patel told reporters that Lee’s behaviour was currently below the criminal threshold to prosecute her, but she said that by putting the alert out the government was able to warn lawmakers about Lee’s attempts to improperly influence them.

Patel said it was “deeply concerning” that an individual working on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party had targeted lawmakers.

Lee is the founder of a law firm, which has offices in London and Birmingham, according to a government official. A woman who answered the phone at the Birmingham office said: “We are not taking any calls now”. A request for comment left at the London office went unanswered.

The law firm lists on its website one of its roles as legal adviser to the Chinese embassy in Britain.

The Chinese embassy in London said in a statement that China does not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.

“We have no need and never seek to ‘buy influence’ in any foreign parliament,” it said. “We firmly oppose the trick of smearing and intimidation against the Chinese community in the UK.”

POLITICAL DONATIONS

Barry Gardiner, a lawmaker for the opposition Labour Party, said he had received hundreds of thousands of pounds in donations from Lee and said he has been liaising with intelligence services “for a number of years” about her.

“They have always known, and been made fully aware by me, of her engagement with my office and the donations she made to fund researchers in my office in the past,” Gardiner said.

Gardiner employed Lee’s son as a diary manager but he resigned on Thursday.

Iain Duncan Smith, a former leader of Britain’s governing Conservative Party who has been sanctioned by China for highlighting alleged human right abuses in Xinjiang, called for an urgent update from the government on the issue.

He questioned why the woman had not been deported and called for a tightening of the accreditation process for people gaining access to parliament, which he said was too lenient.

Lee is listed under the Christine Lee & Co law firm as a British national in financial filings with Companies House, Britain’s corporate registry.

Former defence minister Tobias Ellwood told parliament of her alleged activity: “This is the sort of grey-zone interference we now anticipate and expect from China.”

Britain’s relations with China have deteriorated in recent years over issues including Hong Kong and Xinjiang.

Last year MI5 urged British citizens to treat the threat of spying from Russia, China and Iran with as much vigilance as terrorism.

British spies say China and Russia have each sought to steal commercially sensitive data and intellectual property as well as to interfere in domestic politics and sow misinformation.

The Chinese ambassador to Britain was banned from attending an event in the British parliament last year because Beijing imposed sanctions on lawmakers who highlighted alleged human right abuses in Xinjiang.

China placed the sanctions on nine British politicians in March last year for spreading what it said were “lies and disinformation” over the treatment of Uyghur Muslims in the country’s far west.

(Reporting by Andrew MacAskill; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Christopher Cushing)

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Microsoft board to review sexual harassment, discrimination policies

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Microsoft Corp will review the effectiveness of its sexual harassment and gender discrimination policies and practices in response to a shareholder proposal that passed at its latest annual meeting, the company’s board said on Thursday.

The review will produce a transparency report with results of any sexual harassment investigations in recent years against the company’s directors and senior executives, including allegations that a board committee probe beginning in 2019 involved Bill Gates, the board said.

Data on the number of cases investigated and their resolution is also expected to be part of the review along with steps that have been taken to hold employees, including executives, accountable for sexual harassment or gender discrimination.

Microsoft said last year it conducted a probe into co-founder Bill Gates’ involvement with an employee almost 20 years ago after the company was told in 2019 that he had tried to start a romantic relationship with the person.

Gates stepped down from the Microsoft board in 2020. In previous public comments, a spokesperson for Gates has denied that his departure was linked to the probe.

A request for comment sent to Bill Gates at his Gates Foundation email address was not immediately returned.

Microsoft‘s board said it has hired outside law firm Arent Fox to assist in the review, at the end of which Arent would make public a version of the report detailing its findings and recommendations.

(Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco and Mehr Bedi in Bangalore; Editing by Richard Chang and Shailesh Kuber)

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