Berkshire Hathaway Inc. sold its entire stakes in the four largest U.S. airlines in April, chairman Warren Buffett said Saturday at the company’s annual meeting, saying “the world has changed” for the aviation industry.
The conglomerate had held sizeable positions in the airlines, including an 11-per-cent stake in Delta Air Lines, 10 per cent of American Airlines Co., 10 per cent of Southwest Airlines Co. and 9 per cent of United Airlines at the end of 2019, according to its annual report and company filings.
The conglomerate was one of the largest individual holders in the four airlines and in 2016 disclosed it had begun investing in the four carriers after avoiding the sector for years.
Airline stocks have been hard hit by the near-collapse of U.S. travel demand amid the coronavirus pandemic.
U.S. airlines are cutting hundreds of thousands of flights and parking thousands of planes. U.S. travel demand has fallen by about 95 per cent and there is no clear timetable for passengers to return to flights at precrisis levels.
Mr. Buffett said the airline industry’s outlook changed rapidly.
“We made that decision in terms of the airline business. We took money out of the business basically even at a substantial loss,” Mr. Buffett said. “We will not fund a company … where we think that it is going to chew up money in the future.”
Berkshire disclosed on April 3 it had sold about 18 per cent of its Delta stake and 4 per cent of its Southwest shares.
Mr. Buffett said Berkshire had invested between US$7-billion and US$8-billion amassing stakes in the four airlines including American Airlines Group Inc.
“We did not take out anything like $7- or $8-billion and that was my mistake,” Mr. Buffett said at the company’s annual meeting which was livestreamed. “I am the one who made the decision.”
Southwest, American and United declined comment.
Delta said in a statement it was aware of the sale and has “tremendous respect for Mr. Buffett and the Berkshire team.” The airline added it remains “confident that the strengths that are core to Delta’s business – our people, our brand, our network and our operational reliability – will endure and position Delta to succeed.”
Mr. Buffett said he previously considered investing in additional airlines.
“It is a blow to have essentially your demand dry up … It is basically that we shut off air travel in this country,” Mr. Buffett added.
Mr. Buffett previously expressed grim sentiments about the financial outlook for airlines. He did invest in USAir in 1989.
“If a farsighted capitalist had been present at Kitty Hawk, he would have done his successors a huge favour by shooting Orville down,” Mr. Buffett wrote in his 2007 annual letter. “Investors have poured money into a bottomless pit, attracted by growth when they should have been repelled by it.”
Google in $5bn lawsuit for tracking in 'private' mode – BBC News
Google has been sued in the US over claims it illegally invades the privacy of users by tracking people even when they are browsing in “private mode”.
The class action wants at least $5bn (£4bn) from Google and owner Alphabet.
Many internet users assume their search history isn’t being tracked when they view in private mode, but Google says this isn’t the case.
The search engine denies this is illegal and says it is upfront about the data it collects in this mode.
The proposed class action likely includes “millions” of Google users who since 1 June 2016 browsed the internet in private mode according to law firm Boies Schiller Flexner who filed the claim on Tuesday in federal court in San Jose, California.
Incognito mode within Google’s Chrome browser gives users the choice to search the internet without their activity being saved to the browser or device. But the websites visited can use tools such as Google Analytics to track usage.
The complaint says that Google “cannot continue to engage in the covert and unauthorized data collection from virtually every American with a computer or phone”.
Vigorously denying the claims Google spokesman Jose Castaneda said: “As we clearly state each time you open a new incognito tab, websites might be able to collect information about your browsing activity”.
The search engine says the collection of search history, even in private viewing mode, helps site owners “better evaluate the performance of their content, products, marketing and more.”
While private browsing has been available from Google for some time, Boies Schiller Flexner said it recently decided to represent three plaintiffs based in the US.
“People everywhere are becoming more aware (and concerned) that their personal communications are being intercepted, collected, recorded, or exploited for gain by technology companies they have come to depend on,” it said in the filing.
One option is for visitors to install Google Analytics browser opt-out extension to disable measurement by Google Analytics, it says.
Google is sued in US for tracking users' 'private' internet browsing – The Jerusalem Post
Google was sued on Tuesday in a proposed class action accusing the internet search company of illegally invading the privacy of millions of users by pervasively tracking their internet use through browsers set in “private” mode.The lawsuit seeks at least $5 billion, accusing the Alphabet Inc unit of surreptitiously collecting information about what people view online and where they browse, despite their using what Google calls Incognito mode.According to the complaint filed in the federal court in San Jose, California, Google gathers data through Google Analytics, Google Ad Manager and other applications and website plug-ins, including smartphone apps, regardless of whether users click on Google-supported ads.This helps Google learn about users’ friends, hobbies, favorite foods, shopping habits, and even the “most intimate and potentially embarrassing things” they search for online, the complaint said.Google “cannot continue to engage in the covert and unauthorized data collection from virtually every American with a computer or phone,” the complaint said.Jose Castaneda, a Google spokesman, said the Mountain View, California-based company will defend itself vigorously against the claims.”As we clearly state each time you open a new incognito tab, websites might be able to collect information about your browsing activity,” he said.While users may view private browsing as a safe haven from watchful eyes, computer security researchers have long raised concern that Google and rivals might augment user profiles by tracking people’s identities across different browsing modes, combining data from private and ordinary internet surfing.The complaint said the proposed class likely includes “millions” of Google users who since June 1, 2016 browsed the internet in “private” mode.It seeks at least $5,000 of damages per user for violations of federal wiretapping and California privacy laws.Boies Schiller & Flexner represents the plaintiffs Chasom Brown, Maria Nguyen and William Byatt.
Huawei Snubbed by Canadian Firms Ahead of Trudeau’s Crucial 5G Call – Yahoo Finance
(Bloomberg) — Two major Canadian wireless companies said they will build out their next-generation 5G wireless networks with equipment from European providers, sidelining China’s Huawei Technologies Co.
Montreal-based BCE Inc. said that Ericsson AB will provide the radio access network equipment — the critical antennas and base stations — for its 5G network. Telus Corp. said in a separate statement that it has selected Ericsson and Nokia Oyj “to support building” its network, without elaborating.
Those announcements come ahead of a closely watched — and long overdue — decision by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on whether to ban Huawei from participating in the nation’s 5G infrastructure amid deeply troubled relations with Beijing. Huawei previously played a large role in Canadian wireless networks but has faced growing national security concerns from Western governments.
BCE would still consider working with Huawei if the government allows their participation in 5G, the Canadian company said in an e-mailed response to questions.
The Trump administration has lobbied allies to ban Huawei 5G, saying its equipment would make networks vulnerable to exploitation by the Chinese government. Despite that, the U.K. said in January it would allow Huawei a limited role. In recent days, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government has backtracked, saying it seeks to reduce reliance on the company’s technology and on China.
Telus and BCE awarded Huawei its first major project in North America in 2008 — a pivotal contract that helped cement the Chinese provider’s reputation as a global player that could compete on quality. The deal paved the way for it to become a major supplier to all three of Canada’s biggest telecom companies over the next decade.
Stalling in Ottawa
The Telus announcement comes as a particular surprise after Chief Financial Officer Doug French told the National Post in February that “we’re going to launch 5G with Huawei out of the gate” by the end of the year.
Telus spokeswoman Donna Ramirez didn’t immediately respond to a question on whether the company’s announcement still leaves room for Huawei to participate in its 5G rollout. Huawei said in an emailed statement it looks forward to the federal government completing its 5G review and making an evidence-based decision about its role in helping build Canada’s next-generation wireless networks.
Trudeau has stalled on whether to ban Huawei. Tensions between the two countries have been rising since Canadian authorities arrested Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. handover request in late 2018. After her arrest, China put two Canadian citizens in jail, halted billions of dollars in Canadian imports and put two other Canadians on death row.
The extradition proceedings against Meng, the eldest daughter of the company’s billionaire founder, have pushed Canada’s relationship with its second-biggest trading partner into its worst state in decades. Beijing has accused Canada of abetting a U.S.-led “political persecution” against a national champion.
(Updates eighth paragraph with statement from Huawei)
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