Spyware target leak, sunny earnings season and a message to Kerry

Planet Business: No more ‘lumpiness’ at Netflix?

 

Image of the week: Decarbonise now

Climate group Extinction Rebellion, and in particular this member in the nice puffin T-shirt, has a clear message for Kerry – John Kerry, that is – and it’s along the lines of ‘make all nations decarbonise now, thanks, ideally before the planet turns into a raging fireball and the only people left alive are Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos camping out on Mars and the moon respectively’. The US special presidential envoy for climate, who the voters of the US opted not to make president in 2004, had the good fortune to be at the wonderful Kew Gardens in London this week. There the temperature was so high he even took off his jacket for a while and slung it over his shoulders like a big rebel, then he gave an impassioned speech and hung out for a bit with London mayor Sadiq Khan and Labour MP/former leader Ed Miliband: Boris Johnson was, alas, too busy self-isolating.

In numbers: Spyware scandal

50,000

Phone numbers of politicians, journalists, human rights activists, lawyers and others on a list of people selected for possible surveillance using malware reportedly sold by Israeli company NSO Group to some highly unpleasant authoritarian governments. NSO says the story is based on a “misleading interpretation of leaked data”.

189

Journalists from 21 countries whose numbers were on the list of potential targets for the Pegasus software. Among them were Financial Times editor Roula Khalaf and journalists working in repressive countries who are known to have been arrested or subjected to violence in the past.

37

A media consortium conducted a forensic analysis of this number of phones and found there had been “attempted and successful” hacks of the data on them. NSO’s spyware is capable of harvesting even encrypted messages on apps like WhatsApp, making Pegasus a great toy for a tyrant.

Getting to know: Mike Verdu

Former Facebook/Oculus and Electronic Arts executive Mike Verdu could be labelled the future saviour of Netflix, only the streamer does not need saving just yet, of course. Its slowdown in worldwide subscriber growth and slippage in the US and Canada in the second quarter is merely a product of pandemic-prompted “lumpiness” in its growth trajectory (it had a gangbusters 2020). Verdu, a gaming industry veteran, has nevertheless been hired to spearhead Netflix’s push into mobile games, which it initially plans to offer for no additional cost to subscribers who like their entertainment to be more interactive than the occasional catalogue scroll. “Since we are nearly a decade into our push into original programming, we think the time is right to learn more about how our members value games,” Netflix told shareholders. But it’s still as “excited as ever” about films and TV, naturally.

The list: Warm earnings glow

Corporate earnings season is underway with some of the biggest stocks in the world updating investors on how they’re faring in these weirdest of times. So which companies have been noticeably upbeat?

1. Next. The fashion chain couldn’t wait to tell the market that its recent sales have been better than expected. Riding the tie-dye craze must have helped.

2. EasyJet. For a company with the misfortune to be in aviation during a pandemic, EasyJet’s outlook statement was remarkably positive. The only way is up.

3. ASML. The global computer chip shortage has proven beneficial for this Dutch company. It makes the lithography machines used by chip makers now desperately trying to catch up with demand.

4. Swatch Group. The Swiss jeweller and watch maker is looking forward to its Omega brand being “visible worldwide” as the official timekeeper of Tokyo 2020, while there’s also a James Bond cameo to come.

5. Carnival. Delta, what Delta? Cruise operator Carnival, one of the first stocks to take a pandemic bath, is confident that people will soon be keen to pay to go on cruises in large numbers. Godspeed.

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