Another Juul Investigation; Thomas Cook Bankruptcy; Facebook Buys Mind Control Startup

The Water Coolest

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THE HEADLINES

 

AN IDIOT ABROAD

Don’t you just wish that you could stay on vacation forever? That you’d never have to go back to work after a holiday? Well, here at Thomas Cook, we can help you achieve that dream.

Let’s recap …

Thomas Cook, the world’s oldest tour operator, has been incorporated for 178 years. That is until yesterday when it filed for bankruptcy. The UK based company books vacations, flights, and tour packages for customers … which sounds great, until you’re stuck in Kathmandu begging a local to let you sleep with the goats because your tour company has gone under.

TC was in talks with its largest shareholder Fosun Touring, for a $1.1B bailout package in exchange for control of Thomas’ touring biz and a minor stake in its airline. But in the eleventh hour, Cook said it needed $200M more to complete the deal, and Fosun walked.

Then all hell broke loose

Up to 150k tourists are currently stranded around the world, leaving the UK Government in the midst of its largest repatriation effort in peacetime history, deploying an estimated 1k planes to 18 countries over the next two weeks.

The government will also cover the expenses of those stranded. Cost estimates hover around $75M for the rescue mission, which is about half as much as Thomas Cook requested as a bailout from the UK gov. As you can probably guess, the UK went all “hard pass” on a cash injection.

If this is the final goodbye for Thomas Cook, roughly 21k people will be hitting the unemployment line, with 9k of those in the UK.

The bottom line …

While Thomas Cook’s crippling debt (2B pounds) was the final nail in the coffin, the company was a victim of a decades-long shift in the travel business. Travel companies are going the way of Blockbuster. Budget airlines and online booking platforms (looking at you, Trivago guy) all played their part in the downfall of the 178-year-old company.

 

SMOKE AND MIRRORS

Johnny Law has had it up to here with Juul. Federal prosecutors in the Golden State are conducting a criminal probe into the San Francisco-based vape peddlers. The investigation is still in its infancy, and no one would confirm the nature of the probe’s focus.

It’s not just California who’s fed up with Juul’s antics. The FDA is currently conducting a sweeping probe into the use of Juul’s marketing outreach and the unusually high nicotine content of its refill pods. Oh, and the agency believes its product kills.

The FDA’s counterparts over at the FTC are also looking into whether or not Juul used influencers and ads to market its product to minors (spoiler: they did). Minors just so happen to be vaping more than ever before. Coincidence? The FTC thinks not.

State of the union

Other governments have also taken up arms against vaping. North Carolina sued Juul in civil court over its alleged targeting of teens and misleading consumers about the health risks connected to nicotine. The state believes Juul designed its devices and flavors specifically to appeal to youths.

After school special

Over in Massachusetts, state authorities are looking into an “anti-vaping” program that Juul was running in elementary and high schools. Because who cares about middle school kids anyway? Mass believes these anti-vaping initiatives are akin to similar programs run by big tobacco, designed to actually get more people smoking. Time to bring back D.A.R.E.

The bottom line …

For Juul, this is business as usual. The company has been catching flak since day one. In the meantime, stock up on your favorite flavored pods before lawmaker make it damn near impossible.

 


IN OTHER NEWS

news

iStockphoto


  • Thinkbook. The age of brain-computing is upon us. Facebook has purchased CTRL-labs, an NYC based startup that allows humans to control computers using their brains for an estimated $1B. The vision is that users will wear a wristband that decodes signals your spinal cord sends to your hands to perform activities, like clicking a mouse or pushing a button. The wristband will then be able to decode those signals and send them to your devices. So, it’s basically ‘Minority Report’ … real original guys.

 

  • Anheuser-Busch InBev finally priced the IPO for the spinoff of its Budweiser Asian business in Hong Kong. The shares are expected to price between HK$27 and HK$30 ($3.45 and $3.83) with the goal of raising up to $5B. Not bad, but about half of what the company was initially looking for back in July. That deal, which was looking to raise $9.8B, fell through when the jolly beer giant realized that “prevailing market conditions” weren’t going to provide the return the company was looking for.

 

  • Hyundai is upping its stake in the autonomous automobile game, launching a joint venture with Aptiv, an autonomous driving tech company. The two companies are going dutch on the JV in hopes of producing level-4 and level-5 (whatever the f*ck that means) production-ready self-driving systems for commercialization. All in, the deal will be worth roughly $4B and testing will begin between 2020 and 2022. Aptiv has also been working on autonomous taxi development with the likes of Lyft and is hoping to bring its technology to a larger scale by partnering with the global automaker. Mission accomplished.

 

  • Coming home. Apple is bringing some production back to the US. The company announced that it will produce its new Mac Pro computer in Austin, Texas. The move comes as a reaction to tariff concerns as most of the company’s products are made abroad. While Apple did get some relief in the form of exemptions for tariffs over the weekend, it appears the wheels were already in motion. The Mac Pro desktop is a high-end model and retails at $5,999.

 

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