U.S. Markets Got Pummeled; EBay Prepares To Fight Paul Singer; Viacom Buys Pluto TV

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THE HEADLINES

 

KEPT AT BAY

the 20 most expensive items sold on ebay in 2018

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Tuesday had its share of good news and bad news for eBay. The good news? Shares rose more than 6%. The bad news? The reason the shares rose …

Elliot Management, the Paul Singer led activist investment fund announced a roughly 4% stake in the online auction house valued at $1.4B.

Unsurprisingly, Singer and Co. dropped the not so subtly titled “Enhancing eBay Plan,” because who understands a complex e-commerce behemoth better than a bunch of hedge fund managers?

Singer’s plan to shoot first and ask questions later includes a slew of demands. First and foremost: divesting eBay’s StubHub and Classifieds division. Elliot also thinks that leadership could use a shakeup.

But wait, there’s more!

Elliot isn’t the only activist investor ready to go H.A.M. on eBay. Starboard has also built a stake in the power seller of useless sh*t and has gone all “why didn’t we think of that,” agreeing with many of Elliot’s proposed changes.

Of course, eBay’s board is no stranger to being told how to do its job. In 2014 the company spun off PayPal at the urging of Carl Icahn.

STREAM ON

Viacom, the owner of VH1, Comedy Central and MTV is continuing its, albeit fractured, foray into streaming services with a $340M all-cash deal for Pluto TV.

In the simplest terms, Pluto TV is Netflix for people without access to a friend’s Netflix password. Read: it’s a free, ad-supported streaming option with more than 12M monthly active users (… all of whom I don’t know).

The site and app feature an all you can eat buffet of mediocre movies, TV shows and channels like ‘Cats 24/7’ and a dedicated ‘Dog the Bounty Hunter’ station. That said, it appears to be a darling among investors having raised $52M from the likes of Samsung and Scripps.

What’s Viacom’s plan?

Go freemium. Well kinda. The hope is that by adding the streamer to its stable it can get users excited about and hooked on its paid services like Comedy Central Now. A gateway drug if you will. Viacom will also allow carriers like Comcast to offer the app as a value add to its customers.

Viacom plans to add content from its current library but the company will remain independent. No word on how Pluto TV might fit into a combined CBS-Viacom should a rumored re-merger go down in 2019.

 


IN OTHER NEWS

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  • Home is where the heart is, unless, of course, you can’t afford one. In December, home sales in the US dropped to their lowest rate since 2015. Weighed down by stock market volatility, a looming government shutdown, and rising interest rates, the housing market is facing what some are calling a “mental recession.”

 

  • Vodafone and IBM are joining forces. The $550M deal was reached in hopes that the companies could team up to pursue solutions in emerging technology sectors. IBM will be supplying Vodafone’s B2B units with cloud computing technology over the next 8 years as part of the joint venture.

 

  • Starbucks is jumping into bed with Uber in an effort to expand its delivery services. 95% of Starbuck’s menu will be available through Uber Eats for a $2.95 booking fee. I guess if you’re in a bad enough place that you need coffee delivered, what’s the problem with doubling the price of your order?

 

  • Walgreens is being asked to pay $269.2M to settle claims that the drugstore chain was defrauding national health care programs. The behavior that landed Walgreens in hot water includes issuing insulin pens to Medicare and Medicaid users who didn’t need them and overbilling Medicaid. Or in other words, Walgreens hates America. There, I said it.

 

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