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Business • Economy
Retailer "Fry's Electronics" closes all 31 stores in the US, ending nearly four decades of business.
Fry's Electronics Austin
Fry's Electronics Austin Credit: Jeff Keyzer from Seattle, WA, USA, via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0)

The company put a statement on their website that due to ongoing difficulties from Covid-19 and changing consumer habits, they were forced to make the difficult decision to cease operations and close their retail locations permanently.

Business • Health Care
New Covid-19 mutation in California worries researchers
New Covid-19 mutation in California worries researchers
Credit: Ashley Winkler for Pendect

A corona mutation is circulating in California and other U.S. states that could be more contagious and dangerous. The data situation is still unclear, but some things seem worrying.

Now another mutation has emerged in California, it has already spread to other U.S. states and has also been detected in countries such as Australia, Denmark and Mexico. It was first discovered in December, reports the journal Science. Investigations suggest that this variant of Sars-CoV-2 could not only be more contagious but probably also takes more violent courses. According to this, intensive medical care and deaths occur more frequently - however, the data situation here is still very thin.

The researchers call the variants B.1.427 and B.1.429 - it occurs with slightly different mutations. Under a different naming scheme, it is also known as 20C/L452R.

B.1.427 / B.1.429 carries several mutations, but three seem to be particularly relevant. They affect the spike protein that the virus uses to dock with human cells. Mutation L452R, in particular, appears to increase infectivity. It apparently stabilizes the interaction between the spike protein and the receptor used by the virus. None of the three spike mutations are found in the virus variants from Great Britain, South Africa and Brazil.

Business • Markets
Reddit raised an additional $118 million to its Series E funding round
Reddit logo
Reddit logo Credit: Reddit

Reddit, which announced a $250 million Series E earlier this February, has added over $118 million to the financing event. The current round total is now $367 million, according to a new SEC filing. The filing shows that Reddit is aiming to raise $500 million in this round.

The Series E, which came from investors such as Tencent, Andreessen Horowitz and Sequoia, valued the firm at $6 billion, double its last valuation from two years ago.

Originally founded in 2005, Reddit has long existed on the nerdy side of the internet, where its text- and image-focused forums have devoted themselves to a wide variety of topics, everything from video games and GIFs to cute pets and cigarettes to Donald Trump and sports.

Business • Entrepreneurship & Startups
Fintech unicorn TransferWise rebranded to Wise
Wise logo
Wise logo Credit: Wise

Founded in 2011 by Kristo Käärmann and Taavet Hinrikus, the Estonian fintech unicorn company Transferwise announced on Monday the rebranding to Wise. The company has around 10 million international customers at present.

"The core experience of using Wise will remain faster, cheaper, and more convenient than anything else. Our mission remains the same. We’re still making — and always will be making — money work without borders," said Käärmann in a blog post

With offices initially in Tallinn later joined by London, where the company is headquartered, and other locations, including the United Arab Emirates.

Business • Health Care
BioNtech-Pfizer vaccine stops 89.4 percent of virus transmission
BioNtech-Pfizer vaccine stops 89.4 percent of virus transmission
Credit: Ashles Winkler for Pendect, Logos Pifzer & BioNTech

According to an initial study, the vaccine from BioNtech and its US partner Pfizer apparently largely prevents the transmission of the coronavirus. This is the result of a large observational study conducted jointly with the Israeli Ministry of Health. The study found that the vaccine was 89.4 percent effective in preventing Sars-CoV-2 infections.

The study is based on data from 1.1775 million vaccinated Israelis. Vaccinated people are thus not only protected from disease but also appear to have a high probability of no longer infecting other people.

According to the data, the vaccine also has an efficancy of nearly 96 percent after two doses of vaccination. According to the Israeli Ministry of Health, two weeks after the second dose of vaccine, 95.8 percent fewer infections were found in vaccinated people than in unvaccinated people. One week after the second dose, efficacy is 91.9 percent, according to the report.

Business • Markets
YouTuber "Roaring Kitty" faces lawsuit after GameStop hype
YouTuber "Roaring Kitty" faces lawsuit after GameStop hype
Credit: Courtesy of Twitter

YouTuber "Roaring Kitty", whose real name is Keith Gill, is being sued in the US for his involvement in the GameStop stock hype. A class action lawsuit accuses Gill of violating stock laws and causing "huge losses" to investors, according to the statement of claim filed in Massachusetts and dated Tuesday.

The lawsuit accuses Gill of actually being an expert in securities trading who manipulated the market to profit himself. The YouTuber concealed his expertise and misled private investors on social media to buy shares.

Following the fabulous ups and downs of GameStop's share price, the YouTuber is due to testify alongside hedge fund managers and company CEOs before a US House of Representatives committee on Thursday. Gill released a written version of his planned testimony on Wednesday. "The notion that I could have used social media to promote GameStop stock to uninformed investors is absurd," he wrote. "I made it sufficiently clear that my channel was for educational purposes only and that my aggressive investment style was probably not appropriate for most people."

Business • Health Care
EU orders up to 300 million more vaccine doses from Moderna
EU orders up to 300 million more vaccine doses from Moderna
Credit: Illustration: Pendect, Ashley Winkler. (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

The EU has secured 300 million additional doses of Corona vaccine from the manufacturer Moderna. A second supply contract to this effect has been approved with the US company, said EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. According to the company, an initial 150 million of these doses would be delivered in the third and fourth quarters of 2021. There is also an option for a further 150 million cans for 2022.

Last year, the EU Commission initially ordered 160 million vaccine doses from Moderna.

Business • Markets
Nestlé sells North American spring water brands for $4.3 billion
Nestlé sells North American spring water brands for $4.3 billion
Credit: unsplash.com / Brian Yurasits

Nestlé is selling its North American water business for 4.3 billion dollars to the US financial investor One Rock Capital Partner, as the Swiss group announced on Wednesday night. Brands such as Poland Spring, Deer Park, Ozarka, Ice Mountain, Arrowhead, and Pure Life are being sold, as well as the US beverage delivery service ReadyFresh.

Business • Markets
Bitcoin surpasses $50k for the first time
Bitcoin surpasses $50k for the first time
Credit: unsplash.com / Bermix Studio

Bitcoin has surpassed the $50,000 mark for the first time on Tuesday, after Tesla, BNY Mellon and Mastercard showed support for the cryptocurrency and "the city of Miami’s recent moves to adopt bitcoin, and rumors of Uber and Apple jumping aboard."

Business • Real Estate, Housing & Infrastructure
Cat allegedly caused major fire at Iranian power plant
Cat allegedly caused major fire at Iranian power plant
Credit: Jaime for Pendect

A cat has caused a major fire at a power plant in southern Iran, according to media reports. According to the report, the animal had entered the power plant on Charg Island on Saturday night and then continued to the area of the safety box. For reasons unknown so far, this led to a short circuit, a cable fire and ultimately to the major fire, it said.

Fire department emergency personnel were able to extinguish the fire, but the power plant had to be shut down for several hours. Accordingly, the more than 10,000 inhabitants of the island had no electricity on Saturday.

Business • Markets
Amsterdam overtakes London as most important financial center in Europe
Amsterdam overtakes London as most important financial center in Europe
Credit: unsplash.com / Adrien Olichon

In January, 9.2 billion euros were traded daily on the Amsterdam stock exchanges, significantly more than in London with 8.6 billion euros, according to figures from the financial market firm Cboe Europe.

By comparison, in 2020, an average of 17.5 billion euros per day had still been traded in London, according to Cboe, while Frankfurt was second with 5.9 billion euros per day and Amsterdam only sixth with 2.6 billion per day.

Business • Economy
Bitcoin rises to new record high as Mastercard plans to allow crypto transactions
Bitcoin rises to new record high as Mastercard plans to allow crypto transactions
Credit: unsplash.com / Clifford Photography

Credit card company Mastercard has announced that it will enable transactions with cryptocurrencies in the future - pushing the bitcoin price, which has been rising for weeks, even higher.

Bitcoin rose to a new all-time high of $48,481. This means that bitcoin is taking aim at the round mark of 50,000 US dollars for the first time.

Business • Markets
Snapchat reports 16 million new daily users during last quarter
Snapchat reports 16 million new daily users during last quarter
Credit: unsplash.com / Thought Catalog

The photo app Snapchat added 16 million daily users last quarter. Revenue jumped 62 percent year-over-year to $911.3 million, while the bottom line was in the red by just over $113 million. In the same quarter last year, the loss was more than twice as high at 240.7 million dollars.

Business
Salesforce says "9-to-5 workday is dead", creates flexible remote work policy
Mike Rosenbaum, Executive Vice President Platform, speaking at a keybote
Mike Rosenbaum, Executive Vice President Platform, speaking at a keybote Credit: Raysonho @ Open Grid Scheduler / Grid Engine, via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons CC0 Waiver)

Cloud-based software company Salesforce has announced a new remote work system that will allow for more flexible schedules and options, joining other tech companies like Facebook and Microsoft to offer remote-work policies.

"As we enter a new year, we must continue to go forward with agility, creativity and a beginner’s mind — and that includes how we cultivate our culture. An immersive workspace is no longer limited to a desk in our Towers; the 9-to-5 workday is dead; and the employee experience is about more than ping-pong tables and snacks," so Salesforce in their statement published to the company blog.

Salesforce is introducing three different categories of work: flex (1-3 days per week for team collaboration, customer meetings, and presentations when it's safe to return to the office), fully remote (for employees who don’t live near an office or have roles that don’t require an office) and office-based (for a small population of their team who will work from an office location 4-5 days per week if they’re in roles that require it).

Business • Markets
Family of suicide victim sues trading platform Robinhood
Family of suicide victim sues trading platform Robinhood
Credit: Courtesy of Twitter

Following the suicide of a young user of the app Robinhood, the victim's family has sued the US financial services provider. Robinhood used "aggressive tactics and strategies" to attract young inexperienced investors to "take large risks for the allure of tempting profits," according to the lawsuit filed Monday in Santa Clara, California. Twenty-year-old Alex K. took his own life last June.

While still in high school, K. had opened an account on the retail investor app Robinhood and later traded and speculated in financial products and options. He had no experience with this, his parents later said. One day, he found his account with the app in the red - it was more than $730,000 negative. According to the lawsuit filed by his parents and sister, he didn't owe the company that money but was too inexperienced to understand the notice.

Business • Jobs & Careers
Eli Lilly CFO resigns after 'inappropriate' communications with employees
Eli Lilly and Company logo
Eli Lilly and Company logo Credit: Eli Lilly and Company

On Tuesday, Eli Lilly announced that Josh Smiley, its Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President, has resigned after an investigation revealed "inappropriate personal communications" with employees. The pharmaceutical company said an independent investigation was recently launched after being "made aware of allegations of an inappropriate personal relationship" between Smiley and an employee.

"That investigation revealed consensual though inappropriate personal communications between Mr Smiley and certain Lilly employees and behaviour that Lilly leadership concluded exhibited poor judgment by Mr Smiley," the company announced in a press release.

Business • Jobs & Careers
Amazon employees in Alabama start vote on unionization
Amazon employees in Alabama start vote on unionization
Credit: unsplash.com / Bryan Angelo

Employees at an Amazon logistics center in the U.S. state of Alabama want to organize themselves into a union - voting on the matter began there by mail ballot on Monday. At stake is the online retailer's Bessemer branch with about 5,800 employees, and the vote is expected to last until the end of March. If the vote is positive, it would be the first Amazon site ever to be represented by a union.

Business • Markets
Reddit raised a $250 million Series E funding
Reddit logo
Reddit logo Credit: Reddit

Reddit announced on Monday that it had raised $250 million in new funding, valuing the social news start-up at $6 billion. This is the company's Series E round of financing, and it comes hot on the heels of renewed public attention on the site that has dubbed itself 'the front page of the Internet,' owing to the role the subreddit r/WallStreetBets played in the recent meteoric rise (and subsequent steep fall) of the value of GameStop stock.

The company celebrates in 2021 its 16th year of operation, and, so far, has raised around $800 million. The latest round included financing from “existing and new investors,” Reddit noted in a blog post in which it announced the funding.

Business • Economy
Tesla buys $1.5 billion in bitcoin and plans to start accepting it as payment for products
Tesla buys $1.5 billion in bitcoin and plans to start accepting it as payment for products
Credit: Antana (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

The company said it bought the bitcoin for "more flexibility to further diversify and maximize returns on our cash," according to the filing. In addition to the purchase, Tesla said it would start accepting payments in bitcoin in exchange for its products as well.

The move raised immediate questions around CEO Elon Musk's behavior on Twitter recent weeks, where he has been credited for increasing the prices of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and dogecoin by posting positive messages about them and therefore encouraging more people to buy.

Business
David Hogg to launch competitor to Mike Lindell's MyPillow
David Hogg to launch competitor to Mike Lindell's MyPillow

David Hogg, Parkland school shooting survivor and gun control advocate, tweeted that he is launching a pillow company with software developer William LeGate, competing with Trump supporter Mike Lindell's company MyPillow.

"@williamlegate and I are going to prove that progressives can make a better pillow, run a better business and help make the world a better place while doing it," Hogg tweeted. "We will have the name announced soon but we need to get through the legal process of trademarking as so on."

Business • Media & Advertising
Pornhub obliges users to identify themselves through third-party providers
Pornhub logo
Pornhub logo Credit: Ivan Radic (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

Pornhub allows new users to upload videos. The company had temporarily suspended the function. Now it is returning alongside a new upload identification requirement. The move comes after Pornhub came under criticism at the end of last year for its handling of content showing abuse. The New York Times, for example, criticized the pornography platform in a column for not doing enough to crack down on the distribution of abusive content.

Users who want to upload content must now verify themselves - the platform uses a solution from a third-party provider, namely the London-based company Yoti. Users have to upload a recent photo and an official photo ID, as well as a video or voice recording of themselves.

Business • Media & Advertising
German news show Tagesschau reports highest share of viewers ever
German news show Tagesschau reports highest share of viewers ever
Credit: unsplash.com / Mike Philipp

In the context of fake news and an increase in attacks on journalists, the TV broadcaster ARD was able to report positive news: In January 2021, the news program achieved the highest monthly audience ratings since the measurement began with a market share of 42 percent. Within about a year, the previous record from March 2020 was surpassed again.

Business • Markets
DNA-testing firm 23andMe to go public as a $3.5 billion through Richard Branson-backed SPAC deal
23andme test kit
23andme test kit Credit: Nicki Dugan Pogue (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

A blank-check firm, backed by Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson, is taking consumer DNA-testing firm 23andMe public in a deal that values the merged entity at $3.5 billion, both companies said on Thursday. The company will trade under the symbol “ME” on the New York Stock Exchange.

A SPAC, or a blank-check firm, is a shell company that raises funds in an initial public offering (IPO) to acquire a private company, becoming public due to the merger.

Over the years, 23andMe has become popular with consumers, and in 2018 caught the eye of GlaxoSmithKline, which invested $300 million in the Silicon Valley company, best known for its saliva-based test kits that offer users a glimpse into their genetic ancestry.

Business
Amazon to pay $61.7 million for withholding tips from its delivery drivers
Amazon to pay $61.7 million for withholding tips from its delivery drivers
Credit: unsplash.com/ Super Straho

Amazon agreed with U.S. authorities to pay $61.7 million in response to complaints that it withheld tips from its independent delivery drivers for two and a half years. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported on Tuesday that the settlement resolves the complaint against Amazon for failing to deliver full tip amounts to drivers in its Amazon Flex program.

Business • Economy
Amazon quarterly figures significantly higher than previously
Amazon quarterly figures significantly higher than previously
Credit: unsplash.com / Christian Wiediger

Amazon's quarterly figures have just been published. Here are the most important key figures:

Revenue is $125.56 billion (year-ago quarter $87.4/expected $119.7).

Earnings per share are $14.09 (prior-year quarter $6.47/expected $7.23).

For the current ongoing quarter, revenue is now expected to be $100-106 billion.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) delivered $12.74 billion in revenue (prior year $10/expected 12.8 today).

The stock is trading at -0.4 percent in after-hours trading.

Business
Jeff Bezos to step down as Amazon CEO in Q3 of 2021
Jeff Bezos to step down as Amazon CEO in Q3 of 2021
Credit: Los Angeles Air Force Base Space and Missile System Center, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Amazon has announced that its founder Jeff Bezos will step down as CEO during the third quarter of 2021 and will be replaced by Amazon Web Services (AWS) CEO Andy Jassy. Bezos will take on the role of executive chairman of Amazon’s board.

“I’m excited to announce that this Q3 I’ll transition to Executive Chair of the Amazon Board and Andy Jassy will become CEO,” Bezos wrote in a letter to employees obtained by CNBC. “In the Exec Chair role, I intend to focus my energies and attention on new products and early initiatives."

Business • Jobs & Careers
Google has agreed to pay $2.59 million to settle allegations of discrimination
Google Logo
Google Logo Credit: Google

As part of a settlement with the U.S. Department of Labor over allegations of systemic discrimination, Google has agreed to pay $2.59 million to more than 5,500 current employees and former job applicants.

The settlement comes after the DOL’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs found pay disparities affecting female software engineers at Google’s offices in Mountain View and offices in Seattle and Kirkland, Washington. The OFCCP also found differences in hiring rates that "disadvantaged female and Asian applicants" for engineers roles.

"The U.S. Department of Labor acknowledges Google's willingness to engage in settlement discussions and reach an early resolution," Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs Regional Director Jane Suhr said in a press release.

Business • Markets
Hedge fund Melvin Capital lost 53% in January after betting against GameStop stock
Hedge fund Melvin Capital lost 53% in January after betting against GameStop stock
Credit: Courtesy of LinkedIn

The hedge fund Melvin Capital apparently lost more than half of its assets in January. The reason is the heavy increase GameStop stock which Melvin Capital has short positions on. The news agency Reuters quotes an insider familiar with the company's figures. According to the report, the assets invested by Melvin Capital, which amounted to 12.5 billion dollars at the beginning of the year, had fallen by 53 percent by the end of the month.

Nevertheless, the company ended January with more than eight billion dollars in assets - after hedge funds Point72 and Citadel prevented the collapse of their partner with a financial injection of 2.75 billion dollars.

Business • Markets
Brazilian fintech Nubank raises $400M Series G
NuBank logo
NuBank logo Credit: NuBank

NuBank, a fintech based in São Paulo, Brazil, is valued at $25 billion as the fourth most valuable financial institution in Latin America and the largest digital bank in the world by the number of customers and app downloads.

The round was led by private and public investors including Singapore’s GIC, Whale Rock, and Invesco. Current investors Tencent, Dragoneer, Ribbit Capital, and Sequoia also participated in the round.

Business • Markets
Class-action lawsuit filed after multiple broker limit trade with GameStop stock
Class-action lawsuit filed after multiple broker limit trade with GameStop stock
Credit: Courtesy of Twitter

A Robinhood customer filed a class-action lawsuit against the stock-trading app Thursday after the company barred traders from buying shares of GameStop promoted by WallStreetBets, a popular Reddit group for investors. The lawsuit claims Robinhood's decision deprived retail investors of potential gains they could have made by buying when the stock was low and selling when its price rose.

In addition to Robinhood other brokers worldwide had limited the trade with GameStop and other stocks.