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April 2019

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Here is our take on the latest rumors surrounding the Nexus 2016

Alphabet Inc.’s (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Nexus 2016 lineup is slated for release later this year and there have been plenty of rumors of what the new devices might offer in terms of performance and features. Google released the LG Nexus 5X and Huawei Nexus 6P last year and both devices were met with widespread critical acclaim, with the Nexus 6P being hailed by many as the best Android Flagship of 2015. According to reports, Google is hoping to top the Nexus 6P, as the new Nexus devices look set to come with revolutionary new features.

For the new Nexus devices, Google has opted for HTC as the manufacturer of its latest hardware. The new Nexus flagship is rumored to be powered by the latest Qualcomm Inc. (NASDAQ:QCOM) Snapdragon 820 chipset coupled with 4GB of RAM. The new flagship device will also have a new 16MP rear camera with built-in laser auto-focus and a Dual LED flash, while sporting an 8MP wide-angle lens front camera. The new flagship from Google will also come with Android N as stock.

Google is also focusing on VR and reports indicate that the new Nexus flagship will be the perfect device to make use of Daydream VR, which will come built-in with Android N. The new Nexus device will also have the latest version of Google Photos that offers unlimited backup storage. Users can upload and save pictures and videos ranging from 1080p to 4K, without having to worry about storage space. The new feature is also reported to be only for Nexus users which gives people another reason to buy flagship Nexus devices.

According to reports, Google has partnered with HTC for the next three years to manufacture the company’s flagship devices. Many believe that the Silicon Valley giant opted for HTC as the manufacturer this time because of the company’s focus on implementing VR on its devices. HTC has been on top of the VR market lately with the company’s HTC Vive VR headset, and Google hopes that HTC will help with refining the company’s Daydream VR technology. Google is expected to release the new HTC branded Nexus devices at the company’s event in August.

The Country Caller takes a look at why Exxon and Chevron might be forced to cut dividends

Crude oil prices started their falling trend in July 2014. The US shale boom allowed oil and gas companies to extract more oil than before, by naturally expanding the digging plan. The rising supply thus created a supply glut and caused prices to fall significantly. Initially, when the prices started falling, analysts were of the view that this was for a short term and that prices would rebound soon.

They were mistakenly backing the Organization of Petroleum Countries (OPEC) to intervene like they always had. But to their dismay, the cartel decided to maintain output.

Now even after two years, prices remain depressed and continue to remain highly volatile. On Wednesday, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) came down 0.41% at $46.16 per barrel, whereas Brent Crude was down 0.60% at $48.08 per barrel, which is the scale to measure global rally in oil prices.

Integrated Oil & Gas companies have a robust history of maintaining dividends. Even after a decline in dividends, the company’s stock prices haven’t been impacted as of other smaller players. But now, however, it may seem that things are changing.

As reported by Bloomberg, Chris Kettenmann of Macro Risk Advisers has forecasted that the biggest producers of the world would struggle with making some $40 billion in yearly dividend payments. According to Kettenmann, companies such as Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM), Chevron Corporation (NYSE:CVX), Royal Dutch Shell plc. (ADR) (NYSE:RDS.A) have engaged in massive cost cutting measures including capital expenditure reductions, asset divestitures and employee layoffs. 

Recently, Exxon, due to its dividend payment agenda, managed to lose its AAA credit rating from the S&P. Analysts such as Kettenmann raised questions over the strategy and regarding the issue said: “They might be able to borrow to pay it but it raises this question about sources and uses of capital.” He further added: “Are you really growing value within the company spending $12 billion a year on share distributions versus investing in projects that are generating a rate of return for investors?”

Yum! Brands is selling a portion of its business to Alibaba Group Holdings before a spinoff

Yum! Brands, Inc (NYSE:YUM) which owns world-famous fast food chains Pizza Hut, KFC and Taco-Bell, has entered into a deal to sell a part of its Chinese business unit to the financial affiliate of Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd (NYSE:BABA) and a local deal maker. The deal between the parties comes ahead of Yum! Brands’ plans to spin-off its Chinese unit.

The two parties Primavera Capital, which was run by Goldman Sachs Group Inc before, and Ant Financial Services Group have partnered to buy Yum! Brands’ Yum China Holdings Inc for $460 million. The local backing can stimulate the interest of Chinese investors and may also restore the confidence, after a portion is separated from the global Yum! Brands. The spun-off company is scheduled to start trading at the New York Stock Exchange in November of this year. Alibaba’s financial affiliate, Ant Financial, runs Alipay – China’s largest online payment service. Moreover, the e-commerce giant’s financial segment has investments in online-food delivery business. Mr. Hu from Primavera Capital, who is a well-known economist and a deal maker will be crowned Yum China’s chairman.

As the news surfaced, investment firm BTIG analyst Peter Saleh released a research note, wherein he reiterated his Neutral rating on the stock. The analyst said: “We remain Neutral rated on Yum! as the initial minority investment in the China division values the segment at ~$8B-$10B, below the $12B-$14B we believe is necessary to support the current multiple.” Mr. Saleh further added that, keeping this in view, he expects a significant share repurchase which would be done to keep the share price stable as Yum China would officially be separated on October 31 – leading to a drop in share price.

Yum! Brands stock closed at $91.26 yesterday, up about a meager 0.55% against the previous day’s close. Up till now this year, the stock has jumped 25%, substantially beating the S&P 500 Index’s gain of 6.66% over the same time span.

Twitter’s five million new users are nothing to get excited about, considering the efforts the company has made to increase engagement and the weak guidance it has issued for video ads

Twitter Inc. (NYSE:TWTR) reported mixed results for its first quarter earnings and subsequently saw shares open 15.21% lower at $15.05 today. Even though the company posted an incremental increase in users with an additional five million users its added this quarter, the range of new features it had to roll out to increase user engagement pulls the excitement away from its performance. As if that wasn’t worse enough, the social media company also has issued discouraging guidance for video ad spending, despite all the efforts it has put in to make its platform more video-centric in contrast to Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) and YouTube, the enormous video platform owned by Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOGL) subsidiary, Google.

The $13 billion company reported revenue of $594.5 million for the first quarter, up 36.4% from the year-ago quarter, but missing the consensus by $13.34 million. Earnings of $0.15 beat consensus by $0.05. This was coupled with a gloomy outlook for the coming quarter with revenue projected in the $590-610 million range, well below the $677.6 million consensus estimate. The company has also given full-year guidance for adjusted EBITDA margins in the 25-27% range.

Twitter explained that the revenue miss was due to slower-than-expected increase in ad spending by ad partners, and highlighted that it was still within the company’s guided range. The social media company continues to be confident on its online video-centric roadmap, which, it believes, will deliver value for advertisers.

In contrast, The Country Caller believes Twitter’s transition to a video platform does not appear to be executable. For starters, the microblogging platform has only grown 3% year-over year-with the five million users it has added this quarter. Twitter’s user base is quite resistant to change and limited feedback features of the platform make it a bad fit for video content. In addition, larger rivals Facebook and Youtube are increasingly scaling up their video features and they both continue to occupy the dominant shares in the video ad market, making it all the more challenging for Twitter to cope up, let alone compete.

Twitter reported 37% YoY ad revenue growth for the quarter, as it generated $531 million, slowing from the 48% growth it reported for the previous quarter. This growth in revenue is also accompanied by the 26% growth in the company’s Non-GAAP expenses. Revenues in the US grew 35% from the same quarter last year to $390 million, while international revenue grew 35% YoY as it came in at $204 million.

Formatting text is still limited to making it bold or italic

Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) has released yet another handy update for the Android version of WhatsApp, making the writing formats of bold and italic available for the users now. Even though it is not much, the formatting tools are a welcomed addition nonetheless.

It is important to keep in mind that the update will be incredibly useful for those who wish to highlight things that are important. Additionally, it could also serve as a way to keep a conversation interesting.

On the other hand, apart from introducing new formatting tools, the company also made some much needed changes to the app’s file and document sharing feature. Users will now have the ability to share documents and files directly from Google Drive. This includes PowerPoint, Word and PDF files; the files will automatically be converted to PDF if they already aren’t.

That being said, the few features that have been released with the latest update do have a lot of potential and show a lot of promise. It is possible that the company could be thinking to introduce other formatting tools too, but nothing can be said for certain.

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Then again, there is no denying the fact that Facebook is doing its absolute best to ensure its popular messaging app does not get left out, which should explain the constant updates and features. As long as the social media giant offers handy tools and features, there is no reason why the app will not grow in popularity.

Podcasts on Google Play Music will be rolled out to only Android and Web for now

Alphabet Inc.’s (NASDAQ: GOOG) Google Play Music now features podcasts as well, as the feature has now been added to the Android and Web version of the service. Some of the biggest podcasts, like Marc Maron’s WTF and Neil deGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk Radio, have already been signed up by Google Play Music for its podcasts service, something for which iOS users can only wait till it reaches them.

Ilea Malkovitch, Google Play Music Product Manager, stated in the official blog post regarding the announcement that podcasts were held in high regard by the company, especially with the current rise in the feature’s popularity amongst the masses. Google Play Music hosted popular audio content before, and Podcasts will be another gem in its crown.

Similar to the music section, Google Play Music podcasts will offer recommended sections with content pertaining to a user’s usage, listening patterns and likings. Moreover, a wide range of different podcast playlists based on activities and specific topics will also be available for users to choose from. Podcasts have rose to fame only recently and loads of services have rushed to establish their niche within the growing number of users. Google Play Music currently lags behind the major music streaming services, and its Podcasts could well prove to be a catalyst for growth. Google Play Music’s podcasts are especially worth checking out while you’re at it, due to the channels that it has to offer, which could really hope to prove to be a massive help for the service.

Tesla’s revamped Model S does not include Daytime Running Lights which is a mandatory feature in some markets

Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) recently refreshed the front-end of its most successful electric vehicle (EV), the Model S, which is in its fourth production year. The automaker started delivering first batch of the X-effect sedansome week ago. Although the overall response has been extremely positive from its customers, one of its key features is missing in the vehicle, according to Inside EVs.

The Model S should have the Daytime Running Lights (DRLs), or the so-called ‘Signature Lights,’ but unfortunately they are not included in the new refreshed batches of the sedan. Since the lights contain a single “continuous LED line,” they should be clearly visible when the doors of a parked Model S are opened.

Additionally, customers cannot find the ‘DRL’ button in the Lights setting, of the 17″ touchscreen display. Inside EVs shared a picture of the Lights setting in the Control Menu:

Tesla’s Technical Support representative said in an e-mail statement that the company is aware of the problem and revealed that the DRLs are slightly different on the revamped sedan. Like the Model X, the new Model S does not include DRLs.

“The lights above the main headlights on the Model S are Signature Lights, and operate similarly to traditional daytime running lights, “the company said.

For now, the Signature Lights can be switched on by activating either the headlights or parking lights, but the touchscreen mistakenly displays that the lights are not activated. The issue is expected to be rectified in the next over-the-air software update.

Following the update, the Signature Lights will turn on while the range mode is switched off and the Model S is in gear. Additionally, the touchscreen will correctly show the Signature Lights’ status.

Since the lights are a key safety feature for the vehicle, it should have been included in the vehicle during production. Although DRLs are still not mandatory in the US, it is essential to have them in Canada and some European countries. On the positive side, it appears the new Model S is only been shipped to the American customers and the automaker will fix the issue in time for international deliveries.

PC gaming would be on its way to the golden period if Microsoft can use this feedback

Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) has launched a survey to learn what could improve the gaming experience on PCs and to create the most optimal operating system for personal computers. The company is set to launch the Play Anywhere platform on September 13 starting with ReCore, and extending to popular titles like Forza Horizon 3 and Gears of War 4.

On the first page of the survey, it is stated that “the best Windows yet for gaming” would be developed by using the feedback and information provided by the users. Also, no personal identification of any user would be made public from the responses in the survey.

Starting off, the survey asks about the gaming platforms that a user owns including the operating systems, and inquires the tentative amount of time that a user spends on gaming on their computers, tablets, and smartphones. Moving on, the survey inquires the specs, estimated price, and whether a particular user bought a gaming PC or built it on his own. Later, peripherals and accessories used in gaming are also asked in the survey.

Questions about games are also mentioned in the survey. Genres, subscription or free-to-play, and pirated, if any! Some open-ended and opinionated questions are also included in the survey, like “What would improve your gaming experience?” and “What changes or new features would make it better?” For response to these questions, the survey gives 1,000 words to record their answers.

Microsoft holds in its hands an instrument to make all the changes that a user would ever ask for, if the surveys are employed effectively. If this power could be harnessed, the company would be able to create a platform that would be optimized and configured to no end to improve the experience, and without putting a lot of legwork to determine what it needs to do to create that platform.

Both Tesla and SolarCity have not commented on these developments though

Tesla Motors Inc. (NASDAQ:TSLA) and SolarCity Corp. (NASDAQ:SCTY) have finally reached an agreement and may announce the merger anytime today, Reuters suggests. Meanwhile, both the companies are expected to start a campaign, in which they would try to convince the shareholders about the potential benefits of this deal to both the companies. Billionaire CEO Elon Musk’s master plan has been in the limelight for a while as he perceives a bright future of the combined entity.

Elon Musk envisions that the merger of both companies would allow it to reach customers more effectively. Customers would install solar panels on their roofs, while these panels would power their Tesla vehicles and batteries. Meanwhile, the Nevada factory will play a vital role for the combined entity. That being said, it seems to be a rather beneficial proposition as it offers a more affordable alternative to customers.

However, the deal was a bit difficult to happen as SolarCity had formed a special committee, excluding Elon Musk and other executives, to review the offer. A special so-called go-shop provision has been added in the merger deal, which allows SolarCity to contact other potential buyers if they are interested to buy. This provision will be effective for a very short period of time.

The Country Caller has discussed about the potential drawbacks of this deal. Moreover, Street houses have also been pessimistic on this deal as they felt that SolarCity would be no more than a financial burden for the electric car maker. A few of them have also named the alternate energy provider as the next SunEdison, while adding that its value will be nil in future.

While both the companies have declined to comment on the recent developments, its timing is very important. Tesla Motors will release its second quarter earnings on Wednesday and a finalization of this deal will also be important. Although Elon Musk claims that every person to whom he explained this idea was amiable with deal, it will be interesting to see the response from investors.