Airbnb valued at $13B ahead of staff stock sale (FT)
Airbnb's valuation is set to rise to $13 billion, up from $10 billion earlier this year, as it prepares an employee stock sale, according to people familiar with its plans. The valuation would make the accommodation site second only to Uber in the rankings of Silicon Valley's most valuable private companies, at a time when some venture capitalists are becoming concerned about the rate at which start-ups are spending capital. Airbnb, which overhauled the design of its site and apps this summer, is without a chief financial officer after the departure of Andrew Swain last month, which may make an initial public offering unlikely in the near term.
Paul Allen To Give $100 Million To Tackle Ebola Crisis (NYT)
The billionaire Paul G. Allen said on Thursday that he would donate $100 million to the fight against Ebola, which has killed almost 5,000 people so far and crippled Western Africa. The amount roughly quadruples his earlier commitment of about $26 million to nonprofit groups and government agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, making him one of the largest individual donors in the Ebola crisis. “Everybody feels called sometimes to really pursue a certain thing that resonates with them, and this has resonated with me,” Mr. Allen, a co-founder of Microsoft, said in a telephone interview on Thursday. He said when he first began hearing about the Ebola outbreak in July, he had a “nagging sense” that it could spiral out of control. “We’re up against an extremely tough opponent here,” he said. “The exponential nature of the growth of this disease is really a challenge — we’ve already seen in the U.S. where one case quickly became two.”
KKR Signals Buying Opportunities Amid Volatile Markets (WSJ)
Echoing sentiments from other private-equity executives, one of the top lieutenants to KKR co-founders Henry Kravis and George Roberts on Thursday said recent whipsawing markets could work to the firm’s advantage. “We like investing in complex situations when other investors may be nervous,” said Scott Nuttall, head of KKR’s global capital and asset management group, during a Thursday earnings call with analysts. “We’re hopeful this environment will lead to more opportunities. So, if the world gets difficult, we’ll be ready to capitalize.”
Unused vacation days at 40-year high (CNBC)
U.S. workers are using only 77 percent of their paid time off, according to the research group's report released Tuesday. And the decline is not just tied to recent economic worries; use of vacation days are at their lowest point in the past four decades. In 2013, U.S. workers took an average of 16 days of vacation compared with 20.3 days in 2000, according to the report.
Thirty-one banks prepare for Fed tests (FT)
Global banks will have to show how they can withstand a spike in oil prices, a rise in the US unemployment rate and an increase in risky corporate loans as part of the 2015 Federal Reserve stress tests. Passing the stress tests and related capital planning review is a top priority for banks, because this determines whether they can pay additional dividends or buy back shares. Companies that fail the test, which is aimed at showing how a bank would deal with a crisis situation, can also take a reputational hit. Citigroup suffered an embarrassing blow when it failed to pass the last review, and executives are determined not to repeat that mistake in 2015. The US units of HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland and Santander, which took the tests for the first time last year, also failed. Fed officials have warned they will continue to raise the bar on expectations for banks, putting additional pressure on them. Thirty-one banks will participate in the 2015 capital planning scenarios, including Deutsche Bank for the first time. It is already under pressure from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which has told it in a private letter that its regulatory reports were “low quality, inaccurate and unreliable”.
Supermarket Says Sorry For Selling Hitler Coffee Creamer (AP)
A leading Swiss supermarket chain is apologizing for what it calls an "unforgivable blunder": distributing mini-containers of coffee cream bearing portraits of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. Migros, which also sells electronics and household goods, says it is immediately withdrawing boxes containing hundreds of the coffee cream containers and is breaking all ties with Karo-Versand, the small Swiss company that designed the collectible series of 55 different motifs — including likenesses of the German and Italian fascist dictators. In a statement Wednesday, Migros described the incident as an internal failure and vowed to "tighten our controls for these products drastically" to ensure no more such mistakes.
Herbalife ‘spiked’ Venezuelan profits: Ackman (NYP)
Herbalife “inflated” its profits over the past 12 months by as much as 22 percent by using outdated exchange rates on sales to Venezuela, a new report claims. The maker of nutritional shakes priced product shipped to its Venezuelan distributors at a 25-to-1 bolivar exchange rate but used an outdated official exchange rate of 6.3-to-1 to record the sales, thus overstating its profits, the report — commissioned by Herbalife nemesis and Pershing Square Capital CEO Bill Ackman — alleges. While the practice is not illegal, investors believe Herbalife will soon be forced to change the way it books its Venezuelan sales to the latest official rate of 50-to-1. Herbalife isn’t saying when or if it will change the rate at which it books its Venezuelan sales. The Los Angeles company will report third-quarter results on Nov. 3. “The hyper revenue growth and reported ‘profits’ that Herbalife has generated in Venezuela are a total fiction,” said Ackman, who has bet $2 billion that the company is a pyramid scheme.
Grubhub Profit Rises 400% as More Become Customers (Reuters)
The online food delivery company GrubHub reported a more than 400 percent increase in quarterly profit as more people ordered meals from it. GrubHub said the number of active diners using its services grew 50 percent to 4.6 million from a year earlier. GrubHub’s revenue rose 51 percent to $61.9 million from a year earlier, and net income rose to $6.5 million, or 8 cents a share, in the third quarter ended Sept. 30, from $1.2 million, or 1 cent a share, a year earlier. Analysts expected an average adjusted profit of 6 cents a share on revenue of $57.4 million, according to Thomson Reuters.
Warren Buffett Puts Wind in Berkshire’s Sails (WSJ)
Warren Buffett is synonymous with his hometown of Omaha, Neb., but for a glimpse into the future of his investment empire, look east…to Iowa. In the neighboring Hawkeye State, the Berkshire Hathaway Inc. chairman has sunk billions into wind-farm projects, part of a big gambit on renewable energy by a utility company he acquired in 2000 and has built into one of the country’s largest power suppliers. Through a majority-owned subsidiary, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Mr. Buffett plans to double the $15 billion already committed to renewable-energy projects through early this year, and he is on the hunt for more utility acquisitions. Charles T. Munger , Mr. Buffett’s longtime business partner and Berkshire’s vice chairman, last month predicted that the company would be “the biggest utilities business in the United States” in a few years.
New Manager of Pimco’s Flagship Fund Sticks to View on Low Interest Rates (Dealbook)
In one of his first public appearances since he succeeded Bill Gross last month as the fund’s lead manager, Scott A. Mather emphasized that there would be no changes to Pimco’s house view that interest rates would remain low in a weak global economy. In such an environment, Pimco has argued, there is a strong case to made for investing in riskier securities, be they high-yield corporate bonds in the United States or debt securities issued by Mexico or Brazil. The Total Return fund also has large holdings in inflation-protected Treasury bonds, which are very actively traded and provide a substantial liquidity cushion for the portfolio.
Italian couple get stuck in frolic at sea (The Local)
...the amorous couple were making the most of a warm day, and a practically deserted beach, when they decided to take a dip in the ocean at Porto San Giorgio to express their love. But their lovemaking came to an embarrassing end when the man was unable to extricate himself from the woman due to suction, the newspaper said. They remained in the water until they caught the attention of a woman walking along the beach, who gave them a towel after they struggled back to the shore. A doctor was called and they were taken to a hospital emergency room. There the woman was given an injection usually used to dilate the uterus of pregnant women, in order to untangle the couple.