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Uber executive Hornsey resigns in email to staff following discrimination probe

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By Salvador Rodriguez

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Uber Technologies Inc’s Chief People Officer Liane Hornsey resigned in an email to staff on Tuesday, following an investigation into how she handled allegations of racial discrimination at the ride-hailing firm.

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The resignation comes after Reuters contacted Uber on Monday about the previously unreported investigation into accusations from anonymous whistleblowers that Hornsey had systematically dismissed internal complaints of racial discrimination.

Hornsey is head of Uber’s human resources department and one of the firm’s top spokespeople on diversity and discrimination issues. She had been in the role for about 18 months, as the company was rocked by claims of widespread issues of gender discrimination and sexual harassment.

The allegations raise questions about Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi’s efforts to change the toxic culture of the firm after he took over in August last year from former CEO Travis Kalanick following a series of scandals.

Khosrowshahi praised Hornsey in an email to employees, which was seen by Reuters, as “incredibly talented, creative, and hard-working.” He gave no reason for her departure.

Hornsey acknowledged in a separate email to her team at Uber, also seen by Reuters, that her exit “comes a little out of the blue for some of you, but I have been thinking about this for a while.”

She also gave no reason for her resignation and has not responded to requests for comment about the investigation.

The allegations against her and Uber’s human resources department more broadly were made by an anonymous group that claims to be Uber employees of color, members of the group told Reuters.

They alleged Hornsey had used discriminatory language and made derogatory comments about Uber Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion Bernard Coleman, and had denigrated and threatened former Uber executive Bozoma Saint John, who left the company in June.

“This person ultimately was the reason behind (Saint John’s) departure from Uber,” the anonymous employees said in an email, referring to Hornsey.

Saint John joined Uber from Apple Inc in June, 2017 but left only a year later to join Endeavor, the parent company of several talent agencies. She declined to comment, telling Reuters by phone: “I don’t have anything to say about my experience there.”

Coleman, who came to Uber in 2017 after serving as the chief diversity and human resources officer of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, also declined to comment.

Some of the allegations were substantiated, investigators from law firm Gibson Dunn told the employees in a May 15 email that was seen by Reuters.

It is not clear which of the allegations were substantiated, but the investigators shared their “thoughts regarding several options to address concerns regarding Ms. Hornsey” with Khosrowshahi, they wrote in the email.

The investigators added that they were commencing another investigation after receiving a complaint from another anonymous Uber employee regarding “allegations that appear to relate in some ways.”

UNRESOLVED COMPLAINTS

The complaints against Hornsey come about a year after Uber was embroiled in widespread allegations of gender discrimination and sexual harassment, triggering an investigation by former U.S Attorney General Eric Holder and ultimately Kalanick’s resignation.

Uber in March agreed to pay $10 million to settle a proposed class-action lawsuit alleging discrimination against more than 400 women and minorities brought by three women engineers. One of the women removed herself from the class-action and sued the company in May alleging discrimination based on gender and race.

The employees behind the latest allegations said complaints filed to Uber’s anonymous tip line often were left unresolved or were dismissed, especially if they dealt with issues of race.

They also accused the company of ignoring a board-approved recommendation by Holder that its chief diversity officer report directly to the CEO or COO.

Uber told Reuters in a statement that the latest complaints had been properly investigated.

“We are confident that the investigation was conducted in an unbiased, thorough and credible manner, and that the conclusions of the investigation were addressed appropriately,” it said.

(Reporting by Salvador Rodriguez in San Francisco. Additional reporting by Heather Somerville; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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Alibaba, Tencent in talks over stake in WPP’s Chinese unit: Sky News

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LONDON (Reuters) – Chinese conglomerates Alibaba and Tencent are involved in talks to buy a minority stake in advertising giant WPP’s Chinese unit, Sky News reported on Saturday, citing unidentified sources.

Sky News said the firms, along with China Media Capital Holdings (CMC), were in early-stage discussions about buying roughly 20 percent of WPP China in a deal that would value the business between $2 billion and $2.5 billion.

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A spokesman for WPP declined to comment.

WPP, the world’s biggest advertising group, is in the midst of a leadership change.

Founder Martin Sorrell left in April following a complaint of personal misconduct. Executive Chairman Roberto Quarta said last month that the search for Sorrell’s replacement was well-advanced.

The China deal, which could take several months to conclude, would see WPP pool its Chinese agency operations into a new holding company and retain majority ownership and control, Sky News said.

The report said the deal had been brewing since before Sorrell left, and that Quarta went with co-chief operating officer Andrew Scott to China this month to continue talks.

(Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Edmund Blair and John Stonestreet)

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Amazon, Toyota, Alcoa and others working to counter Trump’s tariff plans

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By Jeffrey Dastin and David Shepardson

SAN FRANCISCO/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Big companies in the United States from Amazon.com Inc <AMZN.O> to Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T> and Alcoa Corp <AA.N> are working to counter the effect of the Trump administration’s trade policies and to head off new tariffs.

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Companies are attempting to avoid any confrontation with U.S. President Donald Trump but want to exert as much influence as they can to dissuade him from tearing up trade agreements or introducing tariffs on a wide swath of imports.

Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer and cloud-computing company, which could be hurt by tariffs on items sold through its website and components for its data centers, is discussing industry-wide advertising campaigns and more extensive government lobbying, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Amazon declined to comment.

Toyota Motor North America, a subsidiary of Japan’s Toyota, which could suffer if Trump follows through on a plan to impose tariffs on imported vehicles and parts, flew workers to Washington for a rally this week in front of the U.S. Capitol while the unit’s chief has met key members of Congress in recent weeks to discuss the potential impact of tariffs.

Executives from General Motors Co <GM.N>, which could be hurt if Trump pulls the United States out of the North American Free Trade Agreement or if he imposes auto tariffs, have also held meetings with the administration and Congress over the last year to raise its concerns about trade issues. Tariffs would lead to “a reduced presence at home and abroad,” the company said in June.

The largest U.S. automaker is set to hire Trump’s former deputy director of the National Economic Council and adviser on international economic affairs. Everett Eissenstat, who left the White House earlier this month, will head GM’s public policy efforts, according to sources familiar with the matter. GM told Reuters it had an opening but declined to confirm the hire. Eissenstat could not be reached for comment.

Those already suffering from the Trump administration’s tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, which went into effect in June, are also pushing for relief in private.

The chief executive of Alcoa told investors on a conference call this week that the aluminum producer was in “active discussions” with the Trump administration, the Commerce Department and members of Congress about the elimination of tariffs or getting an exception for Canadian aluminum.

Alcoa said this week it will incur as much as $14 million a month in extra expenses, mainly from tariffs levied on aluminum imported from Canada, its biggest supplier.

CLOUD PAIN

In addition to the steel and aluminum tariffs already imposed, the Trump administration has threatened 10 percent tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods which would affect thousands of imported products from furniture to network routers.

Seattle-based Amazon is concerned such tariffs would hit shoppers during the crucial holiday shopping season, the person familiar with the matter said.

Amazon has identified a wide range of items, some of them high-value, the tariffs would hit and is assessing the potential impact on its business, the person said.

High among its concerns is an increase in import costs for components used in data centers or other items that would make its cloud computing division less competitive, two people familiar with the matter said. Amazon Web Services is the company’s most profitable unit.

Amazon is not alone in the technology industry with its worries. “It’s hard to think of many of our companies that don’t have some risk and exposure as a result of the tariff,” said Dean Garfield, chief executive of the Information Technology Industry Council, which counts Amazon rivals Microsoft Corp <MSFT.O>, Alphabet Inc’s <GOOGL.O> Google and others as members.

Lobbying administration officials and members of Congress can be costly with no guarantee of victory, but some have succeeded.

Apple Inc <AAPL.O> won guarantees from the Trump administration that its lucrative iPhones would ship from China without being subject to tariffs, the New York Times reported last month.

(Reporting by Jeffrey Dastin and David Shepardson; Additional reporting by Nandita Bose; Editing by Chris Sanders and Bill Rigby)

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U.S. lawmakers cut anti-ZTE measure from defense bill

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. lawmakers cut measures from a defense bill that would have reinstated sanctions on China’s ZTE Corp, abandoning an attempt to punish the company for illegally shipping U.S. products to Iran and North Korea.

Lawmakers from both parties have been at odds with President Donald Trump over his decision last week to lift his earlier ban on U.S. companies selling to ZTE, allowing China’s second-largest telecommunications equipment maker to resume business.

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An amendment backed by two Republicans and two Democrats would have reinstated the sanctions but was stripped out of the must-pass defense policy bill, lawmakers said on Friday.

The change was made as lawmakers sought to hammer out differences between the Senate and House versions of the National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes military spending but is generally used as a vehicle for a broad range of policy matters.

The ZTE measure was co-sponsored by Republican senators Marco Rubio and Tom Cotton, Democrat Chris Van Hollen, and Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat in the Senate.

Schumer said in a statement that he opposed removing the provision.

“By stripping the Senate’s tough ZTE sanctions provision from the defense bill, President Trump – and the congressional Republicans who acted at his behest – have once again made President Xi and the Chinese government the big winners,” he said in a statement.

Rubio called the change “bad news” in a tweet, lamenting that it increased chances ZTE stays in business.

Van Hollen lashed out at Republican leaders for refusing to lend their backing.

“Despite bipartisan support to put American national security before jobs in China, the Republican leadership refused to take any real, substantive action on ZTE. Instead, they joined President Trump in bowing to Beijing. It’s weak and shameful,” he said in a statement.

ZTE could not immediately be reached for comment.

ZTE had made false statements about disciplining 35 employees involved with illegally shipping U.S.-origin goods to Iran and North Korea, Commerce Department officials said. That led to a ban ordered by the department in April that forced U.S. companies to stop selling U.S. components to ZTE for its smartphones and networking gear. Without these goods, it largely ceased major operations.

The Commerce Department removed the ban on ZTE in mid-July, shortly after the company deposited $400 million in a U.S. bank escrow account as part of a settlement reached last month. The settlement also included a $1 billion penalty that ZTE paid in June.

A U.S. investigation into ZTE was launched after Reuters reported in 2012 that the company had signed contracts to ship hardware and software worth millions of dollars to Iran from some of the best-known U.S. technology companies. (https://reut.rs/2GbpCmO)

(Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Rosalba O’Brien)

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Microsoft shares at all-time high after bumper results

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By Vibhuti Sharma

(Reuters) – Microsoft Corp <MSFT.O> shares rose about 5 percent to an all-time high on Friday, after investors cheered another blockbuster quarter, backed by growth in its legacy software business and Azure cloud computing services.

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Shares of one of the technology world’s oldest and best-known names rose nearly 4 percent to $108.20 in early trade, adding more than $30 billion to a market capitalization that was already $802 billion at Thursday’s close.

At least six brokerages raised their price targets on the company’s stock after the results.

Helped by a boom in demand for cloud-based software, Microsoft has more than doubled in value since Satya Nadella took over as chief executive in 2014 and refocused the software behemoth on newer businesses.

While Microsoft’s core productivity and business processes unit, which includes the Office 365 software suite, rose 13.1 percent to $9.67 billion, revenue for the Azure cloud service jumped 89 percent.

“Based on the results, they were able to beat on all major metrics that people were focusing on. I don’t see anything that should raise an eyebrow of concern”, said Daniel Morgan, a portfolio manager at Synovus Trust who holds 418,716 Microsoft shares.

Microsoft has been investing heavily to bolster the fast-growing cloud business and catch up with market leader Amazon.com Inc’s <AMZN.O> Amazon Web Services (AWS).

“Given the competitive market and need to invest in both capex and operating expenses, profitability along AWS’s level may prove elusive for Azure for several years, if not forever,” Jefferies analysts said.

Microsoft also competes with Alphabet Inc <GOOGL.O>, IBM <IBM.N> and Alibaba <BABA.N>.

According to research firm Canalys, AWS is beating the competition in terms of market share, followed by Microsoft, which continues to grow faster than AWS, as of April this year. Google was ranked third.

“Our early investments in the intelligent cloud and intelligent edge are paying off, and we will continue to expand our reach in large and growing markets with differentiated innovation,” Nadella said on a conference call on Thursday.

Analysts expect the investments to pay off in the long run and provide rich dividends to shareholders, allowing Microsoft to rival Apple Inc <AAPL.O> and Amazon in the race to be the first company worth $1 trillion.

“Our view on MSFT is unchanged: the stock is our favorite large cap name and we expect MSFT to deliver 10-20% annual stock price appreciation for the next several years,” Canaccord Genuity analyst Richard Davis wrote in a client note.

Of the 35 analysts covering the stock, 31 have a “buy” or higher rating, three are on “hold” and only one on “strong sell”.

“Microsoft has successfully come from behind to exceed Amazon’s cloud revenue, and that gap is only increasing in Microsoft’s favor,” Mark Sami, vice president at consultancy firm SPR said.

“I predict that Microsoft’s cloud market share will continue to grow and impress investors.”

(Click here https://tmsnrt.rs/2L763mK for an interactive graph on annual revenue and market caps of Apple, Amazon and Microsoft)

(Reporting by Vibhuti Sharma, Additional reporting by Geetha Panchaksharam and Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru; editing by Patrick Graham)

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India’s Wipro sees strong demand for services from financial clients

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By Sankalp Phartiyal and Krishna V Kurup

MUMBAI/BENGALURU (Reuters) – Indian IT company Wipro Ltd said it was seeing strong demand for its services from clients in banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI), while it faces challenges in its India business and in the U.S. healthcare sector.

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India’s No.3 IT firm said on Friday that BFSI, its biggest segment, now accounted for 30 percent of its revenues, up from 25.7 percent a year ago, as it reported a 2 percent rise in net profit for the three months through June, beating analysts’ forecasts.

Bengaluru-based Wipro said it expected revenue form its key IT services business for the quarter ending September to be in the range of $2.01 billion to $2.05 billion.

That would mean growth of 0.3 percent to 2.3 percent from its current revenue of $2.03 billion, after adjusting for the loss of roughly $23 million in revenue due to the sale of its hosted data services business in the June quarter.

“While we see continuing challenges in our India business and the ACA (Affordable Care Act)-related decline in healthcare, we do see stronger momentum in the rest of our business led by BFSI and the Americas,” Chief Executive Officer Abidali Z. Neemuchwala told a news conference.

More than half of Wipro’s sales are in the Americas.

Wipro also said it has been trying to restructure its India business, which along with the Middle East contributes less than 10 percent of its revenues, while the uncertainty around ACA, commonly known as Obamacare, in the United States has pushed healthcare clients to hold off big spends.

The company also said it needs to attract more big spending clients. It has only eight clients that bring in annual revenues of more than $100 million.

“I wish we were doing better on that,” Chief Financial Officer Jatin Dalal said. “We are pushing up from the base and you hopefully will see an acceleration from hereon.”

There was ample client demand for Wipro’s software services though, Dalal said.

“Our challenge is to make sure we harness the demand… and how quickly we convert that from a demand to opportunity, opportunity to order book, and order book to revenue.”

Wipro said net profit for the three months to June 30 totaled 21.21 billion rupees ($309 million), topping analysts’ expectations of 19.52 billion rupees, according to Thomson Reuters data. Its results came out after the stock market close.

It also announced on Friday that it will partner with Alight Solutions and buy out the U.S.-based human resources solutions provider’s India operations for $117 million in cash.

India’s $154 billion software services industry, led by Tata Consultancy Services and Infosys Ltd, faces tighter margins in legacy businesses such as routine infrastructure maintenance as clients increasingly demand more work for less money.

Still, Tata Consultancy Services this month reported a record profit helped by a rebound in its financial services business. Infosys too reported a rise in net income even though it missed street estimates.

(Reporting by Sankalp Phartiyal and Krishna V Kurup; Additional reporting by Aby Jose Koilparambil; Editing by Jason Neely and Susan Fenton)

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Cyberattack on Singapore health database steals details of 1.5 million, including PM

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By Jack Kim

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – A major cyberattack on Singapore’s government health database stole the personal information of about 1.5 million people, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the government said on Friday.

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The attack, which the government called “the most serious breach of personal data” that the country has experienced, comes as the highly wired and digitalized state has made cyber security a top priority for the ASEAN bloc and for itself.

Singapore is this year’s chair of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) group.

“Investigations by the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) and the Integrated Health Information System (IHiS)confirmed that this was a deliberate, targeted and well-planned cyberattack,” a government statement said.

“It was not the work of casual hackers or criminal gangs,” the joint statement by the Health Ministry and the Ministry of Communications and Information said.

About 1.5 million patients who visited clinics between May 2015 and July 4 this year have had their non-medical personal particulars illegally accessed and copied, the statement said.

“The attackers specifically and repeatedly targeted Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s personal particulars and information on his outpatient dispensed medicines,” it said.

A Committee of Inquiry will be established and immediate action will be taken to strengthen government systems against cyber attacks, the Ministry of Communications said in a separate statement.

It did not provide details about what entity or individuals may have been behind the attack.

Lee, in a Facebook post following the announcement, said the breach of his personal medical data was not incidental and he did not know what information the attackers were hoping to find.

“My medication data is not something I would ordinarily tell people about, but there is nothing alarming in it,” he said.

(Reporting by Jack Kim; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Michael Perry)

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