Top US stocks: Apple, Amazon and Oracle

Apple scrambles to issue a security patch before launching its new iPhone today, Amazon ups wages to attract new workers, Oracle beats earnings expectations, Google is fined in South Korea, Boeing’s long-term outlook improves, and Intuit agrees to buy Mailchimp.

USA (1)

Apple

Apple has issued an emergency software update to fix a new vulnerability that could allow hackers to access iPhones, threatening to overshadow its launch event later today that will unveil the next generation of iPhones.

The company issued a patch on Monday to fix the flaw which was identified by researchers at the University of Toronto, which said hackers could access iPhones, Macs or Apple Watches through iMessage without the user having to click on any malicious link.

‘Attacks like the ones described are highly sophisticated, cost millions of dollars to develop, often have a short shelf life, and are used to target specific individuals,’ said Ivan Krstic, head of Apple Security Engineering and Architecture. ‘While that means they are not a threat to the overwhelming majority of our users, we continue to work tirelessly to defend all our customers, and we are constantly adding new protections for their devices and data.’

The news comes ahead of Apple launching its new iPhone later today, alongside new AirPods and Watch, with reports suggesting the focus will be more on the potential of 5G rather than dramatic hardware upgrades. This will be aimed at encouraging more people to make the upgrade to 5G as telecoms providers continue to ramp-up their capacity.

Amazon

Amazon has raised the average starting wage for new employees to $18 an hour and is planning to recruit over 125,000 new warehouse and logistics workers in the US.

The company said starting pay will be as high as $22.50 in some areas and that it will also be paying $3,000 sign-on bonuses in select locations. It said the additional benefits it provides employees, such as health and dental insurance, is worth another $3.50 per hour.

Amazon has opened 250 new sites in the US since the start of 2021 and plans to open over 100 more in September alone. The company has aggressively hired over 450,000 new staff since the beginning of the pandemic to meet the surge in demand online.  

Oracle

Oracle delivered higher earnings than anticipated in the first quarter of its financial year as its new cloud businesses continue to go from strength-to-strength.

Revenue rose 4% to $9.73 billion, coming in slightly below the $9.77 billion expected by analysts. Adjusted EPS was up 11% to $1.03 and reported EPS was up 19% to $0.86 – both coming in ahead of the $0.97 and $0.71 forecast, respectively. Oracle’s cloud unit continued to see growth driven by Fusion ERP, with revenue up 32%, and NetSuite, which saw revenue grow 28%.

‘Oracle's two new cloud businesses, IaaS and SaaS, are now over 25% of our total revenue with an annual run rate of $10 billion. Taken together, IaaS and SaaS are Oracle's fastest growing and highest margin new businesses. As these two cloud businesses continue to grow they will help expand our overall profit margins and push earnings per share higher,’ said CEO Safra Catz.

Alphabet

Alphabet’s Google has been fined KRW207 billion, equal to around $176.6 million, for abusing its dominant position in the smartphone market by the Korea Fair Trade Commission.

The fine was issued after the regulator found its contract terms with device makers prevented the development of rivals to its Android operating system. It flagged deals with the likes of Samsung and LG and has now banned Google from forcing them to sign anti-fragmentation agreements going forward. The move is the latest blow to big US tech giants in South Korea, which passed laws earlier this year requiring Google and Apple to open-up their app stores to third-party payment systems – an issue also being debated in other countries including the US and India.

Google has said it plans to appeal the ruling and that the decision fails to recognise the benefits of Android’s flexibility when it comes to compatibility and the benefits this brings to consumers. Android powers around 81% of smartphones in South Korea, according to data from Bloomberg, with iOS accounting for the other 19%.

Boeing

Boeing said there are signs that the global market is largely recovering from the pandemic as it upgraded its long-term outlook.

Boeing said the recovery in domestic flights has led the way before demand for intra-regional travel starts accelerating as restrictions ease. The company forecast domestic flights will return to pre-pandemic levels in 2022 before regional traffic recovers in 2023, followed by international travel bouncing back in 2024.

The company said it expects the global market will need 19,000 new commercials airplanes worth some $3.2 trillion over the next 10 years. Around 43,500 new planes worth $7.2 trillion will be needed by 2045, up around 500 planes from its last forecast. This means Boeing believes its total addressable market is now worth $9 trillion, up from $8.5 trillion.

Qualcomm

Swedish automotive tech firm Veoneer said its agreement to merge with Magna remains in ‘full force and effect’ while it decides whether an improved rival offer from Qualcomm is superior.

Qualcomm tabled an improved takeover bid of $37 per share for Veoneer, which has become a target thanks to expertise in developing driver assistance systems. That values the firm at around $4.6 billion, around 18% higher than the $3.8 billion valuation attached to the Magna offer that has already been accepted.

Veoneer said it is evaluating Qualcomm’s offer but said there is no assurance that it will evolve into a deal, nor that the offer is superior simply because it is higher. ‘The merger agreement with Magna remains in full force and effect, and the board of directors of Veoneer has not withdrawn or modified its recommendation that the stockholders of Veoneer vote in favor of the approval of the merger, the merger agreement and the transactions contemplated thereby,’ Veoneer said.

Chevron

Chevron has announced plans to accelerate its ambitions to lower its carbon emissions by tripling its investment while maintaining its cashflow goals over the coming years.

Chevron said its budget to reduce emissions has been tripled to $10 billion. The budget will be spent on achieving new goals for its ‘lower carbon business’ by 2028, including ramping-up capacity in production of natural gas, renewable fuels, hydrogen and improving its carbon capture. At the same time, it reaffirmed its goal to generate $25 billion of excess cash over the next five years and said it plans to continue growing its dividend and conducting buybacks.

‘At a Brent oil price average of $60 per barrel, the company reaffirmed its expectation to earn double-digit return on capital employed by 2025 and generate $25 billion of cash flow, above its dividend and capital spending, over the next five years. The company also reaffirmed its 2028 upstream production greenhouse gas intensity targets, which equate to an expected 35% reduction from 2016 levels,’ Chevron said.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines announced yesterday that president Tom Nealon has decided to retire, just three months before CEO Gary Kelly steps down.

Nealon has resigned with immediate effect but will continue to be a strategic advisor. He will be succeeded by Mike Van de Ven, who is being promoted from chief operating officer. Meanwhile, CEO Gary Kelly announced last year he would be leaving in January 2022, when Bob Jordan will take over at the helm.

Intuit

Intuit, the owner of small business software brands like quickbooks and turbotax, announced yesterday that it has agreed to buy customer engagement and digital marketing tool Mailchimp in a $12 billion cash-and-stock deal t help accelerate its ambitions to disrupt the market for small-to-mid-sized businesses.

Mailchimp was founded as an email solution but has evolved over the years to provide automated customer engagement and marketing tools. It has over 13 million users around the world, 2.4 million of which use the platform every month. Around 800,000 of them pay for the service, with half of them residing outside the US.

Intuit said it expects the deal to boost earnings in 2022. The consideration includes $300 million of Mailchimp bonuses that will be paid in restricted stock. The rest will be paid in an equal measure of cash and stock based on the last value of Intuit’s share price of $562.61 per share. Intuit is taking on $4.5 to $5.0 billion of new debt to help fund the cash element of the deal.

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