Nikola Shares Fall After $100 Million Stock Offering Priced 20% Below Market

Nikola (NASDAQ: NKLA) shares fell as much as 17.8% on Friday, plunging to a new 52-week low, after the electric semi-truck maker said its planned $100 million secondary stock offering has priced at $1.12 per share, or 20% below the stock's closing price of $1.40. The company said late Thursday it will sell about 29.9 million shares in public offering and 59.4 million shares to hedge fund Antara Capital L.P., which is an existing holder of Nikola's convertible bonds, Reuters reports. Citigroup (NYSE: C) is acting at the sole book-running manager for the public offering. Nikola said it plans to use the money for "working capital and other general corporate purposes." This secondary stock offering comes as the company is planning to launch its new long-range electric semi-truck powered by hydrogen fuel cells this year. Nikola reported a $222.1 million loss in its recent fourth-quarter, and had $233.4 million in cash and equivalents available as of Dec. 31.

Netflix Reportedly Tests Expanding Gaming Service to TVs

Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) is reportedly testing bringing its video game service to televisions, expanding beyond smartphones and tablets as the streaming giants works to diversity its subscription base. Bloomberg News reports that code hidden within Netflix's app includes references to games streamed on TVs. "A game on your TV needs a controller to play. Do you want to use this phone as a game controller?," one line of the hidden code reads, quoted by Bloomberg, signaling that Netflix is planning to integrate connecting phones to smart TVs to be used as video game controllers. The company launched its video game streaming service for iOS (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Android (NASDAQ: GOOGL) devices in 2021, with games played through the Netflix app and requiring a subscription to the streaming service.

Johnson & Johnson Drops Out of RSV Vaccine Race

Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) on Wednesday said its ending its development of a RSV vaccine, weeks after rivals like Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) and GSK (NYSE: GSK) said they are close to launching the first vaccine against the deadly respiratory virus. The pharmaceutical giant will stop working on its investigational RSV vaccine for adults and discontinue its phase three clinical trial of the shot, the company said. "We remain focused on advancing our differentiated pipeline, improving the lives of millions of patients and developing new modalities in areas with the greatest unmet medical need," said Dr. Bill Hait, J&J's executive vice president, in a statement. J&J first launched its phase three trial in September 2021, enrolling about 23,000 adults ages 60 and older. A phase two trial found the shot to be 80% effective against severe infection.

Salesforce Could Become $12 Earnings Story in 2025, According to Jefferies

Salesforce (NYSE: CRM) is on a path towards boosting earnings in the coming years, according to analysts at Jefferies. "We see CRM as a $10-12 earnings story in CY'25 and CY'26, implying a $200-$240 stock at 20x," Jefferies analyst Brent Thill said in a note on Tuesday. Thill believes the software company can sustain top-line double-digit growth by continuing to gain market share and capturing 50% more annual recurring revenue b though increased adoption of its multi-cloud offering. Thill also believes Salesforce can grow margins to the low-to mid 30s, from 22.5% in 2022, as there are opportunities for cost reductions through downsizing of office space and workforce cuts. The company's adjusted earnings per share for fiscal 2023 was $5.24. The stock is up nearly 43% year-to-date, outpacing the S&P 500's (NYSE: SPY) growth of 3.6%.

Chipotle to Pay $240,000 After Closing Maine Location That Tried to Unionize

Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE: CMG) has agreed to pay $240,000 to former employees as part of a settlement from a complaint that the fast-casual restaurant chain violated federal law by closing a location where workers were planning to unionize. "We settled this case not because we did anything wrong, but because the time, energy and cost to litigate would ave far outweighed the settlement agreement," said Laurie Schalow, chief corporate affairs officer at Chipotle, in a statement to CNBC. Workers at the Maine restaurant had filed a petition to unionize under Chipotle United back in June, becoming the company's first location to do so. Less than a month later, Chipotle closed the restaurant, citing staffing issues. In November, the National Labor Relations Board found that Chipotle violated federal labor law by closing the restaurant and stopping organizers from being hired at other locations afterward. To date, only one Chipotle has successfully unionized in Lansing, Michigan under the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Ford Plans to Build 500,000 EVs Annually at New Memphis Plant

Ford (NYSE: F) expects to build 500,000 electric vehicles annually once its new Memphis, Tennessee plant currently being constructed reaches full production. The plant's, called "BlueOval City," only announced product so far is the company's next-generation electric truck, which Ford is calling "Project T3," short for "TrustTheTruck." CEO Jim Farley said in a release on Friday that T3 is a "once in-a-lifetime opportunity to revolutionize America's truck," adding that the truck will be "a platform for endless innovation and capability." Ford and Korean battery supplier SK Innovation are investing $5.6 billion into the BlueOval City plant, with production at the plant expected to begin in 2025.

Starbucks CEO to Work Monthly Shift at Company's Cafes

Starbucks (NASDAQ: SBUX) CEO Laxman Narasimhan told employees Thursday that he plans to work a half day shift every month at one of the coffee chain's locations. "To keep us close to the culture and our customers, as well as to our challenges and opportunities, I intend to continue working in stores for a half day each month, and I expect each member of the leadership team to also ensure our support centers stay connected and engaged in the realities of our stores for discussion and improvement," he wrote in a letter to employees, quoted by CNBC. His pledge comes as he takes over the helm of the coffee giant as Howard Schultz leaves the company about two weeks earlier than previously planned as the company looks to improve its relationship with its baristas. As of Friday, more than 190 company-owned Starbucks locations have voted to unionize, according to National Labor Relations Board data, with employees citing unsafe working conditions, understaffing and unreliable scheduling as some of the reasons behind unionizing.

Top AI Mobile Apps Generated Over $14 Million So Far This Year

Consumers have spent more than $14 million in the 10 highest-earning mobile apps that advertise their use of OpenAI's technology, according to new report from analytics provider, TechCrunch reports. In February 2023, the top AI apps combined accounted for nearly $5.9 million in global consumer spending, the firm says. Moreover, the group of apps averaged $232,000 in daily consumer spending within the first 20 days of March, up 11% from February's daily spending average of $210,000. The firm's analysis included the AI apps Genie - AI Chatbot, AI Chat - Chatbot AI Assistant, Pixelcut AI Photo Editor, AI Chatbot - Open Chat Writer, Apo - AI Personal Assistant, Chat AI Bot - Writing Assistant, ChatOn - AI Chatbot Assistant, AI Chat - Ask Anything, Chat AI - Ask Anything, and GoatChat. Of there, Genie has generated the most revenue so far this year at $3.2 million, while AI Chat and Pixelcut have garnered $2.8 million and $2.2 million, respectively.

Google Opens Early Access to AI Chatbot Bard

Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL) announced that the company is releasing its ChatGPT competitor Bard for early access, calling the program an "early experiment that lets you collaborate with generative AI." Bard is a chatbot based on a large language model, like OpenAI's ChatGPT and Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Bing, with Google's bot using the company's own LaMDA (Language Model for Dialogue Applications). "You can use Bard to boost your productivity, accelerate your ideas and fuel your curiosity," Sissie Hsiao, VP of product, and Eli Collins, VP of research at Google, wrote in a blog post. "You might ask Bard to give you tips to reach your goal of reading more books this year, explain quantum physics in simple terms or spark your creativity by outlining a blog post." When Bard generates an answer to a user's text query, the user can rate the answer with a thumbs up or down, restart the conversation, or simply click on a "Google It" button to switch to the company's search engine. Users in the U.K. and U.S. can join the waitlist for Bard at

Amazon Lays Off 9,000 More Employees in Additional Job Cuts

Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) announced Monday it was laying off another 9,000 employees, impacting workers at AWS Cloud, Twitch Gaming, Advertising and PXT (experience and technology solutions) divisions. CEO Andy Jassy said in a memo published Monday that the reason the company is doing cuts in stages is that some managers were still evaluating their departments during the an earlier round of layoffs than began in November and extended into January, affecting more than 18,000 employees. This decision comes as Amazon looks to streamline costs, with Jassy noting that he was evaluating "uncertainty that exists in the near future" in regards to the economy. “The overriding tenet of our annual planning this year was to be leaner while doing so in a way that enables us to still invest robustly in the key long-term customer experiences that we believe can meaningfully improve customers’ lives and Amazon as a whole,” Jassy said.

Big Banks Deposit $30 Billion into First Republic Bank

A group of nearly a dozen financial institutions agreed to deposit $30 billion in First Republic Bank (NYSE: FRC) to aid the lender in effort to stabilize the U.S. banking system. Bank of America (NYSE: BAC), Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC), Citigroup (NYSE: C) and JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM) will contribute about $5 billion each, while Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS) and Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS) will give about $2.5 billion, the group said in a release. Truist (NYSE: TFC), PNC Financial (NYSE: PNC), U.S. Bancorp (NYSE: USB), State Street (NYSE: STT) and Bank of New York Mellon (NYSE: BK) will deposit about $1 billion each. “This action by America’s largest banks reflects their confidence in First Republic and in banks of all sizes, and it demonstrates their overall commitment to helping banks serve their customers and communities,” the group said in a statement. The deposits will stay at the bank for at least 120 days, according to an announcement from First Republic.

Stripe Valuation at $50 billion in New $6.5 Billion Funding Round

Digital payments company Stripe announced that it raised over $6.5 billion in Series I funding at a $50 billion valuation, a notable discount from its peak valuation of $95 billion in 2021. New investors in this round include GIC, Goldman Sachs Asset and Wealth Management and Temasek, joining existing investors Andreessen Horowitz, Baillie Gifford, Founders Fund, General Catalyst, MSD Partners and Thrive Capital. Stripe said the funds raised will be used "to provide liquidity to current and former employees and address employee withholding tax obligations related to equity awards, resulting in the retirement of Stripe shares that will offset the issuance of new shares to Series I investors." Stripe also said that it "does not need capital to run its business." The company has remained privately own for over a decade, despite recurring speculation about an IPO. In July, Stripe cut its valuation from $95 billion to $74 billion and further lowered it to $63 billion in January as investors pullback on the tech sector. Stripe also laid off 14% of its workforce in November.

Goldman Slashes GDP Forecast on Small Bank Stress

Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS) on Wednesday lowered its 2023 economic growth forecast, citing that small- and medium-sized banks will reduce lending as a result pressure on the broader financial sector. The firm lowered its GDP growth forecast by 0.3 percentage points to 1.2% as it anticipates smaller banks will try to preserve liquidity in case they are met with further bank runs. Banks with less than $250 billion in assets make up about 50% of U.S. commercial and industrial lending, 60% of residential real estate lending, 80% of commercial real estate lending and 45% of consumer lending, according to Goldman. "Small and medium-sized banks play an important role in the U.S. economy," Goldman economists David Mericle and Manuel Abecasis wrote in a note to clients. "Any lending impact is likely to be concentrated in a subset of small and medium-sized banks."

Meta to Lay Off 10,000 More Workers

Meta Platforms (NASDAQ: META) plans to lay off 10,000 more employees following its initial cuts in November and incur restructuring costs from $3 billion to $5 billion, the company announced Tuesday, as CEO Mark Zuckerberg called 2023 Meta's "year of efficiency." The Facebook-parent also plans to close 5,000 additional open roles that have yet to be filled as continued economic uncertainty puts a damper on the tech company's previous growth plans. "Here's the timeline you should expect: over the next couple of months, org leaders will announce restructuring plans focused on flattening our orgs, canceling lower priority projects, and reducing our hiring rates," Zuckerberg wrote in a message to employees, which was published on the company's blog. Zuckerberg noted that Meta is preparing for "the possibility that this new economic reality will continue for many years."

SpaceX, T-Mobile to Begin Testing Satellite-to-Cell Service This Year

SpaceX plans to start testing its Starlink satellite-to-cell service with T-Mobile (NASDAQ: TMUS) this year, Jonathan Hofeller, vice president of Starlink enterprise sales at SpaceX, said. during a panel at the Satellite 2023 conference in Washington D.C. "We're going to learn a lot by doing -- not necessarily be overanalyzing -- and getting out there," Hofeller said, quoted by CNBC. SpaceX and T-Mobile announced their partnership in August, with the collaboration aimed at ending dead zones for mobile devices. The company has launched about 4,000 Starlink satellites to date, with Hofeller saying Monday that SpaceX is manufacturing six satellites per day at its facility near Seattle, Washington and is producing "thousands" of user terminals per day. SpaceX expects the unit to turn a profit this year.

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