Archives for April 2018

Fitbit Strikes Deal With Google That Could Lead to Wearables Collaboration

Fitbit has teamed up with Google in an effort to get more deeply involved in the healthcare sector.

The fitness tracker maker announced on Monday that it would use Google’s recently announced health data standards for apps, known as the Google Healthcare API, to connect its wearable devices to the electronic medical records systems used by doctors and hospitals. The aim eventually is to allow doctors to get health data straight from Fitbits on their patients’ wrists.

Fitbit will also move to Google’s (googl) cloud data storage platform, much of which is already certified as complying with the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPPA, which regulates the use of medical records. That could free Fitbit from having to build its own similar systems that comply with the law.

“Working with Google gives us an opportunity to transform how we scale our business, allowing us to reach more people around the world faster, while also enhancing the experience we offer to our users and the healthcare system,” Fitbit CEO James Park said in a statement. “This collaboration will accelerate the pace of innovation to define the next generation of healthcare and wearables.”

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Both companies have struggled somewhat in the wearables market lately. Fitbit was the market leader a few years ago when fitness trackers were all the rage but it has slipped as consumers have looked more to smartwatches from Apple, Samsung, and others to track their travels and run apps, too.

Plunging sales two years ago sent Fitbit’s shares into a tailspin—they’re down more than 70% from their 2015 initial public offering price—although it has unveiled a well-reviewed watch of its own called Versa. To turn things around, Fitbit has been shifting its focus from just weekend athletes to healthcare and in February acquired healthcare data service Twine, which helps connect people with chronic conditions like diabetes and hypertension with coaches and doctors.

Meanwhile, Google’s Android Wear software failed to catch on for several years and was recently renamed Wear OS. The company largely relied on other gadget makers to build smartwatches running its software, but as it did with phones, may have to step in and make its own products.

With both companies looking for a boost in wearables, the announcement of the new partnership also hinted at possible deeper product cooperation in the future. “Finally, Fitbit and Google are collaborating to bring together the strengths of both companies to innovate and transform the future of wearables,” the companies said in a statement, without mentioning any specifics.

Shares of Fitbit (fit) gained 5% on Monday to close at $5.55 on the news of the deal.

The Sprint/T-Mobile Merger Is Huge—But a Lot of Questions Remain

Sprint may soon be no more. Today the venerable telecommunications company announced plans to merge with T-Mobile in an all-stock deal. If regulators give the go-ahead, the new company will be called simply T-Mobile, and T-Mobile’s current chief executive officer John Legere will be its CEO.

That’s a big if. Although the Trump administration is generally seen as more friendly to the telco industry than the Obama administration was, it has taken issue against some mega-mergers, most notably AT&T’s bid for Time Warner. The combination of T-Mobile and Sprint, the third and fourth largest mobile providers respectively, would bring the number of major cellular carriers down from four to three, which could attract a lot of scrutiny.

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Assuming the deal moves ahead, the new company would have a combined total of around 127.2 million wireless subscribers, putting it within striking distance of AT&T’s 141.6 million subscribers and Verizon’s 150.5 million subscribers.

The two companies will exchange stock at a rate of 0.10256 T-Mobile shares per Sprint share and 9.75 Sprint per T-Mobile share, valuing the combined company at $146 billion.

T-Mobile owner Deutsche Telekom will own 42 percent of the new company, and the Japanese conglomerate SoftBank, which acquired Sprint in 2013, will own 27 percent. The remaining 31 percent will be held by the public. SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son and Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure will serve on the board of the new company.

The new outfit will be headquartered in T-Mobile’s home of Bellevue, Washington with a second headquarters in Sprint’s home of Overland Park, Kansas. How and whether the new company will use the Sprint brand will be decided after the deal closes.

The merger is a long time coming. AT&T tried to buy T-Mobile in 2011, but scuttled the deal when it became clear that regulators wouldn’t approve it. T-Mobile then tried to sell to Sprint, but the merger was called off in 2014 when it became apparent regulators would block that deal as well. Another round of negotiations between T-Mobile and Sprint followed the 2016 election and the appointment of the more telco-friendly Federal Communications Commissions chair Ajit Pai. But the two companies couldn’t reach an agreement and called off the talks last November.

What the Merger Means

In an announcement, T-Mobile and Sprint claimed the combined company would create lower prices in part by achieving economies of scale. It also claims the merged company would employ more people than the two businesses employed previously, creating thousands of jobs to support a $40 billion investment into the transition to 5G, the next generation of mobile wireless technology.

“The new company will be able to light up a broad and deep 5G network faster than either company could separately,” the announcement says.

Critics of the deal say it will result in less competition and higher prices. Since AT&T dropped its bid for T-Mobile, the company has greatly simplified its pricing, dumped annual contracts, and passed Sprint to become the third largest carrier. T-Mobile’s consumer friendly practices led the way for other carriers to likewise stop forcing consumers into long-term contracts and to resurrect unlimited data plans (T-Mobile has simplified its pricing, disposed of annual contracts, and routinely gives its customers free pizzas and movies).

“Both [T-Mobile and Sprint] have been feisty competitors to the two biggest national mobile wireless carriers, Verizon and AT&T, introducing consumer friendly pricing and data plans that have pushed the big two to lower their prices and expand their data offerings,” former FCC lawyer Gigi Sohn said in a statement. “This combination will not only result in less choice for consumers, it will provide greater incentive for the three remaining companies to act in concert.”

Defenders of the deal, however, argue that a combined T-Mobile and Sprint could put even more pressure on AT&T and Verizon. “While I’m not prepared to take a bottom-line position on whether this merger ultimately should be approved or not, I certainly don’t agree there should be any iron-clad rule, like the one Obama administration FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler articulated, against going from four to three nationwide mobile providers,” Randolph May, founder of the free market think tank Free State Foundation, said in a statement. “That is the wrong way to analyze the market.”

The Trump administration, and the FCC in particular, has a generally more laissez-faire attitude towards both the telco industry and mergers. But the administration also has a populist streak that could foil, or at least slow down, this merger. It has also blocked foreign companies from acquiring US companies out of national security concerns. Most notably, President Trump blocked Singapore-based chipmaker Broadcom’s acquisition of Qualcomm earlier this year, out of fears that a consolidated chip market would give China’s ambitions in the industry an edge. T-Mobile and Sprint are both already foreign-owned, which might reduce concerns. Then again, the Trump administration is anything but predictable.

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Viewers Are Ditching Cable For Streaming Faster Than Anyone Expected

“Cord cutting” has been a kind of ghost story for cable providers for much of the past decade—a tale that, while foreboding, didn’t seem entirely real. But consumers are abandoning traditional cable for streaming services faster than ever, turning what had been an ominous prediction into a clear and present danger.

Three major pay-TV providers last week reported dramatic declines in subscribers to traditional cable and satellite television packages. Some of the losses were more than double what Wall Street analysts expected, and stocks in major TV providers have fallen off a cliff. Those dismal results followed reports of huge subscriber growth at streaming services like Netflix, leaving would-be defenders of legacy TV with nowhere to stand.

The numbers tell the story in no uncertain terms. Charter Communications, which offers cable service under the Spectrum brand, announced on Friday that it lost 122,000 TV customers in the first quarter of 2018. That massively exceeded Wall Street projections, which the Wall Street Journal said averaged about 40,000 lost subscribers ahead of the earnings report. Charter’s stock dropped as much as 15% Friday.

That collapse followed similarly grim reports from other legacy providers. Comcast announced Wednesday that it had lost 96,000 customers for the quarter, its fourth straight quarter of subscriber losses, and slightly worse than analyst projections. AT&T’s DirecTV satellite service lost 188,000 customers in the same period, driving down video revenue by $660 million despite growth of its own online streaming service. AT&T stock tanked as much as 7% the day after its report. Comcast notched healthy earnings from its increasingly diverse business, but even it couldn’t fight the headwinds, with its stock draining more than 7% by the end of the week.

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The reports continue a strong trend away from traditional cable services—total cable subscriber numbers declined 3.4% over the course of 2017, a faster decline than in 2015 and 2016. The fact that the latest numbers so dramatically underperformed even grim Wall Street expectations suggests the dropoff is continuing to accelerate.

At the same time, streaming services, also known as “over the top” or OTT services, are showing gains that are even more dramatic. Netflix, the 800-pound gorilla in the sector, reported earlier this month that it had added a net 1.96 million subscribers in the first quarter. Perhaps even more worrisome for cable providers are services like HBO Now, which deliver what had been exclusive cable content directly to subscribers, and whose growth is also accelerating.

There are a lot of factors driving the dramatic transition. Arguments about the appeal of “unbundling,” or the ability to pay only for the content a subscriber specifically wants, are widespread. In terms of user experience, the sheer convenience of browsing shows without being bound to a broadcast schedule—or worrying about programming a DVR—makes traditional cable feel downright prehistoric. Cable services have also spent years digging their own graves with bad service and opaque billing—both Comcast and Charter have regularly been among American companies most hated by their own customers.

For years, it was thought that live sports would keep many subscribers from ditching cable, but that dam has cracked in half. Both broadcast networks and ESPN are available through services including Sling and Hulu. And a standalone ESPN streaming service, ESPN+, launched this month, at a stunningly low $4.99 a month rate that seems likely to deepen cable’s losses further.

The impacts of the switch to streaming packages are still unclear, but they’ll be complex. Done right, the transition could channel more revenue directly to creative powerhouses like Disney, which is planning to launch its own OTT service, packed with Star Wars and Marvel IP in addition to animated films. But the decline of cable could be tough for smaller players, such as niche channels which currently get a share of cable fees but might not be able to attract subscribers on their own.

It’s more than likely that cable providers will find some role in this reshaped future. But it’s clearer than ever that their glory days—when they had the leverage to do things like tack on steadily rising fees—are over.

Outrage breaks out after Whole Foods partners with Yellow Fever eatery

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) –’s Whole Foods Market sparked social media outrage after its newest store in its 365 grocery chain partnered with an Asian restaurant with the racially charged name of Yellow Fever.

A Whole Foods Market store is seen in Santa Monica, California, U.S. March 19, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

The independently owned and operated eatery – whose name is taken from the slang term for a white man’s sexual attraction to Asian women – is located in the 365 store that opened in Long Beach, California, on Wednesday.

“An Asian ‘bowl’ resto called YELLOW FEVER in the middle of whitest Whole Foods — is this taking back of a racist image or colonized mind?” Columbia University professor and author Marie Myung-Ok Lee, wrote on Twitter.

Whole Foods, which has eight stores in its 365 chain that was launched with a no-frills concept to win over millennials, declined comment.

“Yellow Fever celebrates all things Asian: the food, the culture and the people and our menu reflects that featuring cuisine from Korea, Japan, China, Vietnam, Thailand and Hawaii,” said Kelly Kim, executive chef and co-founder of Yellow Fever, which also operates two Los Angeles-area restaurants.

“We have been a proud Asian, female-owned business since our founding over four and a half years ago in Torrance, California.”

Kim, who is Korean-American, in previous interviews said she was aware that the name choice would be attention-getting and controversial.

“One night, we just said ‘Yellow Fever!’ and it worked. It’s tongue-in-cheek, kind of shocking, and it’s not exclusive — you can fit all Asian cultures under one roof with a name like this. We just decided to go for it,” Kim told Asian American news site NextShark six months ago.

A year ago she told the Argonaut, a local Los Angeles news outlet, that Yellow Fever means “love of all things Asian” and that public push back over the name had not been as drastic as expected.

Some people on social media defended the news of the partnership with Whole Foods as part of a broader cultural trend.

“This is no more offensive than @abc naming an Asian sitcom Fresh of the Boat or FOB- which is considered racists [sic],” wrote Lorin Hart, who uses the Twitter handle @CubeProMH.

Reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing by Marguerita Choy

The House Intelligence Committee's Russia Report Doesn't Exonerate Donald Trump

The Republican majority of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released an over 250-page report Friday outlining its months-long investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. The full report, the key findings of which were published in March, finds that the Trump campaign did not collude with Russia. But it shouldn’t be held up as any sort of evidence of the president’s innocence—even though Trump and his political allies have already begun to use it as such.

The committee’s Democrats argue that the investigation was not carried out in good faith. Their Republican counterparts don’t dispute that Moscow wanted to influence the election, but say they couldn’t find direct evidence that Putin helped Trump win. The question, though, is whether they really tried to look.

What the Report Says

The heavily redacted report doesn’t absolutely excuse Trump and his associates for their contacts with Russians. It does call the communications between Trump campaign associates and Wikileaks “ill-advised.” The committee also says it has “concerns” that Carter Page, a former Trump foreign policy advisor, may have given an incomplete account of his activities in Moscow in 2016. It also found that Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., and Paul Manafort attended a meeting on June 9 at Trump Tower where they expected to receive dirt on Hillary Clinton, but did not. That finding appears to contradict the written testimony Kushner submitted to Congress.

Overall, however, the report concluded that there was no conspiracy between Trump and Russians interested in disrupting the election.

“Even though this is a report coming from the control of one party, when Democrats have been pressed on their claim that there is evidence of collusion they have uniformly cited public information,” says Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington University Law School who has served as counsel on a number of national security cases. “It was basically stating what most of us have concluded, that there is no strong nexus that they have found of collusion.”

Whatever criticisms the report contained mostly targeted Democrats and intelligence agencies, including Barack Obama’s administration for its “slow and inconsistent” response to Russia’s meddling efforts, as well as the FBI, for inadequately notifying victims of Russian hacking. The report also scolds the surveillance of former Trump campaign advisor Carter Page, an incident which has become a mainstay for the Republican majority of the committee, chaired by California Republican Devin Nunes.

If that name sounds familiar, that’s because Nunes is the guy behind the largely underwhelming FISA memo, which purported to show that federal law enforcement officials abused their surveillance powers in investigating Page. That’s the same memo that spawned the #ReleaseTheMemo movement back in February. Nunes is a notorious presidential ally who has repeatedly visited the White House.

Some of the report’s vitriol appears to be quite a stretch, including one long passage that critiques Hillary Clinton’s campaign for hiring the research firm Fusion GPS to investigate Trump’s connections to Russia. “Rather embarrassingly, the report devotes several pages of incredibly tortuous logic to arguing that commissioning Fusion GPS to do opposition research on Trump constitutes a ‘substantial link’ between Russia and the Clinton campaign,” says Julian Sanchez a senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute where he focuses on national security. “This is, unfortunately, pretty consistent with Devin Nunes’ apparent determination to transform the once relatively apolitical [House Intelligence Committee] into a propaganda arm of the White House.”

A particularly perplexing aspect of the report is just how many redactions it has, many of which appear to censor already-public information. Nunes, the chair of the committee, called the redactions “excessive and unjustified” in a statement and said he “looks forward to publishing a less redacted version in the near future.”

What the Report Doesn’t Say

In a dissenting memo published alongside the key findings in March, the Democratic minority of the committee accused Republicans of engaging in a “systematic effort to muddy the waters, and to deflect attention away from the President.” The Democrats argue the investigation was ended prematurely and failed to interview key witnesses, including Reince Priebus, Trump’s former chief of staff, as well as Stephen Miller, the president’s current senior policy advisor.

The Republicans did interview a number of key players in Trump’s orbit, but their statements were mostly accepted as credible without much scrutiny. “The House ‘investigation’ as sketched in this report essentially boils down to asking Trump campaign officials whether they colluded with Russia, and declaring the case closed when they all said ‘no,'” says Sanchez. Critically, they seem to have rejected numerous requests to subpoena documentary evidence that might call those accounts into question.”

“The House investigation was beset by partisan overtones from the beginning. Representative Nunes, chair of the committee, took every opportunity to act as an apologist for the Trump White House and to dismiss both the seriousness of Russian intervention in the election and the possible involvement of Trump campaign personnel,” says William C. Banks, the director of the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism at Syracuse University College of Law.

While the House’s investigation into Russian meddling may be over, revelations about the Trump campaign’s potential involvement with Russia continue to pile up. The report’s findings come as special counsel Robert Mueller’s team has already secured guilty pleas from several of Trump’s associates, including Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos. The same day the report came out, a federal judge also threw out a lawsuit from former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort challenging the scope of Mueller’s investigation. The Senate Intelligence Committee is also moving forward with its own investigation into Trump’s dealings with Russia.

However much the president may feel that the House’s report exonerates him, it’s far from the last word.

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Intel soars after brighter forecast for data centers, memory

(Reuters) – Intel Corp (INTC.O) beat earnings expectations for the first quarter and raised its full-year revenue and profit forecasts on Thursday, driven by the biggest-ever quarterly jump in its data center business and small-but-steady growth in its personal computer business.

FILE PHOTO: The Intel logo is shown at the E3 2017 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, California, U.S., June 13, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

Shares of the Santa Clara, California-based chipmaker rose 5.4 percent to $55.95 in after-market trading after it said it expects full-year revenue of $67.5 billion, up $2.5 billion from prior guidance.

Intel has been focused on transforming itself from a supplier of processors for personal computers to a maker of chips for growing data center business and newer areas such as driverless cars and artificial intelligence. That shift appeared to be taking hold as revenues for Intel’s data center business accounted for almost half of the company’s revenue in the first quarter, the highest proportion ever.

“They certainly outperformed the most bullish expectations,” said Kinngai Chan of Summit Insights Group.

Intel said fresh demand for applications such as artificial intelligence fueled the data center business. But Intel Chief Financial Officer Robert Swan warned that the brisk growth of that business in the past two quarters, particularly from business customers building out their own computing clouds, would be hard to match in the second half the year.

“We do expect there to be deceleration for [data center business] growth from first half to second half for sure,” Swan said on a conference call with investors. “We hope we’re wrong.”

Still, the better-than-expected results and brighter forecast pushed shares to their highest in at least five years. The data center results also suggest the chipmaker’s large customers have not been deterred by two chip flaws that emerged earlier this year.

Intel said it plans to allot $14.5 billion to capital spending this year, much of which will go toward building up its relatively new memory chip business.

But the company also said $1.7 billion of its free cash flow for the quarter came from long-term supply agreements for its memory business, which could help protect the company against a drop in memory prices that has spooked chip investors this year. That business grew 20 percent year over year to $1 billion.

Intel executives also said that the unit that contains its modem chips that help Apple Inc (AAPL.O)’s iPhones connect to mobile data business will grow faster than the rest of Intel’s sales. Intel’s Swan said investments in that division to ramp it up could compress Intel’s margins in the short term.

Last fall, Reuters reported that Apple had designed iPhones and iPads that could drop Qualcomm Inc’s (QCOM.O) modem chips in favor of Intel chips, though it is not clear Apple has yet made a final decision.

Revenue from Intel’s client computing business, which supplies chips to PC makers and is the biggest contributor to sales, rose 3 percent to $8.2 billion, beating estimates of $7.91 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue from the data center business posted a record gain of 24 percent to $5.2 billion, beating estimates of $4.73 billion.

The company’s net income rose to $4.45 billion, or 93 cents per share, in the quarter ended March 31, from $2.96 billion, or 61 cents per share, a year earlier.

Net revenue rose to $16.07 billion from $14.80 billion.

Excluding items, the chipmaker earned 87 cents per share.

Analysts on average were expecting Intel to report a profit of 72 cents per share on a revenue of $15.08 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Reporting by Sonam Rai in Bengaluru and Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Chris Reese and Tom Brown

Tesla's board against proposal to require independent chairman

(Reuters) – Tesla Inc’s board recommended on Thursday that shareholders vote against a proposal that would require the electric car maker’s chairman to be an independent director, ahead of its annual meeting.

FILE PHOTO: Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveils the Roadster 2 during a presentation in Hawthorne, California, U.S., November 16, 2017. Tesla/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

Elon Musk, chief executive of Tesla, is also the chairman of its board and owns a 20 percent stake in the company.

In an SEC filing here, the board stated that its structure is consistent with majority practice at large public companies and it already has seven independent directors.

The filing identified the individual who submitted the proposal as Jing Zhao of Concord, California, who said he is the beneficial owner of 12 shares of Tesla’s common stock.

The board also mentioned that Musk already holds senior positions as the chairman of SolarCity and Space X, where he is also the CEO.

Tesla is set to hold its 2018 annual meeting of stockholders on June 5.

(This story has been refiled to correct fourth paragraph, identifying individual behind shareholder proposal.)

Reporting by Ahmed Farhatha; Editing by Tom Brown

U.S. probing Huawei for possible Iran sanctions violations: sources

NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) – Federal prosecutors in New York have been investigating since at least last year whether Chinese tech company Huawei Technologies Co Ltd [HWT.UL] violated U.S. sanctions in relation to Iran, according to sources familiar with situation.

FILE PHOTO: The Huawei logo is seen during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, February 26, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

The prosecutors have been investigating alleged shipping of U.S.-origin products to Iran and other countries in violation of U.S. export and sanctions laws, two of the sources said on condition of anonymity.

The probe, first reported by the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, is being run out of the U.S. Attorney’s office in Brooklyn, the sources said. John Marzulli, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, would neither confirm nor deny the existence of the investigation.

The Department of Justice in Washington declined to comment.

Huawei, which makes handsets and telecommunications network equipment, said it complies with “all applicable laws and regulations where it operates, including the applicable export control and sanction laws and regulations of the UN, US and EU.”

News of the Justice Department probe follows a series of U.S. actions aimed at stopping or reducing access by Huawei and Chinese smartphone maker ZTE Corp (000063.SZ) to the U.S. economy amid allegations the companies could be using their technology to spy on Americans.

In February, Senator Richard Burr, the Republican chairman of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, cited concerns about the spread of Chinese technologies in the United States, which he called “counterintelligence and information security risks that come prepackaged with the goods and services of certain overseas vendors.”

Republican Senators Marco Rubio and Tom Cotton have introduced legislation that would block the U.S. government from buying or leasing telecommunications equipment from Huawei or ZTE, citing concern the Chinese companies would use their access to spy on U.S. officials.

U.S. authorities last week banned American companies from selling to ZTE (000063.SZ) for seven years, saying the Chinese company had broken a settlement agreement related to Iran sanctions with repeated false statements – a move that threatens to cut off ZTE’s supply chain.

The ZTE ban was the result of its failure to comply with an agreement with the U.S. Commerce Department reached last year after it pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions by illegally shipping U.S. goods and technology to Iran.

In 2016, the Commerce Department made documents public that showed ZTE’s misconduct and also revealed how a second company, identified only as F7, had successfully evaded U.S. export controls.

In a 2016 letter to the Commerce Department, 10 U.S. lawmakers said they believed F7 to be Huawei, citing media reports.

In April 2017, lawmakers sent another letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross asking for F7 to be publicly identified and fully investigated.

Reporting by Arjun Panchadar in Bengaluru, Karen Freifeld in New York, Eric Auchard in London; Editing by Frances Kerry and Paul Simao

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NYSE glitch forces Amazon and Alphabet traders elsewhere

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The New York Stock Exchange said on Wednesday that trading was suspended on its exchange in five stocks, including Amazon and Alphabet, for the rest of the day due to a technical glitch involving trade reporting.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., April 18, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The exchange, which is owned by Intercontinental Exchange Inc (ICE.N), said the suspension was due to a “price scale code” issue and any open orders in those securities would be canceled.

The securities can still be traded on other exchanges, including those run by Nasdaq Inc (NDAQ.O), where the affected stocks are listed, Cboe Global Markets (CBOE.O) and IEX Group.

Aside from (AMZN.O) and both Alphabet share classes (GOOGL.O)(GOOG.O), affected symbols included Booking Holdings (BKNG.O) and Zion Oil and Gas Equity Warrants ZNWAA.O.

A spokeswoman for the NYSE, Kristen Kaus, said the issue affected a small subset of clients whose trading reports in the affected symbols were being returned in an unexpected format, so the exchange suspended trading in the five securities to minimize customer impact.

There are 13 U.S. stock exchanges, around 40 private trading venues known as dark pools and dozens of single-dealer platforms. The NYSE trading suspension highlights the complexity of the fragmented market, but also its resiliency, given that stocks can trade elsewhere when one exchange has a problem.

The NYSE is one of last U.S. exchanges to have a physical trading floor, and prior to April 9, only securities that were listed on the exchange could be traded there. But following a recent technology upgrade, the NYSE said it would begin trading securities listed on other exchanges as well.

The trading suspension was not likely related to the technology upgrade, Kaus said.

In March, the NYSE and two of its affiliate exchanges were fined $14 million by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, partly in response to a nearly four-hour trading halt in July 2015 that was the result of a flawed software roll out.

Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak and John McCrank; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

WhatsApp raises minimum age in Europe to 16 ahead of data law change

LONDON (Reuters) – WhatsApp, the popular messaging service owned by Facebook Inc (FB.O), is raising its minimum age from 13 to 16 in Europe to help it comply with new data privacy rules coming into force next month.

FILE PHOTO: The WhatsApp app logo is seen on a smartphone in this picture illustration taken September 15, 2017. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

WhatsApp will ask European users to confirm they are at least 16 years old when they are prompted to agree new terms of service and a privacy policy provided by a new WhatsApp Ireland Ltd entity in the next few weeks.

It is not clear how or if the age limit will be checked given the limited data requested and held by the service.

Facebook, which has a separate data policy, is taking a different approach to teens aged between 13 and 15 in order to comply with the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) law.

It is asking them to nominate a parent or guardian to give permission for them to share information on the platform, otherwise they will not see a fully personalized version of the social media platform.

But WhatsApp, which had more than 1.5 billion users in January according to Facebook, said in a blog post it was not asking for any new rights to collect personal information in the agreement it has created for the European Union.

“Our goal is simply to explain how we use and protect the limited information we have about you,” it said.

WhatsApp, founded in 2009, has come under pressure from some European governments in recent years because of its end-to-end encrypted messaging system and its plan to share more data with its parent, Facebook.

Facebook itself is under scrutiny from regulators and lawmakers around the world since disclosing last month that the personal information of millions of users wrongly ended up in the hands of political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, setting off wider concerns about how it handles user data.

WhatsApp’s minimum age of use will remain 13 years in the rest of the world, in line with its parent.

GDPR is the biggest overhaul of online privacy since the birth of the internet, giving Europeans the right to know what data is stored on them and the right to have it deleted.

Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and some other tech firms have said they plan to give people in the United States and elsewhere the same protections and rights that Europeans will gain.

European regulators have already disrupted a move by WhatsApp to change its policies to allow it to share users’ phone numbers and other information with Facebook to help improve the product and more effectively target ads.

WhatsApp suspended the change in Europe after widespread regulatory scrutiny. It said on Tuesday it still wanted to share the data at some point.

“As we have said in the past, we want to work closer with other Facebook companies in the future and we will keep you updated as we develop our plans,” it said.

Other changes announced by WhatsApp on Tuesday include allowing users to download a report detailing the data it holds on them, such as the make and model of the device they used, their contacts and groups and any blocked numbers.

“This feature will be rolling out to all users around the world on the newest version of the app,” it said.

The blog post also points to safety tips on the service, such as the ability to block unwanted users, and delete and report spam.

Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by Adrian Croft