Amazon, MLB add machine-learned stats to cloud deal

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Amazon.com Inc will provide a new set of real-time statistics and graphics on live baseball games later this season, expanding its cloud computing deal with U.S. Major League Baseball, the two organizations told Reuters.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Amazon is pictured inside the company’s office in Bengaluru, India, April 20, 2018. Picture taken April 20, 2018. REUTERS/Abhishek N. Chinnappa

The agreement, which makes use of Amazon Web Services’ artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities, follows a similar deal with the National Football League in November. Neither side disclosed financial details.

Amazon and MLB are hoping the new stats will give fans insights as they follow games on TV and online. A new logo and branding will show off Amazon’s machine learning technology to a wider audience.

One stat under development is a real-time pitcher heat map that changes to reflect specific situations such as who a pitcher is facing, what stadium they are at, the time of day, and whether a team is still in the playoff hunt, to show fans where the next ball may be pitched.

“All these multiple variables that basically we can’t keep in our heads and are not easy to calculate manually, we can now feed those into these large, cloud-based machine-learning systems and see what emerges,” said MLB Chief Technology Officer Jason Gaedtke.

The partnership announcement comes ahead of the MLB All-Star Game on Tuesday evening.

AI-generated statistics will be beamed to baseball fans during game broadcasts and on MLB.com and the MLB At Bat app, and other digital channels. MLB hopes to have the first of these stats ready for fans before the postseason begins in October, Gaedtke said.

The partnership is a marketing coup for Amazon, which is competing against the likes of Microsoft Corp and Alphabet Inc’s Google for cloud computing customers.

The global cloud infrastructure market is forecast to be worth nearly $82 billion in 2018, according to research firm Canalys. AWS accounted for 32 percent of the market in the first quarter of 2018, followed by Microsoft Azure with 16 percent and Google Cloud Platform with 7 percent, according to Canalys.

“Sports leagues make good reference customers for cloud providers,” said Blair Hanley Frank, principal analyst at ISG, a technology research and advisory firm. “They’re large, high profile enterprises with complex needs and interests in developing new digital experiences for consumers that translate well to cloud usage.”

Reporting by Salvador Rodriguez in San Francisco; Editing by Bill Rigby

BlackRock is evaluating cryptocurrencies, CEO says

NEW YORK (Reuters) – BlackRock Inc (BLK.N) Chief Executive Larry Fink on Monday said the world’s largest asset manager has assembled a working group to look at blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, but cautioned he does not see massive investor demand.

FILE PHOTO: Larry Fink, Chief Executive Officer of BlackRock, takes part in the Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit in New York, U.S., February 8, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

“We are a big student of blockchain,” Fink said in an interview with Reuters. Adding that he doesn’t see “huge demand for cryptocurrencies,” the company has a working group studying it.

FILE PHOTO: The company logo and trading information for BlackRock is displayed on a screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., March 30, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

Any move to invest in cryptocurrencies or to use blockchain by BlackRock would mark a pivot for the company and a major institutional endorsement for the insurgent technology. The company managed $6.3 trillion in assets as of June 30.

Last November, in an interview with Reuters, Fink described bitcoin specifically as a “speculative” investment that thrives because of the cryptocurrency’s anonymity. While he sounded an optimistic tone on blockchain, the technology used to record bitcoin transactions, Fink also noted the digital currency’s association with money laundering.

Some asset managers have been quicker to endorse the potential role of digital currencies. Fidelity Investments, a top BlackRock competitor in the fund management space, for instance has extensively experimented with the technology.

Bitcoin BTC=BTSP was trading up 4 percent at more than $6,600 Monday morning on the Bitstamp exchange, after an initial report describing the working group appeared on the website Financial News late on Sunday. That is still far down from Bitcoin’s all-time peak near $20,000 in late 2017.

Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Nick Zieminski

Comcast and AT&T Are Fighting to Become Media Companies

On Wednesday, Fox increased its bid for the 61 percent of Sky it doesn’t own yet, a price that values the British pay-TV company at $32.1 billion. Meanwhile, Comcast swiveled away from fighting Disney for control of Fox, then fired back at Fox with a $34 billion counterbid for Sky—and news broke that the Antitrust Division of the US Department of Justice is appealing last month’s decision by Judge Richard Leon approving the merger of AT&T and Time Warner.

All of these things fit together: Comcast wants to buy Sky for the same reason that the Department of Justice is still fighting AT&T. Both Comcast and AT&T want to be high-risk, high-reward media companies, and that’s bad news for every other part of the entertainment/data ecosystem—including consumers.

Let’s start with AT&T. Judge Leon’s opinion on the merger with Time Warner, which would put content plus its distribution in the same hands—was looney, in my view. (AT&T knows this too, which is why they agreed not to merge their operations with Time Warner in such a way that the two companies could not be unwound in the event of an appeal.) Leon plainly thought everything AT&T said was right—including AT&T’s howler of a claim that Time Warner’s content companies, which include HBO and Turner, would continue to follow their own distribution strategy, regardless of ownership. In other words, he believes that it will make no difference if Time Warner is owned by a dominant distributor with the incentive and ability to constrain access by other distributors. He bought AT&T’s argument that AT&T would never consider the success of the company as a whole when carrying out content negotiations.

But why, if you’re the New AT&T, would you refrain from using your valuable content as leverage to make life hell for competing distributors? The long-term value of new subscribers to AT&T packages—subscribers who switch to AT&T when their existing video packages get too expensive or too threadbare, both possible consequences of a bulked-up AT&T—far exceeds any short-term program-licensing revenue AT&T might get from being a gentle negotiator. So why on earth would AT&T as an integrated, content-rich negotiator play fair with other distributors? What would be the fun of that?

It’s such a big, basic point. Leon seemed to completely miss AT&T’s role as a distributor of data over wireless and wired networks, and almost willfully failed to understand the nature of the market he was dealing with. At one point, he blandly said that Amazon and Netflix were already “vertically integrated” just as AT&T wanted to be. That was AT&T’s big pitch in the case: “We have to have lots of content in our stable so we can compete with Netflix!” But Amazon and Netflix aren’t vertically integrated; they sell content, but they don’t control the physical pipes that deliver it into homes or the wireless transmissions into handsets. Leon’s opinion was certainly long, but that doesn’t mean it’s right.

In fact, juicy coverage last week revealed that, just as the antitrust authorities predicted, AT&T is trying to tell HBO what to do. “It’s going to be a tough year,” HBO’s new AT&T overseer, John Stankey, said to his new underlings.

This makes total sense if you’re AT&T. AT&T doesn’t want to be a mere transmitter of data, because that’s a gravel pit job, in their view. Sure, gravel pits make steady, low returns, but AT&T wants much more out of life. It wants both Wall Street and consumers to see it as a source (in time, an exclusive source) of high-production-value entertainment, with commensurately high margins that continue to fuel the high, steady dividends for which AT&T is famous. To get to that point, it wants to combine its power in distribution with can’t-lose power in content—in a context in which it can bend, package, and wield all of that power with impunity when it comes to the rest of the world. By the “rest of the world,” I mean both other distributors (including upstart distribution competitors) and online content not affiliated with AT&T. Both categories of players will feel pain from AT&T’s withholding, shaping, and prioritization shenanigans; ultimately, all of that pain will be passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices and fewer choices.

Comcast wants Sky (and used to want Fox) for an expanded version of the very same reasons AT&T wants Time Warner. If you squint, Sky has a lot to offer Comcast: It’s a widely known content brand in the UK, Germany, and Italy, with many exclusive or near-exclusive agreements to distribute premium sports games and other shiny video there—including HBO, Disney, and Fox, as well as key sports rights. Some analysts believe that Comcast wants to morph into a Netflix-like over-the-top powerhouse, and that it sees Europe as a beachhead for making that transition. Comcast wants to be the online aggregator of video you think of everywhere.

But you really do have to squint to see Sky that way. Most people think of Sky as a satellite distributor like Dish, except with a better interface. The vast majority of its revenue comes from subscriptions to satellite TV. And that subscriber base is steadily, if slowly, eroding in Europe just as it is in America. In fact, it’s worse in Europe: Digital television is quite respectable there, with a lower percentage of viewers than in the US convinced that you should have to pay to watch TV. On the content side, some analysts are pointing out that Sky’s exclusive rights are very short-term—in just five years or so, Sky (or a new Sky owner) will have to convince ever-more-powerful media brands that they somehow need distribution through Sky and won’t make it going alone.

Comcast’s Sky strategy is the media mogul direction, in other words. More content has to be good, in the company’s view, as it embarks on its global-domination tour—a risky but fun adventure for Brian Roberts, but not great for consumers, wherever they are.


More Great WIRED Stories

17 Fascinating Ways United, Southwest and Other Airlines Are Changing Their Airplanes. Do Passengers Notice?

Here are 17 of the most interesting examples–culled from my recent interviews with the airlines and other sources. (Hat tip to the U.K. newspaper The Telegraph for a few of these.)

Almost every airline cited new, thinner seats as a weight-savings measure: Southwest and United especially. Even if nobody likes them otherwise.

“I know these have a less than stellar reputation,” United spokesperson Charles Hobart said, “but they can be just as comfortable as the previous seats once you work them in.”

2. No more plastic straws

American Airlines and Alaska Airlines have done away with plastic straws. American says their planes will drop 71,000 pounds as a result, but it’s not the initiative they wanted to highlight.

“Our fleet is more fuel efficient today because of hundreds of new aircraft we’ve taken over the past five years,” an American Airlines spokesperson told me via email. “It’s the youngest fleet among the big U.S. airlines. That’s the main point I’d make for American,”

3. Lighter in-flight magazines

Changing the card stock on in-flight magazines means United’s weigh only an ounce; previously they were several ounces. British Airways did this too.

With about 757 planes, 8,700 total seats, and one magazine per passenger, a single ounce means four tons less weight to lift off the ground with each United flight per day.

4. Less paper in the cockpit

Southwest pointed this one out: “We recently finished equipping our pilots and flight attendants with electronic flight bags, eliminating the need to carry paper charts and manuals.  Switching to these tablets removed 80 pounds from each flight and saved more than 576,000 gallons of fuel.” 

5. Smaller video screens

JetBlue gets a nod: “On our restyled A320 aircraft, our (Inflight Entertainment) IFE is lighter and there are fewer of those under seat boxes that power the IFE,” an airline spokesperson told me. “We have also recently changed out food and beverage carts to a lighter weight cart.”

JetBlue: We have lighter video screens.

United: We have no video screens!

“We’ve removed video screens as you know,” United’s Hobart told me. “Many people are bringing their own on board. We offer streaming PDE–personal device entertainment instead. That’s a considerable weight-savings.”

The Australian airline Qantas has a new line of flatware and tablewear that it says is 11 percent lighter: “The range has now rolled out across our International fleet (and Domestic business class), resulting in an annual saving of up to 535,000 kilograms in fuel,” a spokesperson said.

8. No heavy plates in first class

Similar move on Virgin Atlantic, “which has thinner glassware and got rid of its heavy, slate plates from upper class,” according to the Telegraph.

“The carrier also changed its chocolate and sweet offerings to lighter versions, redesigned its meal trays (which in turn meant planes were able to carry fewer dining carts), and altered its beverage offering for night flights, when fewer people drink.”

Those big bottles of alcohol and perfume all add up, so they’re grounded. “We removed on board duty free products,” United’s Hobart told me. “Very few people were purchasing them anyway.”

10. Restocking the galley

Southwest: “We changed the way we stock our galleys, reducing the weight carried on each flight, and saving an additional 148,000 gallons of fuel in 2014 and 2015 combined.”

British company Thomas Cook “no longer prints receipts for in-flight purchases, saving it the need to carry 420,000 till rolls across its fleets,” according to the Telegraph.

It also “reduced the number of spare pillows and blankets it carries from four down to two.”

I’ll say that one again: pillows and blankets.

Spirit Airlines gets the mention here, and for something people complain about: their comically small tray tales. Besides being slightly less expensive to manufacture, they weigh a little less, which means less fuel required to transport them.

This one seems smart, like there are probably a lot of ways to make a drink cart weigh less. Several airlines said it was a priority.

“Ours were 50 pounds, and we got them down to 27 pounds,” United’s Hobart said.

I’d never heard of this one, but the Telegraph said that in 2008, Air Canada cut life jets out of some planes, and replaced them with “lighter floatation devices.” Apparently this was allowed as long as the aircraft “didn’t venture more than 50 miles from the shore.”

Did anyone even notice? Prior to its merger with Delta Air Lines, Northwest Airlines reportedly made a point of slicing limes into 16 slices as opposed to 10. That means they nearly halved the number of limes they had to carry.

16. The straight up solution

This one goes back 30 years, but it’s so apt. In 1987, United reportedly realized that removing one olive from every salad it served could save $40,000 a year. That would be just over $89,000 today. Not significant in itself for a $37 billion a year company, but hey, everything counts.

This is the tricky one that airlines would probably love to implement, but it’s hard. In 2013, Samoa Air introduced a “fat tax,” as the Telegraph put it, “whereby passengers would be charged a fare according to their weight.”

Separately, Japan’s All Nippon Airways, in 2009 “asked passengers to visit the lavatory before boarding because empty bladders means lighter bladders.”

Let Advanced Auto, AutoZone and O'Reilly's Pick Up the Repair Bills

FORT WASHINGTON, MD – JULY 03: Automobile traffic moves along the Capitol Beltway during rush hour one day before the 4th of July holiday July 3, 2018 in Fort Washington, Maryland. The American Automobile Association (AAA) is predicting that 39.7 million Americans will drive 50 miles or more away from their homes during the Independence Day holiday week, a 5 percent increase over last year. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The following statistics can make you wonder why would anyone would want to drive on their vacation. AAA stated in 2015 that, “U.S. drivers reported making an average of 2.1 driving trips per day, covering an average of 29.8 miles and spending an average of 48.4 minutes driving, which translates to an average of 763 trips, 10,874 miles, and 294 hours of driving annually.” The Federal Highway Administration notes that these averages have increased consistently every year since 2013, and in 2018 travel in the U.S will reach an all time high of 3,188,711 million vehicle miles per year.

This summer, many people are looking towards the all-American road trip to satisfy their vacation needs. A recent study posted by ISPOS in June of 2018 states that 72% of Americans plan to go on vacation in the next 12 months. Vacationers are looking to skip the security checkpoint lines and excessive baggage fees with MMGY Global reporting that domestic vacations account for 85 percent of American getaways, with 39% of those being road trips. With these numbers, Americans better make sure their cars can withstand the journey.

For travelers looking for convenient and low cost vacations this season, a road trip is the perfect choice.

Recent AAA roadside data shows that vehicles over 10 years old are twice as likely to break down and four times more likely to be towed in comparison to younger vehicles. We have listed three automotive companies below that, we believe, could fuel your vehicles in addition to your investments.

The foundation of our recommendations is to identify companies that perform best and worst on the collective basis of value, growth, EPS revisions, profitability, and LT momentum. The CressCap systematic trading model gathers data daily on 6,500 companies globally and assigns academic grades (A – F) for each financial metric. These grades are scored relative to its region/sector.

CressCap uses a multi-factor model to select the best-performing stocks. Our data is updated daily and the academic grades (A – F) for each financial metric are scored and ranked on a regional/sector relative basis. The foundation of our recommendations is to identify companies that possess the collective investment style of Value, Growth, EPS Revisions, Profitability and LT Momentum. Academic grades of C or better indicate that each metric scores well compared to the peer sector.CressCap Investment Research

Advance Auto Parts, Inc. (AAP-US)

The first company on our list is Advance Auto Parts. This company is a leading automotive aftermarket parts provider that serves both professional installer and do-it-yourself customers. The Company offers a selection of brand name and private label automotive replacement parts, accessories, batteries and maintenance items for domestic and imported cars, vans, sport utility vehicles and light and heavy duty trucks. According to the its first quarter 2018 results, the company experienced first quarter net sales of $2.9 billion along with a gross profit of $1.3 billion. Additionally, its operating income increased 10.3% to $198.2 million and adjusted operating income increased 9.3% to $224.1 million. CEO Tom Greco stated in the same report that the company’s first quarter performance reinforced its commitment to driving increased value for shareholders.

During the first quarter of fiscal 2018, the sales of appearance chemicals and accessories was down for the company as a result of, “unusually cold temperatures and above average levels of precipitation in March and April”. Tom Greco continued on to say that, “spring-related demand bounced back nicely in May and we expect improved top line sales in Q2”. With Americans eager to get on the road when the weather improves, this is a perfect time to invest in the company.

This stock is one to watch for with an A- CressCap sector grade along with impressive financial metrics. This stock’s YTD performance is up 41.27%. The company’s value metrics are on par with the sector holding a Price/Sales ratio of 1.10x vs. sector 1.35x. The momentum metric stands out amongst its competitors in the consumer discretionary sector. The mid and long term price momentum outcomes are favorable compared to the sector with an A- grade. The mid-term price momentum is 25.44% vs. sector 6.06% and the long term price momentum is an impressive 48.97% compared to sector 15.90%. Profitability metrics for this stock also look favorable with a B+ grade for its gross profit margin at 44.12% vs. sector 33.93%, and a B grade for ROI with the stock at 11.30% compared to sector 8.64%.

AutoZone, Inc. (AZO-US)

AutoZone is the nation’s leading retailer and a leading distributor of automotive replacement parts and accessories with more than 6,000 stores in the US, Mexico, Brazil and Puerto Rico. Each store carries an extensive line for cars, sport utility vehicles, vans and light trucks, including new and remanufactured hard parts, maintenance items and accessories. This Tennessee based company stated in its 3rd quarter 2018 earnings that it recognized net sales of $2.7 billion, an increase of 1.6% from the third quarter of fiscal 2017.  Further, both the net income and diluted EPS for the quarter increased, with net income increasing 10.6% over the same period last year to $366.7 million and the latter increasing 17.3% to $13.42 per share.

In the company’s third quarter 2018 results, CEO William Rhodes stated he had confidence in the company’s performance moving into the summer months. He stated that, “the northern Mid-Atlantic and Midwestern geographies did not excel as expected after the harsher winter. However… [over] the last two weeks when most of the country entered a dry hot weather pattern, our sales improved materially and in the geographies and the categories that we expected”.

The outlook on this company is favorable, with profitability, EPS revisions and value metrics producing strong CressCap grades of A, B+ and B respectively. AutoZone’s profitability can be seen in the ROI, given an A+ grade at 37.73% vs. sector 8.64% and EBIT margin at 19.10% compared to sector 9.35% accompanied by an A grade. The CF/ROI ratio at 46.27x compared to sector 15.66x suggests stock is very undervalued. The stocks current P/E ratio is 15.59x vs. the sector 18.92x, given a B+ CressCap grade. Its EPS revisions continue to be adjusted higher for FY1 and FY2 showing us that this stock has good momentum. This year, it had a market cap change of 27.83% relative to a sector change of 18.06%. In our opinion, the stock looks good for quant, technical, and fundamental criteria and it should be viewed as a place to put your money during the summer season.

O’Reilly Automotive, Inc. (ORLY-US)

O’Reilly Automotive, Inc. is the last company on our list. This Missouri based company is one of the largest specialty retailers of automotive aftermarket parts, tools, supplies, equipment, and accessories in the United States, serving both professional service providers and do-it-yourself customers. The company saw sales for the first quarter of 2018 increase 6%, to $2.28 billion from $2.16 billion for the same period one year ago. Gross profit for the first quarter increased to $1.20 billion from $1.13 billion from the same 2017 period. The company has had a good 2018 thus far, with its performance up 19.26% YTD.

In addition to O’Reilly Automotive reporting both a sales and gross profit increase in the first quarter, their metrics also show tremendous upside potential. Notably, the company’s profitability stands out reflected by an A ranking. This ranking is backed by the stock’s ROE at an impressive 99.45% compared to that of the sector at 13.33%, along with the stock receiving A+ and A grades in ROI and EBIT margin respectively. The growth of this stock looks promising, with its 2 year forward EPS growth rate at 36.29% vs. a sector 25.99%. Long term momentum for the stock is strong, with an A- CressCap rank, at 45.64% compared to a sector average 15.90%. In our opinion, the stock looks good for quant, technical, and fundamental criteria and it should be viewed as a place to put your money during the summer season.

Written By: Steven Cress ([email protected]) and Alison Geary ([email protected])

For additional information, feel free to send questions to [email protected] or view our website www.cresscap.com. Please click here to view CressCap Investment Research’s full disclaimer.

Space Photos of the Week: Mars Has Spiders in the Springtime

Did you know Mars has spiders? Well, sort of. This region is part of the Martian southern polar ice cap, and during the springtime, frozen carbon dioxide sublimates from a solid to a gas and gets trapped beneath the surface—creating these dark spider-like features, technically called “araneiform terrain.”

Our moon looks lovely in this photo taken from the International Space Station. Seen from Earth, a full moon looks nice and big in the night sky, but when you are that much closer it really looms large. Oh, and that blue to the right of the photo? That’s an Earth glow photobomb.

The European Southern Observatory captured this image of a stellar cluster 5,500 light years from Earth. Among the astral objects in the cluster, known as RCW 38, are many massive stars due to end their lives in the great death of a supernova. Fortunately we’re somewhat far removed from that otherworldly collapse.

But wait, don’t write RCW 38’s obituary yet! The European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope zoomed in to snap this stunning photo of the stellar cluster. Much closer up, the bright clouds of dust are more detailed, and we can properly assess all the activity in this region.

A photographer in Europe captured the moon passing behind Earth in this time lapse of the January 2018 lunar eclipse. The result is a sort of lunar yoga—our moon streeetching in this groovy image. The reddish hue is created when light from the Sun passes through Earth’s atmosphere and is reflected, giving it the nickname “blood moon.”

Based on analyses of the clays that remain in this area, scientists who’ve studied the Eridania basin on Mars theorize it to be an ancient lake bed that was once filled with water. This lake would have existed some 2 billion years ago, eventually draining to the north.

If you need some cosmic perspective on our small world, images from Hubble are the way to go. Behold a galaxy cluster, one of the largest features humankind has ever discovered in the universe. Some of these clusters are 1 million billion times the mass of our Sun! In this image, stars from our own Milky Way sparkle in the foreground while whole spiral galaxies are peppered across the entire photo.

FOX Sports Using SkyCam For The First Time At An MLB All-Star Game

This diagram of Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. shows how FOX Sports will use a SkyCam for the MLB All-Star Game for the very first time.FOX Sports

If you’ve watched any NFL games on television in the last few years, you’ve undoubtably seen the use of the cable-suspended SkyCam. The ability of networks to fly the camera around the field gives a bird’s eye view where stationary cameras can’t. For the most part, football fans have been the biggest winners of the SkyCam technology, while other sports have been unable to utilize it.

That will change on Tuesday when the 89th MLB All-Star Game is played at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.

FOX Sports will be using SkyCam for the first time, ever, at MLB’s Midsummer Classic. According to the network, the design of Nationals Park allowed for the use of the camera technology where other ballparks have not.

There will be one “WildCat” system on-site with a flyspace that will run over left and center field. The camera will track outside the field of play, largely over the bullpens. By running the system as such, it avoids the possibility of the camera or cabling interfering with play.

Should there be any technical problems with the primary system, FOX Sports is deploying a backup that will be on-site.

As has been the case in the past, FOX Sports continues to push the envelope with technology at jewel events, such as the MLB All-Star Game. On top of the SkyCam, there will be an additional aerial camera; 35 HD game cameras; eight super slo-mo that run at 460 frames per second, and; two extra-slo-mo cameras at 2,000 frames per second will be used.

For audio, FOX Sports has increased the number of microphones being used including 78 embedded in the field to capture the sounds of the game.

All of it will be tied together with more than 250 strands of fiber, over three miles of fiber optic cable, and 1 Gbps of data connectivity.

To make it all come together, the FOX Sports will deploy a small army of more that 125 technicians and 24 support staff that will log more than 10,000 man hours over five days.

FOX Sports’ coverage of the MLB All-Star Game begins at 7:30 pm ET.

Eutelsat, Intelsat and SES team up on U.S. C-band proposal

(Reuters) – France’s Eutelsat will join satellite operator rivals Intelsat and SES in a proposal to allow mobile operators to quickly access part of the C-band spectrum in the United States, the companies said on Thursday.

The proposed consortium would be open to all satellite operators delivering services in the C-band in the mainland United States, and would deal with transactions with companies wishing to use specific portions of the spectrum for mobile services, the companies said.

The C-band spectrum is used to deliver video and audio programming to more than 100 million U.S. households, as well as for data connectivity in rural areas and services for the U.S. government.

The companies said the consortium would help speed up the deployment of 5G services in the United States.

Reporting by Alan Charlish in Gdynia; editing by Jason Neely

SoftBank's cheap valuation draws $1 billion bet from U.S. fund Tiger Global

TOKYO/SINGAPORE (Reuters) – U.S. hedge fund Tiger Global has built a stake worth over $1 billion in SoftBank Group Corp as it considers the Japanese firm undervalued, a source with direct knowledge of the matter said, driving SoftBank shares up as much as 6.8 percent.

FILE PHOTO: An employee works behind a logo of Softbank Corp at its branch in Tokyo March 2, 2011. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/File Photo

The bump added nearly $6 billion to SoftBank’s market capitalization, narrowing the gap between the company’s limited valuation as a conglomerate and the valuation that the company says it deserves, thanks to its rich investments.

The Japanese tech and telecoms firm, which holds a nearly 30 percent stake in Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, has recently started taking action to address the issue, including preparing a listing of its domestic telecoms unit.

New York-based Tiger Global, which manages around $22 billion in assets, told investors in a letter that SoftBank’s stock price had not increased over the last five years even though its holding in Alibaba had added more than $90 billion in value.

SoftBank shares surged as much as 6.8 percent, pushing up the company’s market value to about $91 billion. They closed up 6.4 percent at 9,376 yen, their tenth consecutive day of gains.

The company’s charismatic CEO Masayoshi Son, who owns 21 percent of SoftBank, said at a shareholders’ meeting last month, that a “conglomerate discount” was weighing on the company’s stock. He said the stock should be trading above 14,000 yen rather than where they were then – at around 8,000 yen – to account for its investments.

Besides Alibaba, SoftBank has a stake in U.S. telecoms firm Sprint Corp and Yahoo Japan.

But SoftBank’s investments have left it with a heavy debt load.

It had about $123 billion of debt as of March end and has a debt-to-equity ratio of 3.97, compared with an industry median of 0.10.

In contrast, Alibaba, whose shares have more than doubled since their debut in 2014, has a market capitalization of $480 billion and a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.31.

Sentiment toward the stock has risen recently after the company applied for the listing of its telecom unit and said it was increasing its stake in Yahoo Japan through an indirect deal that will deepen its ties with the internet heavyweight ahead of the IPO.

SoftBank hopes the listing will clarify the distinction between its domestic telecoms operations and investing activities and help chip away at its discounted valuation.

Besides the cheap valuation, Tiger Global based its SoftBank investment decision on SoftBank’s purchase of U.S. investment group Fortress and the launch of its near-$100 billion Vision Fund to find and grow promising technology leaders.

Tiger Global and SoftBank have often invested in the same companies: ride-hailing firms Uber and India’s Ola. SoftBank also bought most of Tiger’s stake in Indian e-commerce firm Flipkart Group earlier this year.

“We continue to believe the market significantly undervalues our stock and we welcome the support from a sophisticated institutional investor like Tiger Global,” SoftBank said in an email to Reuters on Thursday.

Tiger Global was not available for comment outside regular U.S. business hours.

But Tiger’s is not the only big bet on the Japanese company recently.

Los Angeles-based investment firm Capital Research increased its holdings in SoftBank to more than 36 million shares from 4 million as per a June 15 filing, forking out more than $2 billion for the stake, according to Reuters calculations.

Reporting by Sayantani Ghosh in Singapore and Sam Nussey and Ritsuko Ando in Tokyo; Additional reporting by Maiya Keidan in London, Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman

Here's What You May Not Know About The Future Impact Of AI In Your Workplace

CHAIN Cup at the China National Convention Center in Beijing just a few days ago. A computer running artificial intelligence software defeated two teams of human doctors in accurately recognizing maladies in magnetic resonance images on Saturday, in a contest that was billed as the world’s first competition in neuroimaging between AI and human experts. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Good versus evil is a daily battle on a variety of levels but perhaps none more so than that those tracking developments within the realm of Artificial Intelligence. The question on the minds of many business leaders is will the technology create more efficiency within industries or will machines end up usurping their very users.  Many in the workforce simply want to know whether there will be massive impending job loss as a result of AI or whether such tech advancements will help them to be more productive. There are wild myths about this new area of tech and even wilder predictions amidst few, if any, regulations and standards. Given the plethora of various viewpoints on AI, here’s a brief look at the up-to-the-moment trend perspective from a few thought-leaders in the space so that you can better prepare.

So, harmful or helpful? First, the AI-For-Good camp has no shortage of members. This is about blue sky visions and utopian views from which the greater good occurs, all thanks to efficient use of artificial intelligence through businesses. For example, Chief Visionary Nikos Acuña Nikos at Sizmek, a company that helps companies use data to better reach its goals, says in one of his latest vlog posts, “It’s well known that predictive technologies hold the key to customer experience optimization and such optimization can be used for all types of good.”  Nikos believes that technology is going to help us impact the world for the better particularly when it comes to cause marketing.

“Purpose-driven brands want to make a change for the better,” he explains. “And they can inspire people through alignment of data and connect with consumers in more meaningful way to drive messaging. Those who can best use AI to create personalization and brand experiences will be the winners in business and our society because they will be able to link business with better public service via the knowledge that AI provides.”

Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks at the Google I/O conference in Mountain View, Calif. Google pledges that it will not use artificial intelligence in applications related to weapons or surveillance, part of a new set of principles designed to govern how it uses AI. Those principles, released by Pichai, commit Google to building AI applications that are “socially beneficial,” that avoid creating or reinforcing bias and that is accountable to people. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

In addition, many see a deeply positive impact of AI within the workplace. A recent report by Village Capital and Autodesk Foundation entitled Automation for Good: Can Automation and Artificial Intelligence Benefit the Workforce? revealed a number of intriguing findings. In essence, the study found that  AI will both destroy replace and create new types of jobs.

By studying 50-plus startups, the study found certain trends. First, that platforms that used big data were able to better move past hiring biases, improve the quality of matches and thus have a greater competitive advantage in the market. The study also cites the fact that when Hilton implemented an AI tool in pre-hire assessments the company was better able to fill call center and customer support positions. In fact, within three years, the company was  able to reduce the length of time between initial interviews and offers from 42 days to five days.

The study concludes that automation and AI will play an increasingly large role in how organizations source, recruit, hire, and onboard employees in the future. In fact, Village Capital’s cross-industry survey last year found that approximately 62 percent of recruiters planned to spend more on AI-based human resource solutions in 2018.  86 percent said they intend to tap into AI software that helps with sourcing.

Gadi Singer, vice president of architecture group at Intel Corp., speaks during the Baidu Inc. Create conference in Beijing, China, on Wednesday, July 4, 2018. The company’s annual artificial intelligence (AI) developer conference runs through July 5. Photographer: Giulia Marchi/Bloomberg

Also noted in the study is the fact that AI-driven training and “upskilling” will be key in various sectors as well. Findings also show that predictive analytics tools that allow workers to focus less on rote tasks and more on the creative “people aspects” of work.

But like most things in life, there a number of additional elements to consider when it comes to the future impact of AI.

David Benigson, CEO Signal Media offers a holistic view. “You see, the breadth of data has never been greater on earth, yet it has never harder to transform data into true insights. This is where AI can become transformative in terms of  applying machine learning to the data to unlock insights.”

However, he feels that in order to get to that level, it’s going to be challenging given the level of fear and misinformation currently surrounding most things AI-related. “We are over-estimating the short-term impact and underestimating the long-term on what AI will do to our society overall, ” Benigson explains. “And that’s an issue.”  He says that the real fact of the matter is that many automated, manual, repetitive and repeatable jobs will, indeed, vanish. “However the ‘safe jobs’ dealing with things like creativity will remain in demand. So jobs in, say, banking will become obsolete. But if you can build something or write or create music or become a valued entrepreneur, that’s where value will always remain and perhaps AI will help even enhance those working in these areas.”

Benigson cautions that further development around ethics, however, is probably the most important focus within the AI narrative if we want to continue to pursue the path of benefit versus detriment. He suggests that an independent ethics board of members that are not solely driven by financial gain is key.  “Currently we are expecting machines to have the same level of ethics that it’s taken humans thousands of years to develop, which is still not perfect,” he adds.

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc., waits to begin a joint hearing of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, April 10, 2018. Lawmakers will grill Zuckerberg on issues ranging from the troves of data vacuumed up by app developers and political consultant Cambridge Analytica to Russian operatives’ use of the social network to spread misinformation and discord during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

“We’ve seen what can happen in the past with companies like Google and Facebook that are fairly autonomous. They run into trouble, and we expect them to respond, but they really don’t on a level that’s appropriate, so they need regulation but regulation can tend to stifle new areas by becoming too stringent so a slow and steady approach will be needed,” he adds.

In addition to parameters around ethics, many like Benigson suggest that the AI industry will simply have to further focus on demonstrating how AI can help with efficiency gains in business and vast gains in society overall in order to quell fears and myths. “The most important element to understand as we discuss AI is that algorithms are shaping our experience of the world so we’ve got to get this right.”