Dun & Bradstreet to go private for $5.38 billion

(Reuters) – Data and analytics company Dun & Bradstreet Corp said on Wednesday it would be acquired by a group of investors led by CC Capital, Cannae Holdings and funds affiliated with Thomas H. Lee Partners LP, for $5.38 billion in cash.

Dun & Bradstreet shareholders will receive $145 in cash for each common share, the company said.

The price represents a premium of 18 percent to the stock’s Wednesday close. The deal value is based on 37.1 million shares outstanding, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Including debt of $1.5 billion, the deal is valued at $6.9 billion.

The deal will be financed through a combination of committed equity financing provided by the investor group, as well as debt financing, the company said.

J.P. Morgan is serving as financial adviser to Dun & Bradstreet, and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP is serving as its legal counsel.

Reporting by Shubham Kalia in Bengaluru; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier

Salesforce appoints Keith Block as co-CEO

(Reuters) – U.S. sales and marketing software company Salesforce.com Inc (CRM.N) on Tuesday said its board appointed Chief Operating Officer Keith Block as its co-chief executive officer.

Block served as the company’s vice chairman, president and a director since joining Salesforce in June 2013. He has been the company’s COO since February 2016.

Salesforce also appointed its co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Parker Harris to the board, it said in a separate statement.

Reporting by Shubham Kalia in Bengaluru; Editing by Sandra Maler

These 5 Simple Strategies Helped This CEO Grow His Startup Into a Multibillion-Dollar Company

Plenty of tech companies these days are able to go public without being profitable. That’s because investors keep driving up their shares due to their ability to grow faster than expected.

Needless to say, the strategy of investing in fast-growing, money-losing companies works well until investors are gripped by the fear that such companies will bleed out.

Avoiding this danger is what’s behind my four-stage scaling model:

One of the possible flaws in the market for financing startups is that some companies can go public despite losing buckets of money. In my way of looking at things, they skip the second stage in my scaling model — which is to lower a company’s costs to sell and provide service to a customers as it gets bigger — and investors are happy to let them get away with being unprofitable as long as they grow quickly.

A good example of this is San Jose, Calif.-based data storage supplier Nutanix which has enjoyed expectations-beating revenue growth but has never managed to make a profit. However, this has not stopped its stock from rising from $16 at its September 2016 IPO to about $52 on August 6th, 2018. 

Co-founder and CEO Dheeraj Pandey helped illustrate five lessons that can help you achieve greater startup success.

1. Set investor’s expectations on your own terms.

Most public companies operate on the premise that they should beat analyst’s revenue and earnings targets and raise their expectations every quarter. But CEOs of private companies are usually more focused on rapid revenue growth and less on profits.

A CEO who succeeds in taking a company public and runs it successfully thereafter ought not to be too shackled by the beat and raise mentality. Instead, such CEOs should offer investors a different way to think about this tradeoff. Nutanix does this.

As Pandey told me, “We believe that the right balance between the two is measured by the rule of 40: our revenue growth rate plus free cash flow as a percent of revenue should be at least 40 — ours is 49.”

2. Focus on your employees and customers.

I believe that if a company hires people who want to give customers great products and excellent service, the customers will keep buying from the company and shareholders will benefit.

Pandey agrees. As he said, “When you have to stay connected to [your customers], you have to be humble, you have to be hungry and you have to be paranoid, and be very honest about things. Because [your customer base] doesn’t give a hoot about what your stock price is.”

3. Redefine your job every year.

Very few get to take their companies public and keep running them. These rare CEOs I called marathoners in my book, Startup Cities. Such CEOs usually start off as product innovators and morph into organization builders. Founders who can’t do that get replaced by CEOs who do.

Pandey has changed his role over the years. “In year one, I wrote 20,000 lines of code to get the product out the door. In year two, I was acting as the VP of engineering and writing code, and in year three, I was acting more like a CEO — as a generalist. Even today part of my role is as a product manager and architect.”

4. Think of every day as if it were the first.

As I wrote in my book, Value Leadership, companies must fight complacency by thinking about every day as if it was the first and putting talented people with entrepreneurial potential in charge of a key parts of the business.

Pandey says he does this. As he said, “The paradox of growth is that growth creates complexity which kills growth. We always think of it being day one — we keep our scrappiness.”

5. Build a culture that keeps you in everyone’s mind.

Culture is important because the CEO can’t make all the decisions. It’s the values that a CEO believes are essential to the company’s success and the actions it expects people to take without having to ask permission.

Nutanix has a culture. “We are launching the 12 cultural principles and putting them in the hallways and meeting rooms. Even though I cannot physically be in every room, with these principles I will be there mentally,” said Pandey.

If you are not following these five principles now, doing so could make you more successful.

FCC Admits Its Website Wasn’t Hacked During Net Neutrality Commenting. Ajit Pai Blames Obama Hire

The FCC’s inspector general said that the agency’s commenting system was not hacked by distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on May 7, 2017, despite claims by FCC officials then and a refusal to address the issue by FCC Chair Ajit Pai and others in intervening months. This included the FCC failing to respond to congressional demands for more information. The comments related to the Pai’s plan to overturn network neutrality rules clarified during the Obama administration.

The actual cause? A technical failure to handle many people simultaneously heeding John Oliver on HBO’s Last Week Tonight to post comments in favor of net neutrality.

Pai now states that he was misled, despite ample time within the agency to review the information and made a determination separate from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), especially after it admitted to Gizmodo in July 2017 in response to a Freedom of Information Act request that it had no record of an analysis that led to the conclusion of an attack, nor any written record of the IT staff documenting that an attack had occurred.

Separately, the issue that as many as 94% of the 23 million comments successfully submitted were clogged with duplicates and contained mostly forgeries remains unaddressed, and has also dogged the credibility of Pai and others at the FCC. The attorney general of New York at the time opened an investigation. In May 2018, two Democratic senators demanded new security measures for commenting and accountability for previous failures in a letter to Pai.

The OIG report denying an attack in May 2017 has not yet appeared, but FCC Chair Ajit Pai released a statement to try to set the news coverage agenda, ascribing all blame on one person, David Bray: “I am deeply disappointed that the FCC’s former Chief Information Officer (CIO), who was hired by the prior Administration and is no longer with the Commission, provided inaccurate information about this incident to me, my office, Congress, and the American people.”

This wasn’t the first time the comment system locked up, nor the first time Bray was fingered as making an unsupportable statement. In 2014, Oliver also asked viewers to post comments supporting net neutrality and the system went down. According to reporting in August 2017 from Gizmodo, Bray allegedly leaked information to Motherboard in 2014, following that crash, claiming that malicious activity was responsible.

Gizmodo reported that no information emerged showing an attack in 2014. Pai’s statement purports that the contents of the FCC’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) reveals the same.

The FCC voted December 14, 2017, in a party-line 3-2 split, to repeal rules set in 2015 that prohibited Internet service providers from throttling, prioritizing, or discriminating data based on site, service, or device, among other regulations.

Apple, YouTube, and others drop conspiracy theorist Alex Jones

(Reuters) – Apple Inc, Alphabet Inc’s YouTube, Facebook Inc and Spotify all took down podcasts and channels from U.S. conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, saying on Monday that the Infowars author had broken community standards.

The sweeping moves are the broadest actions yet by internet companies that previously have suspended or removed some of the conspiracy-driven content produced by Infowars.

Since founding Infowars in 1999, Jones has built a vast audience. Among the theories he has promoted is that the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington were staged by the government.

Facebook said it removed Alex Jones pages “for glorifying violence, which violates our graphic violence policy, and using dehumanizing language to describe people who are transgender, Muslims and immigrants, which violates our hate speech policies.”

The Infowars app remained available on the app stores hosted by Apple and Alphabet’s Google Play, however, while Twitter Inc said that Infowars accounts were not currently in violation of its rules.

Alphabet and Apple did not immediately respond to questions about why the app remained available on their platforms.

Infowars editor-at-large Paul Joseph Watson said in a tweet here that the broad take-downs amounted to censorship and were intended to help Democrats in congressional elections due in November.

“Infowars is widely credited with having played a key role in electing Donald Trump. By banning Infowars, big tech is engaging in election meddling just three months before crucial mid-terms,” Watson wrote on the Infowars website.

FILE PHOTO: Alex Jones from Infowars.com speaks during a rally in support of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump near the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., July 18, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

Neither Jones nor a representative for Infowars was available for additional comment. None of the companies that took down the content commented on whether they had coordinated their actions.

The Alex Jones Channel on YouTube on Monday displayed a banner saying the account had been terminated for violating community guidelines, and a spokesperson added by email that repeated violation of policies such as those prohibiting hate speech and harassment led to termination of accounts.

Apple deleted most Infowars podcasts and a spokeswoman said in a statement that the company “does not tolerate hate speech” and publishes guidelines that developers and publishers must follow.

“Podcasts that violate these guidelines are removed from our directory making them no longer searchable or available for download or streaming,” Apple said in a statement. “We believe in representing a wide range of views, so long as people are respectful to those with differing opinions.”

Only one program provided by Infowars, “RealNews with David Knight,” remained on Apple’s podcasts platforms on Monday. BuzzFeed earlier reported that Apple had removed the library for five of Jones’s six Infowars podcasts, including the shows “War Room” and the daily “The Alex Jones Show.”

Twitter said in an email that content posted to other websites often was not put on Twitter and that tweets from Infowars typically were replied to by people rebutting and challenging it. If Infowars violates Twitter rules in the future, it will take action, it added.

Music and podcast company Spotify said on Monday that it had now removed all of Jones’s Infowars programs from its platform, after last week removing some programs.

A representative said that Spotify took seriously reports of hate content. “Due to repeated violations of Spotify’s prohibited content policies, The Alex Jones Show has lost access to the Spotify platform,” the representative said.

In late July, Facebook had suspended Jones’s personal profile for 30 days for what the company said was bullying and hate speech.

Jones has also promoted a theory that the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre was faked by left-wing forces to promote gun control. The shooting left 26 children and adults dead at a Connecticut elementary school.

FILE PHOTO: An Apple logo hangs above the entrance to the Apple store on 5th Avenue in the Manhattan borough of New York City, July 21, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Segar

He is being sued in Texas by two Sandy Hook parents, seeking at least $1 million, claiming that they have been the subject of harassment driven by his programs.

Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Additional reporting by Sonam Rai, Ishita Chigilli Palli and Arjun Panchadar in Bengaluru and Peter Henderson, Paresh Dave and Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Rosalba O’Brien

'NBA 2K19' Player Ratings: Deandre Ayton Render And Overall Rating Revealed

Phoenix Suns’ No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton will be rated a 79 overall in NBA 2K19 when the game is released on September 11 for PS4, Xbox One, PC and Nintendo Switch.

Deandre Ayton in NBA 2K19Credit: 2K

The Suns took the Arizona product with the top pick after an impressive freshman campaign. Ayton averaged 20.1 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 1.9 blocked shots. He also made 34 percent of his three-point attempts.

Deandre Ayton in NBA 2K19Credit: 2K

Unfortunately, Ayton and the Wildcats were eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in the first round. The 79 rating seems a little low for a top pick. Last year, the Philadelphia 76ers’ Markelle Fultz got an 80 rating out of the gate. Not only is Ayton rated beneath last year’s top pick, he has an equal overall rating as Luka Doncic who was drafted third.

The 79 overall rating is consistent with what the Philadelphia 76ers’ Ben Simmons got as the top pick coming out of the 2016 draft. With the Sacramento Kings’ Marvin Bagley only getting a 78 rating, it appears as though Doncic is the player with a mark that is above his draft slot.

Expect to hear arguments from both sides of the fence, even though the difference is just two overall points.

As we saw with the Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum last year, the No. 3 pick can outperform the two players drafted ahead of him when it counts. Ayton is the highest-rated rookie big man in the game since Anthony Davis started his career with a 79 overall rating in NBA 2K13. As the upcoming season progresses, it’ll be interesting to monitor which players trend up, down or stay even with their initial assessment.

I write about sports and video games. I began my career with Bleacher Report in 2010 and I’m now a Forbes Contributor as well as a YouTuber, Twitch streamer and co-host of The Fight Guys podcast, The SimHangout, and my own weekly Q&A AskMazique. I’ve been blessed to make…


What Is Snapchat Dysmorphia And How It May Lead To More Plastic Surgery

Model Lindsey Pelas (L) and rapper Danny Boy of HardNox take a selfie at the Sapphire Pool & Day Club. (Photo by Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images)

Feeling too good about your looks? Think that you are just too darn hot? Worried that your sexiness and self-confidence will intimidate far too many people? Not spending enough time obsessing over your appearance? Well, there is always Snapchat, Instagram, or other photo-sharing platforms to take your self-esteem down a few pegs.

In fact, doctors are worried that the spread of photo-editing technology and photo-sharing can really screw up the way you view yourself. There is even an unofficial new term, Snapchat dysmorphia, to describe what may happen. The term is a riff on body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), a mental health condition where you have a very distorted view of your own appearance. You focus obsessively on what you perceive as flaws in your appearance and exhibit accompanying compulsive behaviors such as excessively checking yourself in the mirror, grooming, and asking others about your looks and even getting unnecessary plastic surgery. Snapchat dysmorphia is essentially some form of BDD triggered by seeing too many unrealistic pictures on social media. Of course, the problem is not Snapchat specific. One could also coin the terms “Instagram Ick” or Can’t Stand My Face On Facebook.”    

As Susruthi Rajanala, Mayra B. C. Maymone, MD, DSc, and Neelam A. Vashi, MD from Boston University explained in a recent JAMA Facial and Plastic Surgery opinion pieceit used to be that only models and actors could regularly have their faces and bodies altered by photo-editing technology. Not anymore. With the flood of such photo-altering apps and filters and photo sharing platforms, now you and practically anyone else can be like a celebrity, in that way, minus the fame and the money. Thus, you can now choose from many, many more people to make you feel bad about your looks.

This may have real, serious consequences. I’ve written previously for Forbes about how digitally altered photos may be leading to more eating disorders and emotional issues. Additionally, as the opinion piece indicated, improving appearance in selfies seems to be an increasing reason why people are seeking plastic surgery. The availability of filters and other digital editors allows more people to edit their own selfies and then show dermatologists and plastic surgeons what they “want” to look like. Of course, there is a big difference between editing your selfie on a smartphone and editing yourself with a knife and chemicals.

Nowadays, there is a plethora of photo editing and sharing apps to choose from on your smartphone. (Photo Illustration by Chesnot/Getty Images)

What then can be done about this growing problem? When it comes to photo-editing, the cat is already out of the bag and also being painted on people’s faces. (No, your friends probably don’t really have cat ears and noses.) Society will never return to a time where only analog photographs existed. Digital technologies will only get more and more advanced to the point where reality will harder and harder to discern.

Thus, the solution will be in the people and not the photos or technology. Our society has become way too obsessed with appearance and arbitrarily chosen standards for appearance. If you are like many others, you may be choosing whom you work with, whom you befriend, whom you date, and even whom you listen to based simply on superficial appearance. But unless you are a face mask manufacturer, chances are you are placing way too much emphasis on the wrong things.

Instead, try to focus on and develop real talents, abilities, and skills. To my knowledge, Snapchat and Instagram still don’t have filters that can add thinking ability, insight, compassion, and personality to people. As a general rule, if you can easily change something on Snapchat or Instagram, it probably wasn’t worth that much in the first place.

AT&T Is Sending Collection Agents After Its Own Retirees

AT&T has taken the rare step of hiring collection agencies to pursue money it says it is owed by its own retired former employees. AT&T claims the retirees mistakenly received excess pension benefit payments, but some say they don’t have the ability to return the funds.

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, pension overpayments, some dating back decades, have been identified by Fidelity, the company’s current pension administrator. Unsurprisingly, many recipients of pension overpayments assume the payments are correct and use the money to pay living and medical expenses, leaving them unable to repay the funds. AT&T says overpayments have impacted “significantly less than 1/10th of 1%” of roughly 517,000 pension participants, and only a small number of those have been referred to collection agencies.

But retirees who have been impacted report significant anxiety. Eileen Ralston, 75, worked for AT&T in two separate roles between 1970 and 1999, and was mistakenly sent excess pension payments because one of her positions was essentially counted twice. She told the Journal she initially thought the higher payments were a mistake, but was reassured by pension administrators that they were correct.

In September of 2017, Ralston found out her suspicions had been correct – she was told she owed the plan $58,500.11 because of the miscalculation. Ralston has not repaid and has not been referred to a collection agency, but worries AT&T will take further action.

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AT&T did not disclose exactly how many of its retirees may be in similar situations, but 17 former AT&T workers have contacted lawyers at the nonprofit Pension Rights Center. Several recipients of excess benefits have cited an inability to pay and asked that the repayment demands be waived, but have been denied, according to the Journal. Some were notified that collection efforts would be put on hold, but that AT&T reserved the right to resume them in the future.

The company’s approach has divided pension experts. The IRS requires that companies make serious efforts to recover excess pension payments, which reduce funds available to other recipients. Failing to recoup overpayments, some pension lawyers told the Journal, could threaten pension programs’ tax benefits. However, the IRS says missing funds can also be replaced by seeking restitution from plan administrators who caused the errors the first place, or repaying them from company funds. AT&T reported $5.1 billion in net profit in the second quarter of 2018.

A lawyer with the South Central Pension Rights Project told the Journal his service has not previously seen collection agencies involved in such situations, and described AT&T’s tactics as “kind of harsh.” Former Treasury Department officials also said they had not seen collection agencies used in similar cases. AT&T and Fidelity, for their part, described their tactics as “common and similar to how most other employers handle this issue.”

Google in talks with Tencent, others for cloud services in China: BBG

(Reuters) – Alphabet Inc’s Google is in talks with Tencent Holdings Ltd, Inspur Group and other Chinese companies to offer its cloud services in the mainland, Bloomberg reported here on Friday, citing people familiar with the discussions.

A Google sign is seen during the China Digital Entertainment Expo and Conference (ChinaJoy) in Shanghai, China August 3, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song

The talks began in early 2018 and the internet giant narrowed partnership candidates to three firms in late March.

It is immediately unclear if the plans will proceed in the wake of increasing trade tensions between China and the United States, the report said.

Google and Tencent did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Google, which quit China’s search engine market in 2010, has been actively seeking ways to re-enter China, where many of its products are blocked by regulators.

Through local partnership, Google aims to run its internet-based services through the domestic data centers and servers of Chinese providers, similar to the way other U.S. cloud companies access that market, the report said.

Reuters on Thursday reported that Google plans to launch a version of its search engine in China that will block some websites and search terms.

Reporting by Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur

Wall Street eyes more gains from Apple, its $1 trillion stock

(Reuters) – Shares in Apple Inc (AAPL.O) edged higher on Friday but stayed close to the $1 trillion valuation milestone the iPhone maker reached a day earlier, even as Wall Street predicted more gains.

An electronic screen displays the Apple Inc. stock price at the Nasdaq Market Site in New York City, New York, U.S., August 2, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar

After becoming the first $1 trillion publicly-listed U.S. company on Thursday, Apple last traded up 0.1 pct at $207.57 after falling as low as $205.48 and as high as $208.74, as it oscillated around the $207.0425 price that marked the record market cap.

Daniel Morgan, portfolio manager at Synovus Trust in Atlanta, said Apple’s lukewarm Friday was a temporary pause for the stock rather than a sign it could lose ground.

“It’s like the horse that crosses the finish line and says I’m totally wiped out,” said Morgan, whose firm holds more than 200,000 shares in Apple.

“There was a strong earnings report on Tuesday. All the enthusiasm around the $1 trillion market capitalization, both those things have just exhausted the current trading in Apple. And it’s Friday. The whole week was engulfed by Apple,” he said.

Apple still looks relatively cheap even with a trillion dollar valuation. Its shares trade at less than 16 times earnings estimates for the next 12 months, according to Morgan, who said he would be comfortable with a multiple of 18 or 19 for the stock.

“That’s a reasonable level so I don’t feel there’s any risk that people will say its trading at a $1 trillion let’s put the brakes on this … If it was Amazon or Netflix that were hitting a trillion, then we could have that conversation,” he said.

(Interactive Graphic – Apple hits $1 trillion stock valuation: tmsnrt.rs/2Mg6mZ8)

Netflix (NFLX.O) currently trades at 93.8 times estimates for its earnings in the next 12 months while Amazon.Com’s (AMZN.O) multiple is 83.74.

“If Apple trades at 20 times earnings that would be crazy,” he said, estimating that Apple shares could go as high as $220 by year-end.

Amazon, Microsoft (MSFT.O) and Alphabet (GOOGL.O) are in a tight race to become the second U.S. company to reach the $1 trillion milestone.

Most sell-side analysts also seemed to see $1 trillion as just one milestone on Apple’s way to greater gains as the median price target for the stock is $218.50 and the mean price target at $215.46, according to data collected by Thomson Reuters.

The highest price expectation for the stock is Brian White’s $275 target, which would mean a $1.3 trillion valuation, according to the analyst from Monness Crespi Hardt, who says he was first on the Street with a price target that reflected a $1-trillion valuation.

Despite the record valuation, White said, “Apple is one of the most under-appreciated stocks in the world.”

Trip Miller, managing partner at Gullane Capital LLC in Memphis, said Apple “should trade much higher.”

“They are so dependent on one product for such a huge part of their revenue that I believe that’s why it gets that discount,” said Miller whose firm also owns Amazon shares.

(Graphic: Apple revenue by segment, product units – tmsnrt.rs/2LNgw6q)

Reporting By James Thorne and Sinéad Carew in New York, Noel Randewich in San Francisco,; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Tom Brown