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India approves Facebook’s $5.7 billion deal with Reliance Jio Platforms

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India’s antitrust watchdog has given its blessing to Facebook and Reliance Jio Platforms for their $5.7 billion deal.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Competition Commission of India said it had approved Facebook’s proposed multi-billion-dollar investment in Jio Platforms for a 9.99% stake in the top Indian telecom network.

Jaadhu Holdings LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Facebook, is acquiring the stake in Jio Platforms. Facebook created this subsidiary earlier this year.

The announcement comes a week after the watchdog said it was accessing the deal for potential misuse of users’ data and pondering if it should consider amending the current rules for some mergers and acquisitions in the country.

At the time, Facebook had argued that its investment in the Indian firm is “pro-competitive, benefits consumers, kirana stores (neighborhood stores) and other small and micro local Indian businesses, and take forward the vision of digital India.”

Jio Platforms, run by India’s most valued firm Reliance Industries, is the biggest telecom operator in India with over 388 million subscribers. The telco has raised $15.2 billion from a roster of high-profile investors including Silver Lake, KKR, and General Atlantic at the height of the global pandemic.

Analysts have said that Facebook’s investment in billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Jio Platforms, its biggest investment in recent years, could help the social media giant expand its reach in India, which is already its biggest market by user count.

Facebook’s eponymous service reaches about 350 million users in India, while its messaging service WhatsApp has amassed over 400 million users. WhatsApp is by far the most popular service in the world’s second largest market.

In April, Facebook said it planned to work with Reliance Jio Platforms to empower 60 million small businesses, including mom-and-pop stores in India. Early signs of this collaboration was apparent a week later when JioMart, a joint venture between Reliance Jio Platforms and Reliance Retail (India’s largest retail chain), started to allow customers to track shipment through WhatsApp.

Some analysts said that the deal with Ambani, India’s richest man and an ally of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, could also help Facebook stay on the good side of the Indian government. In India, where Facebook’s Free Basics program was blocked in early 2016, the firm has been stuck in a regulatory maze to get clearance for a nationwide rollout of WhatsApp Pay.

Facebook launched WhatsApp Pay in beta mode to a million users in the country in 2018, only months after Google launched its payments service in India. While WhatsApp Pay remains stuck at a million users, Google and Walmart’s PhonePe have established clear dominance in India’s mobile payments market.

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Stock spikes after better-than-expected revenue, buyback announcement

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Stock spikes after better-than-expected revenue, buyback announcement

Meta (META) reported its Q4 2022 earnings today after the bell, and the Facebook parent beat key revenue expectations and growing losses on its metaverse operation. It also announced a $40 billion stock buyback plan.

Here’s what the key numbers looked like, as compared to analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Q4 Revenue – $32.17 billion actual versus $31.65 billion expected

Advertising Revenue – $31.25 billion actual versus $30.86 billion expected

Adjusted Earnings Per Share (EPS) – $1.76 actual versus $2.26 expected

Facebook Daily Active Users (DAUs) – 2 billion actual versus 1.98 billion expected

Family of Apps Daily Active Users (DAUs) – 2.96 billion actual versus 2.92 billion expected

Reality Labs Operating Loss – -$4.28 billion actual versus -$3.99 billion expected

The company’s stock bumped about 14% in after-hours trading.

Good headline numbers aside, there’s a lot to question about Meta’s results today, as its metaverse division Reality Labs clocked a larger-than-expected loss of -$4.28 billion, more than $200 million more than Wall Street expected.

Perhaps more than surpassing revenue expectations, Meta has successfully cut costs.

“We anticipate our full-year 2023 total expenses will be in the range of $89-95 billion, lowered from our prior outlook of $94-$100 billion due to slower anticipated growth in payroll expenses and cost of revenue,” Meta CFO Susan Li said in a statement.

The company’s in hot pursuit of efficiency, and appears to have been ruthless in its cost-cutting efforts.

“We expect capital expenditures to be in the range of $30-33 billion, lowered from our prior estimate of $34-37 billion,” Li’s statement continues. “The reduced outlook reflects our updated plans for lower data center construction spend in 2023 as we shift to a new data center architecture that is more cost efficient and can support both AI and non-AI workloads.”

Meta’s buyback was a strong move, given that the company laid off 11,000 workers in November and more jobs are reportedly on the table even now. Moreover, the company’s C-suite re-shuffled substantially through last year, with longtime COO Sheryl Sandberg officially leaving the company in September.

Meta Platforms Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg leaves federal court after attending the Facebook parent company’s defense of its acquisition of virtual reality app developer Within Inc., in San Jose, California, U.S. December 20, 2022. REUTERS/Laure Andrillon

Meta’s got a lot of moving parts

Still, on the face of it, these numbers offer up a better-than-expected close out to what’s been an exceptionally difficult year for Meta, which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp. In 2022, the company’s stock declined approximately 63%, as the company battled macroeconomic headwinds and a slow ad market.

All in all, it’s been a solid day for Meta, which reportedly won its case against the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) this morning, getting the green light to buy VR developer Within. Meta’s proposed acquisition of Within, which makes popular VR app Supernatural, has been in the works since October 2021. However, they’re not out of the woods yet. The FTC, going forward, could appeal and will likely continue to scrutinize Meta’s future deals under Chair Lina Khan.

Allie Garfinkle is a Senior Tech Reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter at @agarfinks and on LinkedIn.

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FTC finds GoodRx shared sensitive health data with Facebook, Google

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FTC finds GoodRx shared sensitive health data with Facebook, Google

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

The FTC on Wednesday filed a court order against GoodRx for failing to notify users that it shared their personal, identifiable health data with Facebook and Google and said it would permanently ban the company from sharing such information for ads, should the court order be federally approved.

Why it matters: The court order is the first FTC action under the Health Breach Notification Rule, which requires companies to notify users when their health data is infringed upon, and includes several safeguards aimed at protecting consumer data.

  • “We’re making clear that apps violating this rule need to come clean with consumers when they share sensitive data improperly,” an FTC official said during a press briefing about the order.
  • The order must be approved by the federal court to go into effect.

Zoom in: The health data GoodRx shared with tech companies includes individually identifiable data on users’ prescription medications and health conditions. Per the complaint:

  • In August 2019, GoodRx compiled lists of users who’d purchased medications for heart disease and high blood pressure and uploaded their email addresses, phone numbers and mobile advertising IDs to Facebook so it could identify their profiles.
  • GoodRx then used that information to target users with relevant ads.

Details: The court order, filed by the Department of Justice on behalf of the FTC in California’s Northern District, found GoodRx shared data with companies including Facebook, Google, Criteo, Branch and Twilio. The order found GoodRx:

  • Monetized users’ personal health data to target them with health- and medication-specific ads on Facebook and Instagram.
  • Let third parties it shared data with use the information for research, development or advertising purposes without getting consent.
  • Misrepresented its HIPAA compliance, displaying a seal at the bottom of its telehealth site falsely suggesting it complied with the law.
  • Failed to maintain sufficient policies or procedures to protect its users’ personal health information.

State of play: GoodRx, which offers prescription discount coupons and telehealth services, lets users track their personal health data to save, track and get alerts about prescriptions, refills, pricing and medication purchase history.

  • Per the complaint, the company collects data from users themselves and from pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) that confirm when someone buys a prescription drug using one of its coupons.
  • Since January 2017, more than 55 million consumers have visited or used GoodRx’s website or mobile apps, the complaint says.

What they’re saying: A spokesperson for GoodRx told Axios the company does not agree with the allegations, saying the order “focuses on an old issue that was proactively addressed almost three years ago.”

  • “We admit no wrongdoing,” the spokesperson said. “Entering into the settlement allows us to avoid the time and expense of protracted litigation.”

  • “Health data today isn’t just what your doctor keeps in a file behind a desk,” an FTC official said during the briefing. “And the way we’re enforcing this reflects that new reality.”
  • “We expect this to have a significant impact on the marketplace,” the official added.

Flashback: The FTC in 2021 issued a warning to health apps and others that collect or use consumers’ health information that they must comply with the Health Breach rule.

  • “We are now showing the market that we meant business when we issued that policy statement,” the FTC official said.

What’s next: In addition to charging GoodRx with a $1.5 million civil penalty and banning it from disclosing user health information for ads, the order requires that the company:

  • Direct third parties to delete the consumer health data shared with them and inform users about the breaches and the FTC’s enforcement action.
  • Get users’ consent before sharing health data with third parties for purposes other than ads and detail the types of health information it will disclose to those parties.
  • Limit how long it can retain personal health information.
  • Create a privacy program that includes safeguards to protect such data.

Of note: While the order only binds GoodRx, companies including Facebook who received the data “are on notice that they were in receipt of data that was illegally collected,” another FTC official said.

This story has been updated to include the company’s comment.

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Facebook and Google ad oligopoly is over, fund manager says

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Facebook and Google ad oligopoly is over, fund manager says

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Inge Heydorn, fund manager at GP Bullhound, discusses competition in the digital ad market, what investors will be looking for in Meta’s results, and why it’s “all about TikTok.”

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