Who Stands to Gain from a TikTok Ban

The countdown to TikTok disappearing from the United States is about to start.

The Senate overwhelmingly passed legislation to force the divestment of the video app by its Chinese owner, ByteDance, within a year or be banned. President Biden is expected to sign it into law shortly.

Barring the app from U.S. shores could take months, or even years — if it actually happens. The road ahead is complicated, and any disruptions to the app could bolster its American rivals.

Who would benefit? The clear answer is Meta and Google. Both have increasingly emphasized their short-video offerings — Instagram’s Reels and YouTube’s Shorts — as places for creators. (Influencers often post on all three platforms.)

Analysts at Bernstein have estimated that, should TikTok be banned, Meta could draw up to 60 percent of TikTok’s American ad revenue, while YouTube could take another 25 percent or so. Meta’s stock was up more than 2 percent in premarket trading this morning.

Over the years, Meta has sought to amplify concerns about TikTok. But Meta may also experience some blowback if Donald Trump, an unexpected opponent of the TikTok bill who has called Facebook a bigger danger to the U.S., wins re-election in November.

Meta’s C.E.O., Mark Zuckerberg, is likely to face questions about his embattled rival when his tech giant reports earnings on Wednesday.

Expect TikTok to fight for its life in court. The platform will probably argue that a ban would violate users’ First Amendment rights, setting up a legal challenge that could wind up in the Supreme Court.

In the meantime, nothing will change: TikTok will still be available in the U.S.

It’s not clear what Beijing will do. Chinese laws appear to restrict any sale of TikTok that includes the content-recommendation algorithm that makes the app such a hit with users.

The TikTok legislation may come up during Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to China this week.

Opposition from China would complicate an already thorny sales process. It isn’t clear who could afford to buy the app, especially since Meta and Google are almost certainly prohibited because of antitrust concerns. Could that pave the way for a bid by Microsoft or Oracle, TikTok’s data partner in the U.S.?

While investors, like a potential group formed by Steven Mnuchin, have expressed interest, they would need to find the technical know-how to replicate the algorithm.

The Supreme Court signals its support for Starbucks in a labor dispute. The coffee chain is challenging an order by the National Labor Relations Board that it rehire staff who had been fired during a unionization campaign. A decision in favor of Starbucks could weaken the agency’s efforts to intervene in cases for companies accused of violating labor laws.

Binance’s founder should serve 36 months in prison, U.S. prosecutors argue. The recommended sentence for Changpeng Zhao, who created the world’s biggest cryptocurrency exchange, comes after he pleaded guilty last year to violating money laundering laws. Zhao is free on a $175 million bond.

Shares in Gucci’s owner plummet on lousy financial results. Kering’s stock is down 7 percent this morning, after the luxury company reported a sharp drop in revenue last quarter — in large part because of slumping sales in China — and a gloomy profit forecast. It’s the latest sign of trouble for Kering, whose fortunes have diverged sharply from LVMH, its archrival.

Tesla bulls can breathe a bit easier this morning.

Shares in the electric carmaker are up in premarket trading after Elon Musk promised to focus on “more affordable models,” as the company reported dismal first-quarter earnings. Investors hope that Musk’s recommitment to a mass-market car will revive sales and reverse a stock rout that has zapped more than $300 billion from Tesla’s market value this year.

Musk gave only scant detail on that vision. Analysts have hounded the Tesla chief about his plans for a cheaper car that they call the Model 2. It would most likely cost around $25,000 — roughly 26 percent less than the Model 3 — and be more attractive in potential in new markets like India. (In an effort to juice sales, Tesla has cut prices on three models this month.)

Some carmakers are having success in the lower end of the market. Renault reported modest gains in electric vehicle sales this week — though from a much smaller base than Tesla — with help from a fleet of more affordably priced models.

Cheaper Teslas could come to market next year, Musk said. That said, the Tesla C.E.O. has acknowledged that he has often overpromised on the timeline of new products. (Investors call this phenomenon “Elon time.”)

But Musk said that Tesla was retrofitting existing factories to accommodate production of new models.

That seemed to comfort investors. The worry hanging over Tesla was that Musk had pivoted from the Model 2 to robotaxis, which even the company’s backers have called a “gamble” on an autonomous driving market that’s years away. Nonetheless, Musk said the Cybercab would be introduced in August.

Musk also teased a program to allow Tesla owners to rent out their vehicles to other drivers, à la Airbnb.

Otherwise, Tesla’s analyst call was tough listening. Musk had warned in January that 2024 sales would be “notably lower.” And last week the company announced it would lay off more than 10 percent of its work force as sales slow and competition, especially from Chinese rivals, erodes market share.

But investors got the clearer picture only on Tuesday. The numbers to know:

  • Tesla missed analysts’ already lowered forecasts for various metrics, including gross margin, a key measure of profitability, and earnings per share.

  • First-quarter profit plunged 55 percent, to $1.1 billion, on an annualized basis, and revenue fell 9 percent, to $21.3 billion.

Musk also signaled that this was the low point. The second quarter, he added, “will be a lot better.”


The Federal Trade Commission has made the biggest nationwide change to how companies compete in 50 years by voting to ban noncompete agreements. The move is popular with unions, but industry groups are already planning to sue, setting up another showdown between business and labor.

The ban applies to most new noncompetes and could take effect in about four months. Executives who earn more than $151,164 a year and have “policymaking positions” won’t have to drop them. Noncompetes for workers who earn less will become unenforceable. Of note: The new rule doesn’t invalidate contracts, but allows the F.T.C. to take action against an employer that uses them.

“The F.T.C.’s final rule to ban noncompetes will ensure Americans have the freedom to pursue a new job, start a new business or bring a new idea to market,” said Lina Khan, the F.T.C. chair. She said the decision would aid start-ups and bolster wages by roughly $500 billion over the next decade.

Opponents are lining up for a fight. The Chamber of Commerce could sue as early as Wednesday, arguing that the F.T.C. is overstepping its authority on an issue that is typically governed by state governments rather than federal authorities.

The decision is “a blatant power grab that will undermine American businesses’ ability to remain competitive,” said Suzanne Clark, the group’s president.

But individual companies may hold off on changing policies. Doug Brayley, a labor lawyer at Ropes & Gray, told DealBook that he would advise clients to wait, given the legal challenges to come.

Donald Trump’s potential re-election could also complicate matters, he added. “If this final rule goes into effect, then a Trump F.T.C. would have to create a new rule to rescind it. But that assumes that this has a chance to go into effect before that happens,” he said.


Money is pouring into start-ups that help women manage menopause, a bright spot for venture capital investors that are backing new companies focused on women’s health care.

Midi Health is tapping into that enthusiasm again just months after pulling in millions. The start-up has raised $60 million in a funding round led by the Emerson Collective, the business and philanthropic organization founded by Laurene Powell Jobs, DealBook’s Sarah Kessler is the first to report.

Investor and government focus on women’s health is rising. Companies that help women manage symptoms raised $230 million in 2023, a 22 percent bump from 2022, according to CB Insights.

And President Biden last month signed an executive order directing the National Institutes of Health to spend $200 million to broaden research on women’s health, including menopause.

Midi Health has raised additional money just months after its last funding round. The company raised $25 million last September in a round led by GV, Alphabet’sventure capital arm.

The latest cash infusion brings Midi Health’s total funding since it was founded in 2021 to $100 million, and includes GV. (Midi Health declined to disclose the valuation.)

Not dealing with menopause is costing employers. “Most health care for women is concentrated on fertility and maternity,” Joanna Strober, Midi Health’s founder, told DealBook, adding that women ages 35 to 65 were “a massively underserved audience.”

A Mayo Clinic study published last year found that about 15 percent of women said they either missed work or cut back on hours because of menopause symptoms, and that loss of productivity costs women an estimated $1.8 billion each year. Companies that provide access to menopause care could also save on insurance costs. “Treating menopause and perimenopause symptoms the wrong way is actually very expensive,” Strober said.

Midi Health deploys menopause-trained clinicians and virtual health care. Insurers greatly expanded coverage for virtual health care consultations during the coronavirus pandemic, which has allowed Midi Health to grow its business without building brick-and-mortar clinics. The company’s doctors and nurse practitioner providers can prescribe hormones that some insurance plans cover.

Companies are increasingly providing menopause care as an employee benefit. J. Crew and Pepsi are among the businesses that have offered Midi Health to staff members, part of the growing trend of companies addressing menopause and perimenopause symptoms.

Strober said Midi Health was on track to bring in more than $28 million of revenue and serve around 100,000 women this year.

Deals

  • IBM, which reports results on Wednesday, is said to be near a deal to buy HashiCorp, a provider of cloud software whose market capitalization on Tuesday was about $5 billion. (WSJ)

  • Boeing’s effort to buy the components supplier Spirit AeroSystems has reportedly been complicated by negotiations over what to do with Spirit factories that make products for a rival, Airbus. (Bloomberg)

Policy

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