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from Breakingviews:

Netflix stock horror follows familiar script

By Jeffrey Goldfarb

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. 

Netflix is sticking to the script. The film and TV streaming service lost $7 billion of market value in after-hours trading on Wednesday following news that it had signed up fewer new subscribers last quarter than originally forecast. Even for one of the most-shorted and volatile stocks, a 25 percent decline is notable. And yet investors have seen this movie before.

All the familiar frights were on display. The cost to Netflix of buying and creating new programming - including its first original movie “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon: Green Legend” - keeps rising. The tally increased to $8.9 billion at the end of September from $7.7 billion at the end of June. That, along with the price of overseas expansion, meant free cash flow turned negative again. Then there’s Netflix’s demanding valuation. Even after the sell-off, the shares trade on a head-spinning multiple of 86 times earnings for the last 12 months.

Most of the expected thrills repeated, too. The company’s U.S. streaming “contribution margin”, which excludes certain costs like technology development, rose to 28.6 percent, up 5 percentage points from a year ago. Netflix is aiming for 40 percent in about five years. Higher prices may have stung, but the company keeps adding a healthy number of new subscribers, who it says are watching more and sticking around for longer. It also secured seven Emmy Awards and has signed new deals with comedy stars Adam Sandler and Judd Apatow.

from The Great Debate:

Air strikes won’t disrupt Islamic State’s real safe haven: social media

jihad tweet President Barack Obama has pledged to destroy Islamic State and ensure fighters “find no safe haven.” But even as U.S.-led airstrikes are underway in Iraq and Syria, it is clear that bombs alone will not do the job. For Islamic State hides out in the most perfect haven: the World Wide Web.

In June 2014, the militant group that Obama refers to as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, grabbed the world’s attention after it took over much of northern Iraq in roughly four days. Islamic State accomplished this by building a massive, sophisticated virtual network of fighters in addition to those on the ground. Indeed, its expansion online has been as swift as its territorial gains. It is this virtual power grab that will be most difficult to combat.

The Internet has largely sustained the jihadist movement since 9/11. With this powerful tool, jihadists coordinate actions, share information, recruit new members and propagate their ideology.

from Breakingviews:

Alibaba IPO highlights SoftBank’s value dilemma

By Una Galani

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

Alibaba’s runaway initial public offering has turned the spotlight back onto SoftBank’s valuation dilemma. Following the Chinese e-commerce group’s successful New York listing, the Japanese conglomerate’s 32 percent stake eclipses the value of its other businesses. The 5 percent drop in SoftBank’s shares on the morning of Sept. 22 is a reminder the investment is both blessing and burden.

from Breakingviews:

Alibaba payments cleanup makes for neater IPO

By Peter Thal Larsen

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Alibaba just can’t stop tinkering with its corporate structure. Weeks before the Chinese e-commerce juggernaut is due to start a roadshow for an initial public offering, it has tidied up relations with its payments affiliate. Though the new arrangement is still messier than shareholders might want, it should make for a neater IPO.

from Breakingviews:

Behold the unversion: an inversion in all but name

By Jeffrey Goldfarb

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Behold the unversion. U.S.-based data protection firm SafeNet may very well be able to slash its tax rate as part of a cross-border deal. Instead of doing so by acquiring an overseas company – a move known as an inversion – it is selling itself for $890 million to Dutch digital security outfit Gemalto. The deal shows the limitations of a possible U.S. government ban on inversions.

from Breakingviews:

Gannett split puts digital on wrong side of divide

By Jeffrey Goldfarb

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Gannett is redefining the digital divide. The media conglomerate unveiled plans on Tuesday to spin off newspapers, including USA Today, to showcase the value of its broadcasting operations. At the same time, the company will take control of the parent of Cars.com, paying $1.8 billion for the 73 percent it doesn’t already own. Instead of using that online asset to buffer the weaker half, however, Gannett is forcing print to stand on its own.

from Breakingviews:

Yahoo’s Mayer nears post-Alibaba reckoning

By Richard Beales

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Yahoo is a big company with a much smaller one struggling to get out. A 22.5 percent stake in Alibaba accounts for well over half the U.S. internet group’s roughly $36 billion market capitalization, according to a new Breakingviews calculator. With the Chinese e-commerce giant likely to go public next month, Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer will find out how investors value the businesses she actually runs.

from Breakingviews:

Line’s $13 bln valuation shows chat app exuberance

By Robyn Mak and Una Galani

The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own.

Line’s apparent $13 billion valuation sends a strong signal about chat app exuberance. The Japanese mobile messaging app’s quarterly revenue jumped 26 percent from the previous three months, its parent company reported on July 31. That pushes up valuation expectations ahead of its planned initial public offering. Yet Line’s valuation hangs on the assumption that new overseas users will spend like those back home. That seems like wishful thinking.

from Breakingviews:

The perks and pitfalls of depending on Jack Ma

By John Foley 

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Buy a share in Alibaba and you place your trust in Jack Ma. The Chinese e-commerce giant’s founder, executive chairman and spiritual sultan will remain a controlling force even after the company completes its massive initial public offering later this year. The $100 billion-plus question for prospective shareholders is whether they can depend on him to always act in their best interests.

from Edward Hadas:

Google and the right to be forgotten

The public has a right to know. Individuals have a right to privacy. The common good is served by both these contradictory statements, so someone has to decide how to balance them when they come into conflict. When it comes to internet search, the European Union’s Court of Justice has given the job to search engine providers such as Google. In a way, that’s a good call.

The court decided in May that some internet links deserve to be “forgotten” because certain data can over time become “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant”. The search operators were held responsible, in the first instance, for judging whether to grant requests to remove links.

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