Posts with «finance» label

Netflix is done telling us how many people use Netflix

Netflix will stop disclosing the number of people who signed up for its service, as well as the revenue it generates from each subscriber from next year, the company announced on Thursday. It will focus, instead, on highlighting revenue growth and the amount of time spent on its platform.

“In our early days, when we had little revenue or profit, membership growth was a strong indicator of our future potential,” the company said in a letter to shareholders. “But now we’re generating very substantial profit and free cash flow.”

Netflix revealed that the service added 9.33 million subscribers over the last few months, bringing the total number of paying households worldwide to nearly 270 million. Despite its decision to stop reporting user numbers each quarter, Netflix said that the company will “announce major subscriber milestones as we cross them,” which means we’ll probably hear about it when it crosses 300 million.

Netflix estimates that more than half a billion people around the world watch TV shows and movies through its service, an audience it is now figuring out how to squeeze even more money out of through new pricing tiers, a crackdown on password-sharing, and showing ads. Over the last few years, it has also steadily added games like the Grand Theft Auto trilogy, Hades, Dead Cells, Braid, and more, to its catalog.

Subscriber metrics are an important signal to Wall Street because they show how quickly a company is growing. But Netflix’s move to stop reporting these is something that we’ve seen from other companies before. In February, Meta announced that it would no longer break out the number of daily and monthly Facebook users each quarter but only reveal how many people collectively used Facebook, WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram. In 2018, Apple, too, stopped reporting the number of iPhones, iPads, and Macs it sold each quarter, choosing to focus, instead, on how much money it made in each category.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

TSMC will charge more for chips made outside of Taiwan, possibly making devices more expensive

TSMC is the world’s biggest chipmaker and its products are found in everything from phones to game consoles and computers. But devices using TSMC chips could become more expensive if manufacturers opt to buy ones that the company makes outside of its home base of Taiwan.

“If a customer requests to be in a certain geographical area, the customer needs to share the incremental cost,” TSMC CEO CC Wei said on an earnings call. “In today’s fragmented globalization environment, cost will be higher for everyone, including TSMC, our customers and our competitors.”

Talks with customers over price increases have already started. As the Financial Times points out, it’s more expensive for TSMC to manufacture chips outside of Taiwan (where over 90 percent of the planet’s most advanced semiconductors are made). But the company will be passing on those costs amid a push by companies and governments to increase chip supply outside of Taiwan, over which China is attempting to control.

TSMC has plants in Japan and is building several in Arizona, the first of which started operating this month and is expected to go into full production this year. It’s also constructing a plant in Germany.

In addition, the US government last week agreed to provide the company with $6.6 billion in funding under the CHIPS Act, which seeks to bolster semiconductor manufacturing in the country. In return, TSMC pledged to up its US investment by $25 billion to $65 billion. Aligned with that, the company announced plans to build a third US plant by the end of the decade and to start making more advanced 2nm chips by 2028.

Meanwhile, TSMC expects its manufacturing costs to increase in Taiwan. That’s because power prices there are soaring. An earthquake earlier this month is also expected to have a negative effect on the company’s profitability, as is its struggle to make the manufacturing of its most advanced 3nm chips more efficient.

Apple, NVIDIA, AMD and Qualcomm are among TSMC’s more notable customers. So if they end up buying chips from the company’s US, Japan or Germany fabs, their manufacturing costs could go up. Take a wild guess who’d end up having to eat the cost of those increased expenses so device makers can maintain their profit margins.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

The best budgeting apps for 2024

I recently found myself on the hunt for a new budgeting app. As a former Mint user, I knew I'd be forced to track my finances elsewhere come March 2024 when Inuit planned to shut down the service for good. I used Mint as a trusted place to track all of my accounts, monitor my credit score, follow a monthly spending plan and even set goals like building a rainy-day fund and paying down my mortgage faster. After giving Inuit's other financial app, Credit Karma, a shot and being unimpressed, I decided to immerse myself in the world of budgeting apps. Mint had been around for more than 10 years, but in that time, many other apps popped up that claimed to help you do all of the same things with your money and more. I set out to try the top competitors in the hopes that I'd find a new one that I could turn to for all of my financial needs, and to help you find the best budgeting app for you.

How we tested

Before I dove in and started testing out budgeting apps, I had to do some research. To find a list of apps to try out, I consulted trusty ol’ Google (and even trustier Reddit); read reviews of popular apps on the App Store; and also asked friends and colleagues what budget tracking apps they might be using. Some of the apps I found were free and these, of course, show loads of ads (excuse me, “offers”) to stay in business. But most of the available apps require paid subscriptions, with prices typically topping out around $100 a year, or $15 a month. (Spoiler: My top pick is cheaper than that.)

All of the services I chose to test needed to do several things: import all of your account data into one place; offer budgeting tools; and track your spending, net worth and credit score. Except where noted, all of these apps are available for iOS, Android and on the web.

Once I had my shortlist of six apps, I got to work setting them up. For the sake of thoroughly testing these apps, I made a point of adding every account to every budgeting app, no matter how small or immaterial the balance. What ensued was a veritable Groundhog Day of two-factor authentication. Just hours of entering passwords and one-time passcodes, for the same banks half a dozen times over. Hopefully, you only have to do this once.


What is Plaid and how does it work?

Each of the apps I tested uses the same underlying network, called Plaid, to pull in financial data, so it’s worth explaining what it is and how it works. Plaid was founded as a fintech startup in 2013 and is today the industry standard in connecting banks with third-party apps. Plaid works with over 12,000 financial institutions across the US, Canada and Europe. Additionally, more than 8,000 third-party apps and services rely on Plaid, the company claims.

To be clear, you don’t need a dedicated Plaid app to use it; the technology is baked into a wide array of apps, including all of the budgeting apps listed in this guide. Once you find the “add an account” option in whichever one you’re using, you’ll see a menu of commonly used banks. There’s also a search field you can use to look yours up directly. Once you find yours, you’ll be prompted to enter your login credentials. If you have two-factor authentication set up, you’ll need to enter a one-time passcode as well.

As the middleman, Plaid is a passthrough for information that may include your account balances, transaction history, account type and routing or account number. Plaid uses encryption, and says it has a policy of not selling or renting customer data to other companies. However, I would not be doing my job if I didn’t note that in 2022 Plaid was forced to pay $58 million to consumers in a class action suit for collecting “more financial data than was needed.” As part of the settlement, Plaid was compelled to change some of its business practices.

In a statement provided to Engadget, a Plaid spokesperson said the company continues to deny the allegations underpinning the lawsuit and that “the crux of the non-financial terms in the settlement are focused on us accelerating workstreams already underway related to giving people more transparency into Plaid’s role in connecting their accounts, and ensuring that our workstreams around data minimization remain on track.”

Why did Mint shut down?

When parent company Intuit announced in December 2023 that it would shut down Mint, it did not provide a reason why it made the decision to do so. It did say that Mint's millions of users would be funneled over to its other finance app, Credit Karma. "Credit Karma is thrilled to invite all Minters to continue their financial journey on Credit Karma, where they will have access to Credit Karma’s suite of features, products, tools and services, including some of Mint’s most popular features," Mint wrote on its product blog. In our testing, we found that Credit Karma isn't an exact replacement for Mint — so if you're still looking for a Mint alternative, you have some decent options.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Samsung is once again the leader in global smartphone shipments

After being briefly overtaken by Apple in 2023, Samsung once again holds the title for most global smartphone shipments. The International Data Corporation (IDC) Mobile Phone Tracker's preliminary data for 2024's first quarter showed Samsung reclaiming the lead it has held since 2010. 

Samsung has reportedly shipped 60.1 million units worldwide in quarter one, representing 20.8 percent of the market share. Apple shipped 50.1 million units for 17.3 percent of the market share. Both companies saw a decrease from 2023's quarter one, though Apple's was much more significant (-9.6 percent) than Samsung's (-0.7 percent). The top five brands remained the same in quarter one as all of 2023, rounded out by Xiaomi with 40.8 million units, Transsion with 28.5 million units and OPPO with 25.2 million units shipped. Transsion overtook OPPO to enter fourth place. 

The IDC points to these numbers as an indication that the smartphone market is strengthening. "Firstly, we continue to see growth in value and average selling prices (ASPs) as consumers opt for more expensive devices knowing they will hold onto their devices longer. Secondly, there is a shift in power among the Top 5 companies, which will likely continue as market players adjust their strategies in a post-recovery world," said Nabila Popal, research director with IDC's Worldwide Tracker team in a statement. "Xiaomi is coming back strong from the large declines experienced over the past two years and Transsion is becoming a stable presence in the Top 5 with aggressive growth in international markets. In contrast, while the Top 2 players both saw negative growth in the first quarter, it seems Samsung is in a stronger position overall than they were in recent quarters."

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Tesla is reportedly laying off more than 10 percent of its workforce

Tesla has joined the litany of companies that have conducted sweeping layoffs in recent times. According to Reuters, the company is firing "more than 10 percent" of its workforce; the company had more than 140,000 employees as of December 2023. The publication saw an internal memo noting the percentage, though it didn't state the exact number of jobs affected. A source also told Reuters that some staffers have already been notified, which indicates that the layoffs have already begun.

"As we prepare the company for our next phase of growth, it is extremely important to look at every aspect of the company for cost reductions and increasing productivity," Tesla CEO Elon Musk reportedly wrote in the memo. "As part of this effort, we have done a thorough review of the organization and made the difficult decision to reduce our headcount by more than 10 percent globally."

It emerged in early February that the company asked managers which employees' positions were essential, suggesting that layoffs were imminent. The automaker also canceled biannual performance reviews for some workers, according to Bloomberg.

Since 2020, Tesla has effectively doubled its headcount and ended 2023 with more than 140,000 employees. Although it has carried out several rounds of layoffs over the years (including dozens of workers on the Autopilot team a year ago), the company's workforce grew by about 10 percent in 2023 alone.

During Tesla's quarterly earnings call in January, CEO Elon Musk noted that the company was between "two major growth waves." The first was the popularity of the Model 3 and Y. The next is a lower-cost EV that the company seems to be pinning its hopes on. That's slated to arrive in late 2025, though reports suggest Tesla may be ditching that lower-cost model to focus on robotaxis. Musk says that the company plans to reveal its robotaxi on August 8.

Musk had warned investors to expect "notably lower" sales growth this year, which may have prompted cost-cutting efforts to appease them. Indeed, Tesla saw a sales slump in the first three months of 2024. Deliveries dropped by eight percent year-over-year and 20 percent from the previous quarter. The company is set to report earnings and sales for the first quarter of 2024 on April 23.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Reddit is now a publicly traded company

Nineteen years after its debut, Reddit is now a publicly traded company. It was listed on the New York Stock Exchange as RDDT for the first time on Thursday, with mascot Snoo on hand to ring the opening bell.

The company aimed to sell 15.3 million shares at $34 a pop to raise around $519.4 million. Stockholders collectively planned to sell 6.7 million shares in the IPO for a total of $228.6 million (Reddit itself wouldn't see any of that money though). The IPO price values Reddit at just under $6.5 billion.

The sale’s underwriters also have the option to buy 3.3 million shares at the IPO price over the next 30 days. So if the stock soars over the next few weeks, the underwriters can pick up shares relatively cheaply. If all those sell, Reddit will pull in another $112.2 million or so. One other interesting aspect of Reddit going public is that it invited long-term users in good standing the chance to snap up shares at the IPO pricing over the last few weeks.

It’s been a long road for Reddit to go public, and it’s doing so long after many of its peers (the last major social media IPO was Pinterest back in 2019). Conde Nast bought Reddit in 2006, just over a year after the platform went live, and spun it back out as an independent subsidiary in 2011. Reddit first filed for an IPO in 2021.

The company has had plenty of controversies to address during its run. Last year, users protested against the company's decision to start charging for API access, effectively killing some third-party apps that hooked into the platform. Thousands of subreddits went private and/or stopped letting users post for a while. Indeed, in its S-1 filing, Reddit notes the importance of its users, stating that if "engagement declines, our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects will be harmed."

Most recently, Reddit signed a deal with Google said to be worth $60 million a year to train the latter’s AI models on user-generated content. Reddit later said the Federal Trade Commission was looking into the arrangement.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

The FTC is probing Reddit’s AI licensing deals

The Federal Trade Commission is looking into Reddit’s AI licensing deals, the company disclosed in paperwork filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company, which is in the midst of its Initial Public Offering, said that the regulator notified Reddit officials that it “intended to request information and documents” about the company’s AI deals.

It’s not clear why the FTC is probing Reddit’s relatively new licensing business, but it seems to be in the early stages of its inquiry. “On March 14, 2024, we received a letter from the FTC advising us that the FTC’s staff is conducting a non-public inquiry focused on our sale, licensing, or sharing of user-generated content with third parties to train AI models,” Reddit wrote in a filing. “Given the novel nature of these technologies and commercial arrangements, we are not surprised that the FTC has expressed interest in this area. We do not believe that we have engaged in any unfair or deceptive trade practice.”

Reddit’s deals to license its catalog of user-generated content are a key part of the company’s strategy to grow its revenue as it gets ready to go public. On the day the company filed for IPO, the company announced it had reached a deal with Google, which will use Reddit data to train its AI models. That arrangement was reportedly worth around $60 million. The company said it was in the early stages of “exploring” these types of deals.

According to Axios, other companies have received similar letters from the FTC. The regulator has previously shown an interest in the current wave of generative AI upstarts and their relationships with large tech companies, The FTC is currently investigating Microsoft, Alphabet and Amazon over their investments into prominent AI startups.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Tesla paid no federal income taxes while paying executives $2.5 billion over five years

In case you need another reason to shout "tax the rich" from the rooftops, it's here, and it's going to make you angry. A study found that 35 major US companies paid their top five executives more than they paid in federal income taxes between 2018 and 2022, the Guardian reports. The findings, which come from The Institute for Policy Studies and Americans for Tax Fairness, are even less shocking when you learn the worst offender: Tesla.

Elon Musk's company earned $4.4 billion during those five years and gave its executives $2.5 billion. Despite that, Tesla not only didn't pay any federal taxes, but it received $1 million in refunds from the government. Musk himself is the second richest person in the world, with Forbes reporting he had a net worth of $207.9 billion at the start of March.

Tesla is one of 35 companies that paid less federal income tax than they paid their top five executives during that period. In total, the well-deserving and not-at-all greedy execs of these companies raked in $9.5 billion over these years, while cumulatively those same companies received $1.8 billion back from the government. Eighteen of these businesses reported net profits over the five years but didn't pay a cent of federal income tax. (All but one got refunds).

The study lists other notable companies like T-Mobile, Netflix, Ford Motor and Match Group alongside Tesla. T-Mobile made $17.9 billion, paid executives $675 million and received $80 million in refunds. The mobile provider has spent an incredible amount of money on lobbying Congress for tax breaks, spending $9 million in 2022 alone. Netflix actually did pay some taxes, but the $236 million was just 1.6 percent of its $15.1 billion in earnings — and just over a third of what it paid those top five executives. The statutory rate for federal income tax is 21 percent, so yeah, feel free to scream.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

You can try the IRS alternative to Turbo Tax in 12 states today

April is just around the corner, so if you're not stressed about filing taxes yet, it's likely coming any day now. Thanks to the lovely (read: horrible) tax lobby and the politicians who take their money, the headache taxes bring is as American as apple pie. The IRS is attempting to simplify things a bit with a Direct File tool, a free digital program that provides step-by-step guidance for taxpayers submitting their returns, The Associated Press reports. The IRS first announced this tool was on its way back in October.

To clarify, yes, even this development still requires filing your taxes and determining how much you owe (why tell us when we can just guess?), but it should be a more straightforward process and save you some money. However, it's far from open for all. The IRS pilot program is available to residents of 12 states and only those with a simple tax situation — we're talking basic W-2s and standard deductions here. Other potentially eligible reporting includes SSA-1099 Social Security income, the Child Tax Credit and student loan interest. The IRS has a complete list of eligibility requirements and a tool to check if you qualify.

Direct File is available to residents of Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Texas, Wyoming, Washington, Arizona, California, Massachusetts, and New York. The last four also require state tax returns, so their residents who use Direct File will be directed to tools for filing those once they are finished. Alaska was initially in the mix but has seemingly been dropped since last year's statement.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Sam Altman is back on the OpenAI board. We still don’t know why he was fired.

Sam Altman is back on the board of OpenAI, nearly four months after the CEO was ousted, and quickly reinstated, from the company he founded. Although Altman had returned as the AI company’s top executive in November, a temporary board oversaw his return and the subsequent investigation into his conduct.

That investigation is now complete, according to the company, which added three new members to its board of directors. The additions include: Instacart CEO and former Meta executive Fidji Simo, former Sony executive Nicole Seligman and Dr. Sue Desmond-Hellmann, former CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Salesforce co-CEO Bret Taylor, economist Larry Summers and OpenAI co-founder Greg Brockman, who served on the temporary three-seat board, will remain in their positions with Taylor continuing as chair.

The announcement caps off a tumultuous several months for the AI company, which was rocked by Altman’s abrupt ouster last fall.

On Friday, OpenAI also published a summary of the findings from WilmerHale, a law firm that the company’s board retained in December 2023 to conduct an independent investigation into the events that led to Altman’s firing. Despite that, however, we’re no closer to finding out exactly why Altman, who rejoined the company as CEO within five days, was fired to begin with.

“WilmerHale [found] that the prior Board’s decision did not arise out of concerns regarding product safety or security, the pace of development, OpenAI’s finances, or its statements to investors, customers, or business partners,” the summary said. “Instead, it was a consequence of a breakdown in the relationship and loss of trust between the prior Board and Mr. Altman.” WilmerHale also concluded that OpenAI’s previous board fired Altman abruptly without giving notice to “key stakeholders”, and without giving Altman an opportunity to respond to its concerns.

To come to this conclusion, the firm reviewed more than 30,000 documents and conducted dozens of interviews with OpenAI staffers including previous board members over the last few months.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at