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Pre-market Actions: Can Warren Buffett, The Oracle Of Omaha, Still See The Future?


What’s happening: At Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting this weekend, Buffett defended the company’s decision not to publish reports on how it is dealing with climate change risks. He claimed that Berkshire (BRKA) has a good track record of investing in renewable energy through its utility business, and said it would be “absurd” to make all of the group’s many companies more transparent.
But the pressure is increasing. At the meeting, an investor asked him about Berkshire’s decision to own a large stake in the oil giant. Chevron (CVX) given concerns about the climate crisis.

Buffett said he had “no qualms” about owning Chevron, and that he would hate if all hydrocarbons were banned quickly – although he noted the world is moving away from them quickly.

“If we owned the whole business, I wouldn’t feel uncomfortable being in this business,” Buffett said.

Take a step back: Company shareholders side with the 90-year-old CEO. A proposal asking Berkshire Hathaway to tackle climate change more directly – as well as a measure calling for more disclosure on diversity and inclusion – was not passed.

Still, it’s not hard to see which way the winds are blowing. Countries like the US and UK are announcing increasingly ambitious emission reduction targets, while hundreds of large companies have made net zero commitments and are investing money in sustainable businesses.

The investment community at large is also rushing, as clients push fund managers to build portfolios with a focus on sustainability, while spectacular growth for companies like Tesla sparks excitement among investors every day.

Global sustainable fund assets hit a record high of nearly $ 2 trillion in the first three months of 2021, up 18% from the previous quarter, according to new data from Morningstar.

Berkshire Vice Chairman Greg Abel, who has been named as Buffett’s likely successor, said at the meeting that “there has been a clear commitment to decarbonize our business.” He added that the company will withdraw all of its coal units by 2050.

Still, that may not be enough to convince skeptics that Buffett, who has earned the nickname “Oracle of Omaha,” correctly assesses the risks of the play.

Although Chevron has indicated that it may rethink parts of its business model in light of climate fears, it remains a $ 200 billion fossil fuel empire synonymous with the oil and gas industry. As efforts to increase reliance on cleaner energy gain momentum, its business will face major headwinds. It could be a threat to Berkshire Hathaway, as well as Buffett’s reputation.

Epic against Apple: a legal fight could remake the digital economy

Since its launch in 2008, the Apple App Store has been the sole gatekeeper between apps and iPhones and iPads.

Other platforms, such as Google’s Android, allow downloading of apps through third-party stores. But for all developers who want to be on Apple’s mobile devices, the choice is simple: it’s the App Store or nothing.

This gives Apple (AAPL) enormous power over the terms it can dictate to app creators, reports my CNN Business colleague Brian Fung. Specifically, every time you buy a digital product or service on many iOS apps, it is processed on a payment system operated by Apple and Apple collects a 30% fee.

Now a federal judge should decide: is Apple’s policy just part of a hugely successful business model, or is it a violation of US antitrust law?

In a lawsuit starting Monday, the judge will consider whether Apple is justified in requiring many app makers – and by extension consumers – to use the company’s payment technology.

The potentially historic lawsuit stems from a lawsuit filed by the maker of the hit video game Fortnite. Apple started Epic from its platform last summer to break its rule.

The high-profile case will involve witnesses, including Apple CEO Tim Cook and his senior lieutenants. Representatives for Facebook (FB) and Microsoft (MSFT) should also testify. Emails and corporate presentations could fuel a fierce battle in courtrooms over App Store policies, which are increasingly under scrutiny by regulators in Europe, lawmakers in the United States and many more. ‘other.

Remember: European regulators last Friday accused Apple of violating EU antitrust law, saying company rules unfairly restrict competing music services. Taken with the Epic case, it’s clear the company is playing the defense.

Debate intensifies over ban on political discussions at work

At the end of last month, Basecamp, a project management software company, took the unusual step of banning political discussions at work.

Given the company’s relatively small size, the decision – announced in a blog post by CEO Jason Fried – could have gone without notice, writes my CNN Business colleague Sara Ashley O’Brien.

But it quickly generated a backlash. About 20 of Basecamp’s under 60 employees posted on Twitter that they were leaving the company, with some explicitly pointing to the new policies. The company offers severance packages for those who choose to leave given the “new management”.

Not the first: Last fall, the Coinbase cryptocurrency exchange made waves when CEO Brian Armstrong said there was no room to engage in “broader societal issues.” ”Or“ political causes ”outside the main mission of the company.

The decision has been criticized by some as deeply flawed and praised by others. Paul Graham, venture capitalist and co-founder of elite Silicon Valley accelerator Y Combinator, tweeted at the time: “I predict the most successful companies will follow Coinbase’s lead.”

But diversity and inclusion experts say such initiatives are not courageous and instead appear to be motivated by fear of change. Banning politics at work appears as an attempt to “put genius on awakened politics so that people can just get away with what they may have done before,” according to Y-Vonne Hutchinson, the founder of the company. ReadySet inclusion consultancy.

Hutchinson told CNN Business that what the people making these decisions “don’t realize – or maybe what they don’t want to achieve – is that in an environment where there is literally no separation. between your work and your home, and your existence is political, you can’t really separate the two. “

following

Estee Lauder (EL) reports results before the US markets open. XPO Logistics (XPO) follows after the close.

Also today: ISM Manufacturing Index for April releases at 10 a.m. ET.

Coming tomorrow: CVS (CVS), Pfizer (PFE), Hyatt Hotels (H), Lyft (LYFT) and Zillow (Z) publish income.

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