Thursday, July 25, 2024

Forbes Daily: Apple Faces Billions In Possible Fines From EU Regulator

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Good morning,

Elevated interest rates are rippling through the economy far beyond record-high housing costs—look no further than the furniture and home improvement sectors.

In the first quarter, Williams-Sonoma and RH, formerly known as Restoration Hardware, saw declines in their net revenue. Consumers are also less inclined to tackle big-ticket home improvement projects, which are often financed, so retailers like Home Depot and Lowe’s are taking hits.

It’s a stark shift from previous post-pandemic years, but with rising inflation, sales have cooled, and a sluggish housing market means less demand for new furnishings. “Furniture sales spiked at the end of Covid and now the industry is dealing with the bust,” according to Jay Zagorsky, an economics professor at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business.

Let’s get into the headlines,

FIRST UP

Bitcoin experienced a significant drop on Monday, hitting its lowest price since early May, amid a broader midyear selloff impacting the cryptocurrency market. The decline was partly driven by the anticipated release of $9 billion worth of bitcoin from Japanese exchange Mt. Gox and the reported sale of hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of the cryptocurrency by the German government.

The music industry’s three largest record labels—UMG, Sony and Warner—are suing two artificial intelligence music companies, alleging the firms committed “mass infringement of copyrighted sound recordings” by using artists’ songs to train their AI services. The lawsuits against Suno, Inc. and Udio AI are the latest battle between AI companies and artists and their representatives.

BUSINESS + FINANCE

Nvidia’s stock fell more than 6% on Monday, extending its losses from last week, despite no major negative catalysts. This comes after 3.5% and 3.2% drops on Thursday and Friday, respectively, bringing total losses from last Tuesday’s record close to more than 12%. This sharp drop has wiped $400 billion off of Nvidia’s market capitalization.

WEALTH + ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Former President Donald Trump’s net worth increased by nearly $900 million on Monday as shares of Trump Media surged, marking its largest single-day gain since going public in March. This follows a 43% dip this month, including a single-day drop of 14% last week. Despite the volatility, Trump’s nearly 65% stake in Trump Media jumped to over $4 billion from $3.1 billion.

TECH + INNOVATION ​​

Apple’s App Store rules illegally stifle competition, the European Commission said on Monday, escalating a years-long spat between the U.S. tech giant and the powerful trading bloc. The regulator claims the App Store policies appear to breach the bloc’s Digital Markets Act, which carries a fine of up to 10% of Apple’s revenue last year, or $38.3 billion.

MONEY + POLITICS

Louisiana was sued Monday over its new law requiring public schools to display the Ten Commandments, just days after it was signed by Republican Governor Jeff Landry. The suit alleges the law “cannot be reconciled with the fundamental religious-freedom principles that animated the founding of our nation.”

The Supreme Court will weigh in on a Tennessee law that restricts gender-affirming care for minors, it said Monday—setting the stage for a potentially consequential ruling on transgender health care for minors as multiple states have imposed bans or limitations. The Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments in the case this fall as part of its 2024-2025 term, which begins in October.

SCIENCE + HEALTHCARE

Novo Nordisk said it will invest $4.1 billion to develop a new manufacturing facility in Clayton, North Carolina to boost production for the company’s weight loss and diabetes drugs Wegovy and Ozempic. As the drugs grow in popularity, Novo Nordisk said it plans to spend $6.8 billion on production this year, and the latest facility is expected to be completed between 2027 and 2029.

Shares of Alnylam Pharmaceuticals surged over 32% to their largest single-day gain in nearly two years after the company announced its drug vutrisiran helped reduce the number of deaths and cardiovascular events in a study of patients with a rare heart disease. Alnylam plans to apply later this year for regulatory approval of vutrisiran, which could bring relief to the up to 300,000 people worldwide who are affected by the disease, transthyretin amyloid cardiomyopathy, according to the company’s estimates.

WORLD

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will plead guilty under an agreement that allows him to walk free and avoid a prison sentence in the U.S., according to multiple outlets, doing so after spending more than 10 years fighting extradition to the U.S. after he published classified military documents. Assange is expected to be served with a 62-month prison sentence that equals and will credit the amount of time he has been imprisoned in London, according to CNN, which noted that Assange will return to his home country of Australia.

TRAVEL + LIFESTYLE

With demand for international travel at an all-time high, the State Department is making it easier to get a passport in a rush. This month, the department announced online passport renewal and that it will open six new passport agencies, bringing the total number to 35 nationwide. The new agencies will provide same-day services for those with urgent foreign travel needs, but unlike ordinary acceptance facilities, you will need an appointment.

FEATURED STORY

This Industrial Spinoff Is Pulling Lithium From Brine To Meet Growing Battery Demand

TOPLINE Lithium is hugely important to electrifying the world’s vehicles, with just one car’s battery requiring more than 17 pounds of it. But extracting and processing the critical mineral is both costly and tough on the environment—and the United States largely relies on China for its supply.

To meet that demand, startup Gradiant, which cleans up wastewater on an industrial scale, is spinning out a new business, called alkaLi. Instead of mining from rock, the standalone venture plans to extract lithium from brine—naturally occurring extremely salty water found in a variety of regions—and process it for use in batteries using a technique that it developed. It expects to raise $15 to $20 million, including from Gradiant itself, which will maintain a stake in the business, and to ultimately hire a new CEO to run it, said Prakash Govindan, Gradiant cofounder and chief operating officer.

The new business in lithium is an offshoot of Gradiant’s core operations in industrial wastewater treatment, where it works with major customers that include semiconductor giants TSMC and Micron, pharmaceutical makers Pfizer and GSK and Coca-Cola. The firm, which has raised more than $400 million, reached a $1 billion valuation last year, the rare water-technology startup to hit that mark.

Global lithium consumption reached 134,000 tons in 2022, a 41% increase from 95,000 tons in 2021, according to U.S. Geological Survey data. While lithium prices have plunged over the past year, in part due to the slowing growth of electric vehicle sales in China, long-term demand is expected to rise.

WHY IT MATTERS The company said that its process for extracting lithium is faster and better for the environment, with both reduced carbon and water impact, compared to traditional methods of mining. It also has 50% lower operating costs than other methods of getting lithium from brine, Govindan said, which typically relies on evaporation ponds to slowly allow the lithium to become concentrated.

MORE How RJ Scaringe Is Driving Rivian Straight At Elon Musk

FACTS + COMMENTS

Planned Parenthood plans to spend less than it has in the last two election cycles for the upcoming November election, the first presidential election since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The organization says that’s because other groups have promised to also spend millions campaigning on the issue of abortion access:

$40 million: The amount Planned Parenthood plans to spend on canvassing programs, phone banking and advertising campaigns, less than the record-breaking $50 million it spent in 2022

$92 million: How much the anti-abortion group SBA Pro-Life America has pledged to spend to “protect life across America,” as it plans to campaign in the same states as Planned Parenthood

‘Abortion will be the message of this election’: Jenny Lawson, executive director of Planned Parenthood Votes, told the AP

STRATEGY + SUCCESS

In a crowded digital landscape, finding your unique voice can be challenging—especially when it seems like every tactic to capture audience attention has already been attempted. It’s important to remember that you have unique strengths and perspectives to bring to any situation. To effectively engage your audience, focus on your niche, prioritize quality over quantity, and tailor your content to your audience’s specific needs. This can break through the noise and establish a strong and memorable presence in your industry.

VIDEO

QUIZ

A Florida family is suing NASA for $80,000 in compensation for property and business damages, emotional and mental anguish after being affected by what rare incident?

A. Spacecraft launches producing earthquake-like tremors in their home

B. A piece of space debris fell to Earth, punching a hole in their roof

C. A shuttle’s septic tank equivalent spewed toxic liquid over their property

D. The agency’s dense satellite network blocked their internet reception

Check your answer.

Thanks for reading! This edition of Forbes Daily was edited by Sarah Whitmire and Chris Dobstaff, with writing contributions by Tavon Thomasson.

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