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Amazon buys Hollywood studio MGM in $8.45bn deal | Amazon

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Amazon has bought MGM, the Hollywood studio behind the James Bond and Rocky franchises, for nearly $8.5bn as the battle for global streaming supremacy reaches new heights.

The scale of the deal far exceeds the $5bn (£3.5bn) price tag suggested when the studio put itself up for sale in December, as the fight to secure must-watch programming fuels fierce bidding wars for owners of increasingly scarce “crown jewel” content.

MGM was also courted by Apple and the Sky owner, Comcast. However, both ultimately balked at the size of the cheque Amazon was willing to write.

The famous studio has a library of 4,000 film titles and 17,000 hours of TV programming – ranging from Gone with the Wind and The Hobbit to TV hits such as The Handmaid’s Tale – that has collectively won more than 180 Academy Awards and 100 Emmy Awards.

Founded in 1924, MGM (originally known as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) recorded huge success throughout the golden age of Hollywood with films ranging from The Wizard of Oz and Ben Hur to Raging Bull, Basic Instinct and The Silence of the Lambs. It has changed hands frequently and previous owners have included the drinks magnate Edgar Bronfman, the Las Vegas casino billionaire Kirk Kerkorian and CNN’s founder, Ted Turner.

It is the second-largest takeover deal ever struck by Amazon, the world’s second-largest streaming service, with 175 million global users. In 2017 it paid $13.7bn for the upmarket US grocer Whole Foods.

“The real financial value behind this deal is the treasure trove of intellectual property in the deep catalogue that we plan to reimagine and develop together with MGM’s talented team,” said Mike Hopkins, the senior vice-president of Prime Video and Amazon Studios.

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MGM explored the possibility of releasing the next film in the 59-year-old James Bond franchise on a digital streaming service after the coronavirus pandemic kept cinemas closed for much of the last year. The movie, No Time to Die, is Daniel Craig’s last appearance as 007. It is now scheduled to premiere in cinemas in September and is likely to be the biggest international box office hit of the year.

Bond is the fifth most-valuable movie franchise of all time, with its 24 films to date grossing more than $7bn, behind only the sprawling Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, Harry Potter and Spider-Man films.

Four years ago, Amazon splashed out $1bn on the rights to make six TV series in the world of The Lord of the Rings after its founder, Jeff Bezos, reportedly cited Game of Thrones as the sort of hit he wanted to drive the growth of the company’s streaming service.

Amazon spent $11bn on content last year, up from $7.8bn in 2019, as it increasingly invests in winning subscribers to its Prime subscription service. Netflix spent about $17bn last year. Amazon is vying for global streaming supremacy with Netflix, which has more than 200 million subscribers, and Disney+, which launched 18 months ago and has rapidly grown to more than 100 million subscribers.

Traditional media companies and Silicon Valley giants are also battling to win subscribers as viewers increasingly shift from traditional TV to streaming services.

On Wednesday, Kenichiro Yoshida, the chief executive of Sony, said the company would not look to sell its film and TV studio during the latest wave of media consolidation. One of the big five Hollywood studios, Sony Pictures, the home of franchises including Spider-Man, Ghostbusters, Jumanji and the Karate Kid, is valued by analysts at as much as $30bn.

This month, the US telecoms company AT&T announced a deal to merge its media division with Discovery to create a global content powerhouse to better compete in the streaming wars. AT&T already owns Warner Bros, the home of the Batman and Harry Potter movie franchises and TV hits such as Friends, the HBO network behind Game of Thrones and Succession, and the news broadcaster CNN.

Three years ago AT&T completed the $85bn acquisition of WarnerMedia, formerly known as Time Warner. It was Rupert Murdoch’s failure to buy Time Warner that prompted his shock decision four years ago to sell 21st Century Fox, which included the film and TV studios behind X-Men, Avatar, Deadpool and The Simpsons, admitting that without it his global media empire lacked the scale to compete.

Disney’s $66bn acquisition of the Fox assets gave the world’s largest media company the extra content muscle to successfully join the streaming wars with the launch of Disney+.

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Elon Musk sells Tesla shares worth $6.9bn as Twitter trial looms | Elon Musk

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Elon Musk has sold $6.9bn (£5.7bn) worth of shares in Tesla after admitting that he could need the funds if he loses a legal battle with Twitter and is forced to buy the social media platform.

The Tesla CEO walked away from a $44bn deal to buy Twitter in July but the company has launched a lawsuit demanding that he complete the deal. A trial will take place in Delaware in October.

“In the (hopefully unlikely) event that Twitter forces this deal to close *and* some equity partners don’t come through, it is important to avoid an emergency sale of Tesla stock,” Musk said in a tweet late on Tuesday.

In other comments on Twitter on Tuesday, Musk said “yes” when asked if he was finished selling Tesla stock. He also said he would buy Tesla stock again if the Twitter deal does not close.

Musk has committed more than $30bn of his own money to the financing of the deal, with more than $7bn of that total provided by a coterie of associates including tech tycoon Larry Ellison, the Qatar state investment fund and the world’s biggest cryptocurrency exchange, Binance.

Musk, the world’s richest person, sold $8.5bn worth of Tesla shares in April and had said at the time there were no further sales planned. But since then, legal experts had suggested that if Musk is forced to complete the acquisition or settle the dispute with a stiff penalty, he was likely to sell more Tesla shares.

Last week Musk launched a countersuit against Twitter, accusing the platform of deliberately miscounting the number of spam accounts on the platform. Twitter has consistently stated that the number of spam accounts on its service is less than 5% of its user base, which currently stands at just under 238 million. Legal experts have said that Musk will find it hard to convince a judge that Twitter’s spam issue represents a “company material adverse effect” that substantially alters the company’s value – and therefore voids the deal.

Musk sold about 7.92m Tesla shares between 5 August and 9 August, according to multiple filings. He now owns 155m Tesla shares or just under 15% of the electric carmaker.

The latest sales bring total Tesla stock sales by Musk to about $32bn in less than one year. However, Musk remains comfortably ahead of Jeff Bezos as the world’s richest man with an estimated $250bn fortune, according to the Bloomberg billionaires index.

Tesla shares have risen nearly 15% since the automaker reported better-than-expected earnings on 20 July, also helped by the Biden administration’s climate bill that, if passed, would lift the cap on tax credits for electric vehicles.

Musk also teased on Tuesday that he could start his own social media platform. When asked by a Twitter user if he had thought about creating his own platform if the deal didn’t close, he replied: “X.com”.

With Reuters



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Iran reveals use of cryptocurrency to pay for imports • The Register

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Iran has announced it used cryptocurrency to pay for imports, raising the prospect that the nation is using digital assets to evade sanctions.

Trade minister Alireza Peyman Pak revealed the transaction with the tweet below, which translates as “This week, the first official import order was successfully placed with cryptocurrency worth ten million dollars. By the end of September, the use of cryptocurrencies and smart contracts will be widespread in foreign trade with target countries.”

It is unclear what Peman Pak referred to with his mention of widespread use of crypto for foreign trade, and the identity of the foreign countries he mentioned is also obscure.

But the intent of the announcement appears clear: Iran will use cryptocurrency to settle cross-border trades.

That’s very significant because Iran is subject to extensive sanctions aimed at preventing its ability to acquire nuclear weapons and reduce its ability to sponsor terrorism. Sanctions prevent the sale of many commodities and technologies to Iran, and financial institutions aren’t allowed to deal with their Iranian counterparts, who are mostly shunned around the world.

As explained in this advisory [PDF] issued by the US Treasury, Iran has developed numerous practices to evade sanctions, including payment offsetting schemes that let it sell oil in contravention of sanctions. Proceeds of such sales are alleged to have been funnelled to terrorist groups.

While cryptocurrency’s anonymity has been largely disproved, trades in digital assets aren’t regulated so sanctions enforcement will be more complex if Iran and its trading partners use crypto instead of fiat currencies.

Which perhaps adds more weight to the argument that cryptocurrency has few proven uses beyond speculative trading, making the ransomware industry possible, and helping authoritarian states like Iran and North Korea to acquire materiel for weapons.

Peyman Pak’s mention of “widespread” cross-border crypto deals, facilitated by automated smart contracts, therefore represents a challenge to those who monitor and enforce sanctions – and something new to worry about for the rest of us. ®



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Edwards Lifesciences is hiring at its ‘key’ Shannon and Limerick facilities

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The medtech company is hiring for a variety of roles at both its Limerick and Shannon sites, the latter of which is being transformed into a specialised manufacturing facility.

Medical devices giant Edwards Lifesciences began renovations to convert its existing Shannon facility into a specialised manufacturing centre at the end of July.

The expansion will allow the company to produce components that are an integral part of its transcatheter heart valves. The conversion is part of Edwards Lifesciences’ expansion plan that will see it hire for hundreds of new roles in the coming years.

“The expanded capability at our Shannon facility demonstrates that our operations in Ireland are a key enabler for Edwards to continue helping patients across the globe,” said Andrew Walls, general manager for the company’s manufacturing facilities in Ireland.

According to Walls, hiring is currently underway at the company’s Shannon and Limerick facilities for a variety of functions such as assembly and inspection roles, manufacturing and quality engineering, supply chain, warehouse operations and project management.

Why Ireland?

Headquartered in Irvine, California, Edwards Lifesciences established its operations in Shannon in 2018 and announced 600 new jobs for the mid-west region. This number was then doubled a year later when it revealed increased investment in Limerick.

When the Limerick plant was officially opened in October 2021, the medtech company added another 250 roles onto the previously announced 600, promising 850 new jobs by 2025.

“As the company grows and serves even more patients around the world, Edwards conducted a thorough review of its global valve manufacturing network to ensure we have the right facilities and talent to address our future needs,” Walls told SiliconRepublic.com

“We consider multiple factors when determining where we decide to manufacture – for example, a location that will allow us to produce close to where products are utilised, a location that offers advantages for our supply chain, excellent local talent pool for an engaged workforce, an interest in education and good academic infrastructure, and other characteristics that will be good for business and, ultimately, good for patients.

“Both our Shannon and Limerick sites are key enablers for Edwards Lifesciences to continue helping patients across the globe.”

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