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News & Analysis

Your 90-second guide to the day in tech

- January 28, 2021 4 MIN READ
Tesla
Investors looking for the top of the cycle in GameStop's share price

Hello and we hope you’re having a good Thursday. Here are some of the things we’ve spotted.

And yes, today it might take long to read than 90 secs, but normal programming will return tomorrow

Have a great day.

1. GameStop it, right now

What to make of US stock GameStop? As a spectator sport, it’s hilarious. If it’s simply a matter of revenge for Elon Musk against shorters, then the world’s richest man is also having the time of his life. But there are also deep concerns around market manipulation that have implications for every investor, especially in tech stocks.

To recap: GameStop’s share price has surged more than 650% since Jan 12  and bloodied short sellers such as Melvin Capital and Citron Research, who’ve had to find billions to cover their short positions.

The Tesla CEO tweeted “Gamestonk!!” on Tuesday, along with a link to the “wallstreetbets” Reddit page and the share price doubled.

Tellingly, the r/wallstreetbets tagline is: “Like 4Chan found a Bloomberg Terminal”.

Yes, trolling the market is the new short.

The retailer flogs video games and electronics, has around 6,600 stores globally, and in Australia and New Zealand, you’d know it by its subsidiary brands, EB Games and Zing.

As Ausbiz’s David Scutt said: ” While many are asking whether this is blatant market manipulation, the bigger question is what will regulators do about it, if anything? They seem woefully ill-equipped to deal with the growing influence of social media, zero brokerage and stimulus cheques that have driven these moves.”

US Senator Elizabeth Warren ripped into hedge funds and investors, saying they have treated the market “like their own personal casino while everyone else pays the price,” in a statement.

“With stocks soaring while millions are out of work and struggling to pay their bills, it’s not news that the stock market doesn’t reflect our actual economy,” she said, adding that “it’s long past time for the SEC and other financial regulators to wake up and do their jobs.”

Even Michael Burry, of The Big Short fame, who has a stake in GameStop called the rally “unnatural, insane, dangerous”. More on that here.

2. Facebook revenue and users soar

For all the concerns about Facebook, the company had a great 2020, with Q4 revenue up 33% to US$28.1 billion US% on 12 months earlier, and beating expectations of $26.4bn. Other numbers beat expectations too. Daily active users rose 11% to 1.84 billion, with monthly active users at 2.8 billion, up 12% year-on-year. But interestingly, daily active users in the US and Canada, fell to 195 million after peaking at 198 million at Q2.

Earnings per share were $3.88 well above the $3.23 expected.

 

3. TikTok rival Kuaishou IPOs

China’s TikTok has a short-form video rival called Kuaishou, with an average 305 million daily users and 769 million monthly, and it’s about to make a lot of people billionaires with a listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. The social media giant is raising HK$42 billion (AU$7bn) at KK$115 a share. Tencent is an investor. The venture was founded by Chinese billionaires Su Hua and Chen Yixiao.  The IPO is expected to add AU$10bn to Su’s wealth and around AU$7.2bn to Chen’s

Forbes has more on the float here.

 

4. Google warns of North Korean hackers

North Korean government-sponsored hacking groups are using social media to target cyber-security experts, sounding them out on vulnerabilities, Google has warned.

The Google Threat Analysis Group (TAG) has been tracking the threat for several months and says the ongoing campaign targets security researchers working on vulnerability R&D, building large, fake social media profiles – the TAG team published a list of suspect accounts here – in an attempt to establish their bona fides.

The hackers would the ask their target if they wanted to collaborate on vulnerability research together, and provide the researcher with a Visual Studio Project that contained malicious code that installed malware on the targeted researcher’s operating system.

This malware is linked to the notorious North Korean cyber-hacking op Lazarus Group. More details on the Google TAG blog here.

 

5. Dating site data dox

The details of more than 2.28 million users on the dating website MeetMindful.com have been hacked and leaked in a massive data dump, according to ZDNet.

The file includes real names, Facebook user IDs, birth dates, email addresses and geo-location data.

ZDNet says the data was released by a threat actor known as ShinyHunters, who also leaked millions of user details from customr printing site Teespring.

 

6. Tesla sues engineer over data theft

Tesla has launched legal action against a software engineer they employed just after Christmas, who allegedly began stealing code and files a back-end software system known as WARP Drive, designed to automate business processes.

Alex Khatilov is accused of trade secret theft and breach of contract. having been hired in the quality assurance dept. He allegedly uploaded the files to his Dropbox and was confronted about the alleged theft on January 6.

CNBC has more on the legal action here.

 

7. Apple’s Australian tax bill

Apple’s Australian arm reportedly generated nearly $10 billion in annual revenue to the end of the September quarter, according to figures lodged with the corporate regulator, ASIC. But those figures don’t include sales of 2020’s new releases, the iPhone 12 and the M1 processor Macs. Nonetheless, revenue was up $40 million on 12 months ago.

But Apple Australia is no more than a sales and marketing business, and the cost of sales was $8.77 billion, leaving $1.02 billion as gross profit. Around 60% of that figure was swallowed up in admin costs, leaving a taxable income of $408 million, with the income tax at $119.9 million, leaving a $288.3 million net profit.