This morning, Fortune releases its 19th annual list of the Most Powerful Women in Business. Twenty-two of them are CEOs, controlling companies with $1.1 trillion in market capitalization. This year’s top ten:
- Mary Barra, CEO, General Motors
- Indra Nooyi, CEO, PepsiCo
- Marillyn Hewson, CEO, Lockheed Martin
- Ginni Rometty, CEO, IBM
- Abigail Johnson, CEO, Fidelity
- Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook
- Meg Whitman, CEO, Hewlett Packard Enterprise
- Phebe Novakovic, CEO, General Dynamics
- Irene Rosenfeld, CEO, Mondelez
- Safra Catz, Co-CEO, Oracle
The list is being published in a special edition of Fortune, but you can read it online here.
Also this morning, we are releasing Tory Newmyer’s deeply reported piece on whether a Hillary Clinton administration would be good for business. Clinton is winning the race for big business financial donations, but that could be as much a bet she will win as it is a vote of support. How much of her new populist pose will be abandoned on inauguration day? You can read the full story here.
Meanwhile, I fear the relentlessly negative tone of election 2016 will make it difficult for either candidate to govern effectively, once elected. My editor’s note, Clinton, Trump or Neither of the Above?, has more on the subject.
Enjoy the day. More news below. And – apologies to Marillyn Hewson for the typo in the first draft of this newsletter.
• Super Mario Brightens up Muted Apple Launch
Apple unveiled the iPhone 7 and a new smart watch to polite applause, without generating the ‘wow’ factor that accompanied earlier iterations of the product. Some observed that the iPhone’s waterproofing the Watch’s new features (such as a GPS tracker that relieves runners of the need to take their phone with them on workouts) are essentially catching up competitors such as Samsung and Fitbit, rather than setting new standards. The biggest buzz came from the news that Nintendo would be launching its first Super Mario app on the new product, boosting the Japanese company’s shares by 13% in Tokyo this morning. Apple’s, by contrast, edged up 0.6%, while its Asian-based suppliers posted as many declines as gains.
• Small is Beautiful for Meg Whitman
After months of rumors, Hewlett Packard Enterprise confirmed on Wednesday that it would spin off its software business to U.K. software maker Micro Focus. Under the terms of the $8.8 billion deal, HPE shareholders get 50.1% of the new company and HPE would get a $2.5 billion cash payment. It also plans to take a $700 million charge. The deal will make HPE “an even stronger company, well positioned to the future,” CEO Meg Whitman told analysts. Whitman reiterated that the only way to stay competitive in today’s marketplace is to cut back on size and focus on a few specialties rather than be a giant, one-stop-shop corporation. Micro Focus’ shares opened up over 20% in London on the news.
• Intel Spins McAfee off to TPG
HPE wasn’t the only first-generation tech giant to slim down yesterday. After failing to realize the hopes it had when it bought McAfee for $8 billion in 2010, Intel said it would spin off the security business to private equity firm TPG and focus in future on its core chip business. Intel will get $3.1 billion in cash and will keep 49% of the new company. It will also shuffle off $2 billion of debt to TPG, which will restore the McAfee name to prominence. TPG said it’s committed to the cyber security business, which appears doomed to endless growth as the number of connected devices explodes in the coming years. But that growth is now being priced more attractively for buyers, with the shares of notable listed companies such as FireEye having cooled off this year.
• Apache’s War Cry to Rally the Shale Industry
Apache, one of the U.S.’s biggest shale oil producers, said it had made what could be one of the biggest oil and gas finds of the last decade, in a neglected part of Texas’ Permian basin. The company said its “Alpine High” acreage could contain around 3 billion barrels of oil and 75 trillion cubic feet of associated gas. The news has the feeling of an important milestone, demonstrating the shale industry’s ability to keep discovering major and commercially viable new resources even in a time of crimped investment budgets and low prices. The news came on the day when U.S. crude stocks, as measured by the American Petroleum Industry, registered their biggest weekly drawdown in 17 years, driving prices up 2%.
Around the Water Cooler
• Trump Goes ‘Post-Facts’ With Putin Comments
Donald Trump asserted in a CNN interview that “nobody knows for a fact” that Russia had annexed Crimea, invaded Ukraine, supported Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Iran. At least some of this could come as news to Vladimir Putin, who has admitted planning the Crimea operation personally, who has awarded campaign medals to Russian servicemen that he claims aren’t fighting in Ukraine, who has made no bones about sending Russian scientists to build Iran’s Bushehr nuclear reactor and his air force to bomb Assad’s enemies, and who hasn’t missed an opportunity in 15 years to press the case for alternate poles of geopolitical power to “balance” the U.S.’s. In the same interview, Trump said he would stop barring the Washington Post, Politico and Buzzfeed from his campaign events. Elsewhere, Mexico’s finance minister Luis Videgaray said he would resign after criticism for his work in arranging Trump’s visit to President Ernesto Peña Nieta.
• Tom Wheeler Renews Battle With the Cable Guys
Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler will announce a revised plan to let around 100 million pay TV subscribers to replace expensive set-top boxes with less-costly apps that provide access to television and video programs, according to Reuters’ sources. The plan has drawn fierce opposition from cable companies and content providers including AT&T, Comcast and 21st Century Fox, which have raised concerns about copyright protection, licensing and privacy issues. Consumers currently pay around $20 billion a year to lease such set-top boxes, and rental fees have risen 185% since 1994. Wheeler’s revised plan is expected to include some components of the industry’s counter-proposal, and to exempt some smaller cable providers from the new requirements. It’s also expected to create a licensing body to oversee the pay-TV apps. The revised application-based proposal is expected to come before the five-member commission for a vote on Sept. 29.
• John Malone Takes the Wheel at F1
John Malone’s Liberty Media agreed to buy the Formula 1 motor racing franchise for $4.4 billion (plus another $3.6 billion in debt) from private equity group CVC Capital Partners. It’s a two-part deal: first, Liberty will buy 18.7% of F1’s parent company Delta Topco for $746 million in cash. After the deal is approved by shareholders and U.S. regulators, it will pay another $354 million in cash and another $3.3 billion in newly-issued shares. F1’s 85 year-old CEO Bernie Ecclestone will keep his job but will sell down his and his family’s stake to 15% as part of the deal. Chase Carey, formerly vice-chairman of 21st Century Fox, will take over as chairman. The new owners’ biggest challenges will be to make the often-predictable races more exciting, and to build the sport’s digital presence, most of all in social media.
• Sony Overhauls the PlayStation
While Apple was hiring Super Mario to pep the new iPhone launch, Sony presented two new versions of its PlayStation consoles, mapping out what it hopes to be its continued dominance of the online gaming business. It said it new high-end model, to be called “PlayStation 4 Pro”, boasts a faster processor, more storage and enhanced graphics, and will cost $399 when it hits the shelves on Nov. 10. The company also unveiled a smaller, more energy-efficient console that will retail for $299 to replace the original PS4 machine. Interestingly, the PS4 is being retired after only three years—half the life cycle of previous generations of the console. That is testimony to the way that virtual reality threatens to disrupt the existing gaming world. The new product launches will complement Sony’s own new VR headset, which is due to launch next month.