CEO Daily: Thursday, 20th April

By Alan Murray and Geoffrey Smith
April 20, 2017

Good morning.

The White House is apparently still pushing Republicans in Congress to get their act together and agree on a health care bill after they return from their recess and before Trump hits his 100-day mark. But divisions within the Republican caucus remain deep, and the effort looks like a long shot. Don’t hold your breath.

Meanwhile, at Fortune, we’re focused on the remarkable revolution in health care being driven by the private sector. In the May issue of the magazine, we look at 21 companies using technology to change the way we address major health challenges. These include a number of telehealth companies changing how people access doctors; companies using big data and artificial intelligence to change how serious illnesses are diagnosed and drugs are developed; companies developing the next generation of drug delivery through smart implants and sensors; and companies working on precision editing of the gene code. It’s a fascinating look at the health frontier. You can read it this morning here.

Many of the companies on this list will be at the Fortune Brainstorm Health in San Diego on May 2 & 3, where we bring together experts and business leaders from a variety of industries working on health and technology challenges. Former Vice President Joe Biden will be there, talking about his post-White House efforts in the fight against cancer. Also participating are Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini, Campbell’s CEO Denise Morrison, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, Flex CEO Mike McNamara and IBM Watson chief Deborah DiSanzo.

It’s an invitation-only event, but if you are interested in attending drop me a note, or apply here.

News below.

Alan Murray
@alansmurray
alan.murray@fortune.com

Top News

Exxon Tests the Waters on Russia Policy

Exxon Mobil has asked the Treasury department for a waiver from sanctions that stop it drilling for oil together with Russian state-controlled company Rosneft, The Wall Street Journal reported. Exxon didn’t confirm the report. The news revives concerns about potential conflicts of interest around Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who oversaw the creation of Exxon’s partnership with Rosneft while he was still CEO. At the same time, it arguably creates an incentive for Russia’s leadership to behave better. Either way, the request is likely to be obstructed as long as the investigation into Russian hacking of last year’s election continues. Fortune

 

Fox Ditches O’Reilly

Fox News, which cemented its position as the U.S.’s most watched news channel last year, is dropping Bill O’Reilly, its highest-rating host. Reports suggest that Fox’s management, which had initially supported O’Reilly, changed its mind when an internal investigation elicited more incidences of sexual harassment beyond the five reported cases that had cost Fox $13 million in legal settlements. An advertiser boycott of O’Reilly’s show also appears to have influenced the decision. Tucker Carlson will take over his 8 p.m. slot, the network said. O’Reilly and former CEO Roger Ailes, who left last year under a similar cloud, had defined the political identity of Fox over the last 20 years. Their departure raises questions about what identity it will have under the younger generation of the Murdoch family, Lachlan and James, whose actions increasingly suggest their priorities differ from their father Rupert’s. Fortune

• Google Tries to Block the Blockers

Google is planning to introduce an ad-blocker on the mobile and desktop versions of its Chrome internet browser. While that cuts across Google’s own ad-driven business model, it acknowledges the reality that there is a limit to what consumers will bear. Over a quarter of U.S. Internet users now use ad-blockers, according to some research. The move also gives Google more control over the ad-blocking process, something currently dictated by third parties that provide the service. The Coalition for Better Ads, which includes Google, Facebook, Omnicom, News Corp, and big consumer product groups, agreed in March on a range of ad formats that it considered ‘unacceptable’. Fortune

Springtime for Chipmakers

Qualcomm reported a strong first quarter thanks to strong demand for its chips from Samsung, which is using them in the new S8 smartphone. Its shares rose nearly 2% in after-market trading, something that also reflected relief that the impact from its royalty battle with Apple wasn’t quite as severe as feared. It still reckons it has been short-changed by around $1 billion by Apple’s contract manufacturers, however. There was more unambiguous evidence of the chip sector’s strength in a row of earnings from companies that supply it: Lam Research and ASML Holding both blew past expectations, also lifting the stocks of KLA-Tencor, Applied Materials, and Teradyne. Fortune

 



Around the Water Cooler

Elliott Releases Kleinfeld Letter

Elliott Management released the private letter written by Arconic CEO Klaus Kleinfeld that led to Kleinfeld’s resignation. The letter, while vague, broadly supports Elliott’s contention that it had the apparent intent to “intimidate or extort a senior officer of Elliott Management,” hinting at high-living by the firm’s founder Paul Singer during a visit to the 2006 soccer World Cup in Germany. Elliott dismissed its content as “completely false insinuations.” Fortune

Adelson Tops Big Bucks List of Trump Donors

Business may have steered clear of endorsing Donald Trump while he was on the campaign trail, but it was in a hurry to make up for lost time after his election. The committee organizing Trump’s inauguration festivities raised $107 million, $5 million coming from casino owner Sheldon Adelson alone. Around 10% of the total raised came from oil, gas and coal companies, who were rewarded in Trump’s inauguration speech with a firm commitment to their prosperity. For comparison, George W. Bush had capped donations at $100,000 for his first inaugural and $250,000 for his second. Barack Obama banned gifts from lobbyists and corporations altogether at his first in auguration, but accepted corporate gifts up to $1 million in 2013.  Fortune

Twitter Caves to Russian Law

Russia’s battle with U.S. tech giants over local data storage advanced as telecoms regulator Roskomnadzor said Twitter had agreed in principle to store Russian users’ data locally by the middle of next year. That will bring it into line with the new law, which privacy advocates say leaves users at the mercy of government snooping. It will also stop Twitter going the same way as LinkedIn, which was blocked in Russia last year for failing to comply. Having isolated the least popular and financially weakest of the big names in social media, the country is setting itself up for a battle with Facebook, which has more than three times Twitter’s 8 million active users in the country. It fired a shot across Mark Zuckerberg’s bows yesterday by insisting Facebook unblock the account of the Russian embassy in Slovakia which, like many Russian representations in Europe, has recently been accused of spreading fake news.  TechCrunch

Unilever Beats, Nestlé Consolidates

Unilever and Nestle, two giants of the global consumer goods industry, reported solid first-quarter sales figures and were cautiously optimistic about the rest of the year, thanks to pricing improvements. Unilever, under pressure to deliver after fending off Kraft Heinz last month, said underlying sales rose 2.9%, up from 2.2% in the previous quarter. It also forecast a stronger second half as last year’s weakness in some important emerging market currencies reverses. Nestle’s sales slowed, as expected, but the company was still able to confirm its existing guidance for 2017. BBC

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