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CEO Daily: Thursday, April 23rd

April 23, 2015, 10:54 AM UTC

Fourteen months and $300 million later, it looks like the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger is going south. It may not be official for months, but the FCC hearing and bad noises from the Justice Department signal near certain regulatory death. If you are the kind of person who likes to watch ships sink, read the 3,000 word raging defense posted yesterday by Executive Vice President David Cohen on the Comcast web site.

There’ll be big disappointment on K Street. The cable giant spent $4.6 million on lobbying in the first quarter, second only to Google. But it’s become increasingly hard to argue the logic of giving one company control over more than half the nation’s high-speed Internet connections.

Enjoy the day.

Alan Murray

Top News

 FCC wants a Comcast-Time Warner hearing

The Federal Communications Commission has recommended a hearing to weigh a $45.2 billion acquisition bid by Comcast to buy Time Warner Cable, a move that could potentially sink the deal. A possible hearing is seen as a strong sign that the FCC doesn't like this deal, though a final decision about whether to hold a potential hearing hasn't been made. A hearing could either draw out the process before the feds take a stand on the merger, and some regulatory experts say the procedure is essentially a deal killer.  WSJ (subscription required)

 Big spending eats up Facebook's profit

A 42% jump in first-quarter revenue for social media giant Facebook on the surface sounds impressive. It is in many ways, as Facebook's  mobile user growth helped to lift mobile ad sales. But analysts had hoped for a slightly higher top line growth, and the company also reported a 20% drop in profit as it spent more during the quarter. Another interesting fact? Facebook's overall revenue growth is decelerating, with the increase in the prior two quarters at 49% and 59%.  Fortune

Brazil's Petrobras records biggest ever loss

Petrobras, a state-run oil giant and Brazil's largest company, reported a massive $16.8 billion write-down in the wake of a massive corruption scandal. Of the write down, about 12% was directly related to the corruption probe, while weaker oil prices, poor planning and other factors also weighed on the company. While the write-down is steep, it is also seen as an important first step by Petrobras to restore access to capital markets since the scandal forced the delay of audited financial statements since last fall.  Reuters

PayPal's growth surpasses eBay ahead of spinoff

As eBay prepares to spin-off the company's payments arm PayPal, here's a fact that is sure to catch the eyes of potential investors: PayPal's revenue is now larger than that of its sister business. Sales of eBay's marketplace of used cars, outlet clothing and other goods fell 4% to $2 billion, while PayPal's revenue grew 14% to $2.1 billion in the latest quarter. It was the first time PayPal's revenue was larger, and it also explains why activist investor Carl Icahn saw some value in separating the businesses in the first place. The spinoff is expected to occur over the summer.  Fortune

Around the Water Cooler

 How one diva keeps making money

Singer Mariah Carey hasn't had a major hit album in years. She doesn't tour much and most of her recent projects are outside the realm of performing. So how does Carey make money? By saying yes, basically. Bloomberg digs into the Carey "business model," pointing out that the singer is making millions off a judging gig on American Idol, Elizabeth Arden fragrances, a  Home Shopping Network line and other business ventures. There isn't a lot of music in that mix, though Carey is set to play 18 shows in Las Vegas starting in May.  Bloomberg

 U.K. "flash crash' trader made more money on other days

We continue to be fascinated by the unfolding story of the "flash crash," which occurred nearly five years ago but is more interesting today not as an interesting anniversary date looms, but because authorities have arrested a trader they believe helped cause the stock market swoon on May 6, 2010. The alleged culprit, a U.K.-based futures trader, allegedly netted $879,108 in profits on that day. But that is a small haul for the trader, who allegedly also reaped more than $4 million by manipulating prices on S&P 500 futures contracts for a single day in August 2011. He allegedly made about $40 million between 2010 and 2014 and was still actively continuing that strategy until at least as recent as the beginning of April.  Fortune

 Intel works with startup to analyze patient genome

A new partnership between Intel and startup Edico Genome is aiming to analyze a patient's entire genome in about 20 minutes. Until recently, it typically took 10 to 20 hours to analyze a single genome. Why is this pact so important? Well, genome sequencing can potentially enable huge advances in "precision medicine," which are genetically tailored treatments for diseases like leukemia and cystic fibrosis. And if Intel and Edico Genome can cut down the time to analyze, the hope is there will be less of a delay between sequencing and diagnosis. Interestingly, doctors still face the challenge of knowing what to do with all of the extra data, and don't always know how to respond to mutations they've identified. So while information is powerful, it isn't always useful -- at least not yet.  Fortune

 12 is looking like the magic number for Democrats

There has been a ton of talk in recent months in the business world about the benefits, as well as the higher costs, of paying the lowest paid workers more than the federal minimum of $7.25 per hour. The chatter has particularly arisen in the retail and restaurant sectors, where companies like McDonald's, Wal-Mart and Ikea have weighed in and at various points have proclaimed they'll pay higher wages. But it appears Democrats want those companies to pay even more, with a Senate bill expected to seek to raise the minimum wage, in stages, from $7.25 to $12 by 2020. While the measure has little chance of passing the Republican-controlled Congress, talk of higher pay could become an election-year issue.  New York Times (subscription required)