CEO Daily: Wednesday, March 16


Good morning, Daily readers. Alan Murray is off on vacation. Deputy Editor Clifton Leaf is filling in this week.

The Plurality King is on the march. Donald Trump notched victories last night in Florida, North Carolina, and Illinois, pulling out the last of these wins with just under 39% of the vote. The one big prize he couldn’t snag was Ohio, whose rich lode of delegates went to the state’s sitting governor, John Kasich.

Florida’s junior senator, Marco Rubio, also claimed a victory at home, handily winning the county of Miami-Dade, where he resides; alas, he lost the state’s remaining 66 counties to Mr. Trump. Senator Rubio, rather gracefully, suspended his campaign.

In terms of delegates, Trump now has slightly over half of the number he needs to secure the nomination outright—and in terms of what that actually means, well, no one quite knows. In the end, as the Times’ columnist Ross Douthat suggests, the answer may be determined more by a Republican Party calculus rather than voter arithmetic. (Cleisthenes would be proud.)

The race on the Democratic side was far more declarative: Hillary Clinton won a grand slam, routing Bernie Sanders in Florida, Ohio, and North Carolina, and taking a squeaker in Illinois. As for Missouri, the “Show Me State,” it didn’t: With 99% of the vote in, no winner has been declared in either the Democratic or Republican contest; the margin separating first and second place (in both cases) is a mere two-tenths of a percent.

The only Super-Duper Tuesday loser that seems to have done worse than Rubio was the vaunted political TV ad. Groups attempting to stop Donald Trump on his march to the Republican nomination spent $12.36 million, according to Morning Consult—bombarding the television sets of Floridians with foreboding black-and-white images and baritone warnings about the New York businessman. One super PAC, Conservative Solutions—which backed Senator Rubio—reportedly spent $8.4 million on ads in Florida alone. That works out to about $75 for every vote Mr. Rubio received in…Miami-Dade.

More news below.

Top News

Europe's exchange merger is a go

The two biggest exchange groups in Europe said Wednesday they had reached an agreement on a $30 billion merger, 16 years after they first looked at combining. The merger of Germany's Deutsche Börse AG and London Stock Exchange Group will create one of the biggest platforms for derivatives trading in the world, allowing its members to cut the costs associated with holding large volumes of products such as interest-rate swaps and options. But the deal comes as Europe's financial markets approach a major crossroads, only three months before the U.K., which is home to the continent's financial capital, holds a referendum on leaving the European Union. Fortune

Valeant meltdown stings hedge funds

Hedge funds on Tuesday lost an estimated $5.3 billion on drugmaker Valeant Pharmaceuticals’ stock meltdown, with billionaire investors William Ackman and Jeffrey Ubben taking the brunt of the hit—losing more than $700 million each, according to data from research firm Symmetric.IO. Shares of Valeant, one of the industry's most widely-owned stocks, tumbled more than 50% on Tuesday to about $33 after saying it risked defaulting on its $30 billion debt. The company's stock has been dropping drastically since August as it faced growing scrutiny, including federal probes, over its drug prices and distribution practices. Reuters

Chipotle's sales still in a free fall

Chipotle Mexican Grill on Tuesday said that comparable sales, or sales at established restaurants, dropped 26.1% last month, a bigger drop than the 22% decline that Wall Street analysts were expecting. The company tried to put some lipstick on this carnita, saying the decline was more modest than the 36.4% drop in January, and that so far in March, the sales drop has moderated even more. Chipotle, long a Wall Street darling for its breathtaking growth and profits, said it expects a loss of $1 per share this quarter. That is because Chipotle is spending a lot more money on additional safety protocols and throwing out more food as waste as a result of more rigorous DNA testing. Fortune

Bill Ackman is having a tough year

Of the 11 publicly disclosed stock positions in Ackman’s Pershing Square portfolio, only one is up more than 1% this year. The best stock associated with the hedge fund honcho is Herbalife – it is up nearly 8% but unfortunately, that's the stock Ackman has been betting against. Ackman publicly updates the performance of his fund once a week, and is expected to do it on Wednesday night. It remains unclear, for now, how much Ackman’s fund is down now that Valeant has cratered. Fortune

FCC likely to clear Charter-Time Warner deal

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler is likely to circulate a draft order as soon as this week approving Charter Communications' $55 billion deal to buy Time Warner Cable with certain conditions, The Wall Street Journal has reported. The order would impose conditions that would mostly aim at boosting online video as a competitor to cable. One condition would bar Charter from including clauses in its pay-TV contracts that restrict a content company's ability to offer its programming online or to new entrants, people familiar with the matter said. FCC has worried that clauses could be impeding the growth of online video. The Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Around the Water Cooler

Senate to vote on GMO labeling

On Wednesday, the Senate is set to vote on a measure that would create voluntary national standards for labeling food with genetically modified ingredients. The bill would prevent states from mandating labels just before Vermont was set to become the first in the nation to impose such requirements. But the measure most likely lacks sufficient support from Democrats, most of whom would like to see a mandatory labeling program that offers food manufacturers different options for presenting the information, including a simple symbol. Meanwhile, food and biotech companies have spent hundreds of millions of dollars fighting a mandatory label, and those favoring labeling have logged hundreds of hours over the last month in meetings with senators and their aides. The New York Times (subscription required)

GM's first self-driving cars will need human drivers

General Motors will deploy a network of self-driving cars within Lyft’s service in a couple of years—but with a catch. In the beginning, those automated vehicles will have drivers. Why? GM says it agrees that for now, as it collects data and makes sure the systems are operating as it expects them to, it will need to rely on drivers for the initial launch of that emerging technology. GM's aim is to be the first to introduce self-driving cars – an intention that CEO Mary Barra mentioned in the company's February earnings call with analysts. Fortune

Sony debuts virtual reality device

Sony’s much-anticipated virtual reality device is finally coming to the market--albeit four months later than planned. The Sony PlayStation VR device will be released worldwide this coming October, with a list price of $399, cheaper than competing virtual reality devices from Facebook's Oculus Rift and HTC’s Vive. However, to operate the Sony VR, users must have a Sony PlayStation 4 – a device that costs around $350. That device has already sold 36 million units since its launch in 2013. Sony says it plans to have about 50 video games available for the time the device launches at the end of the year. Sony had originally intended to launch the device in June. Fortune

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