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CEO Daily: Friday, June 3

What’s the biggest challenge facing Fortune 500 companies?

 

In our poll of Fortune 500 CEOs, the “rapid pace of technological change” got the most mentions as the “single biggest challenge” facing companies. But if you add in those who cited it as “one of our top three or four challenges,” it was “increased regulation” that took top honors.

 

Here are the percentages of CEOs who cited the following as either the “single biggest” or “one of our top three or four biggest” challenges:

Increased regulation 69%

Rapid pace of technological change 65%

Cybersecurity 58%

Management diversity 21%

Shareholder activism 15%

Competition from China 13%

Competition from a startup 8%

 

 

The issuance of major new federal regulations, by the government’s own measures, has notably increased during the Obama years, outpacing previous Democratic and Republican administrations. In addition, increasingly aggressive antitrust enforcement has been an obstacle to the plans of many big companies – including Staples & Office Depot, Halliburton & Baker-Hughes, Sysco & U.S. Foods, AT&T & T Mobile, Comcast & Time-Warner Cable.

 

That makes it all the more remarkable that a majority of CEOs favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump, or decline to state a preference, in the presidential election. It’s also remarkable how few Fortune 500 CEOs feel their company is threatened by either Chinese competitors, or by disruptive startups.

 

Some CEO Daily readers have raised questions whether our CEO sample is sufficiently representative. We invited all 500 CEOs to participate; 71 completed the survey by the deadline. That’s a better response rate – 14% – than most pollsters get, so we’ll stand by it. I’ll have more results from the CEO poll next week. If you want to see the poll questions for yourself, go here.

 

More news below. Have a great summer weekend.

 

 

Alan Murray
@alansmurray
alan.murray@fortune.com

Top News

Clinton previews economic case against Trump

Hillary Clinton launched a direct attack on Donald Trump, arguing that the Republican nominee would prove as risky at home as abroad. In what was promoted as a foreign policy address, the likely Democratic nominee rebuked the character, temperament, and worldview of her Republican rival. The speech was Clinton’s most comprehensive argument against Trump to date. It previewed both the substance and tenor of the case that will likely organize her campaign: Trump, she said, is dangerously unfit for the office. Trump, meanwhile, fired back at a campaign rally in California by calling her speech “pathetic” and dismissing it as a stunt and saying “It had nothing to do with foreign policy.” Fortune

Verizon strike likely hurt U.S. job gains in May

A strike by Verizon workers likely limited U.S. job gains in May, but employment growth should still be strong enough to confirm a tightening labor market and push the Federal Reserve closer to raising interest rates soon. Nonfarm payrolls probably increased by 164,000 jobs in May, according to a Reuters survey of economists. The jobless rate is forecast slipping one-tenth of a percentage point to 4.9 percent. The full report will be released Friday morning. Meanwhile, a government report last week suggested a month-long strike by Verizon workers could slice 35,100 jobs from payrolls in May. The striking workers, who returned to their jobs on Wednesday, were regarded as unemployed because they did not receive a salary during the payrolls survey week. Reuters

Starbucks, AB InBev team up for tea deal

Starbucks and Anheuser-Busch InBev have joined forces to produce and distribute the first ready-to-drink teas under the Teavana line, angling to tap a $1.1 billion-and-growing tea market. The partnership, jointly announced on Thursday, will combine Starbucks’  expertise in concocting teas with AB InBev’s strengths in production, bottling and distribution. AB InBev also has strong relationships with retailers that it works with to distributes its beers like Budweiser and Stella Artois, and the companies say the world’s largest beer maker will lean on those long-standing wholesaler relationships to get strong retail support. The line of ready-to-drink bottled tea is expected to debut in the first half of 2017 and will be distributed at supermarkets and convenience stores. Fortune

Tribune rebuffs Gannett, changes name

Tribune, the newspaper chain that has been fighting off an unwanted takeover bid from peer Gannett for weeks now, announced late on Thursday that it has changed its name to tronc (all lower case) and is moving its stock listing from the New York Stock Exchange to Nasdaq. As tronc, the company said the new name stands for “tribune online content” and that it “captures the essence of the company’s mission.” That mission? Becoming a content curation and monetization company. One notable word that doesn’t appear in the release? Newspaper. Fortune

Bain wants to take cybersecurity firm public

Bain Capital is looking for a quick turnaround on its $2.4 billion, year old acquisition of cybersecurity firm Blue Coat by taking it public despite a nearly moribund market for tech IPOs. Blue Coat filed for an initial public offering on Thursday, one of the rare technology companies to do so this year. Only two tech companies have gone public since January, making it the quietest year for the sector since 2009. Along with the dead tech IPO market, the value of already-public cybersecurity firms have cratered this year. Shares in FireEye, Palo Alto Networks, and Rapid7 have all declined, although the sector’s performance has recovered somewhat since hitting lows for the year in February. Fortune

Around the Water Cooler

Walmart leans on Uber, Lyft for grocery delivery

Walmart  has lined up two key new partners in combatting Amazon.com’s  challenge in the grocery delivery wars: ride-sharing giants Uber and Lyft. In a test, the largest U.S. retailer will use either Uber or Lyft for the so-called “last mile” of grocery delivery in small areas of Denver and Phoenix when a customer requests home delivery. There will be no additional fee to the customer. The test comes as Walmart tries to fend off Amazon and its increasing push into delivering groceries through its subscription program Prime Fresh Now, with a delivery service of its own. The stakes are high for Walmart, which got $167 billion last year from groceries, or 56% of its overall annual sales. It can scarcely afford to lose any of that business to rival grocery delivery services. Fortune

CEO pay declined 4.6% last year

Median pay for chief executives of the biggest U.S. companies slipped 4.6% last year, but the link between annual compensation and shareholder returns remained weak. A Wall Street Journal analysis of S&P 500 companies found that none of the year’s 10 highest-paid CEOs ran one of the 10 best-performing companies. More broadly, the best-performing tier of CEOs in the analysis received the lowest median compensation for the year, at $10.2 million. WSJ also reported there was little correlation between executive pay and annual corporate performance even within the same industry. In six industries, the year’s top-paid CEOs ran the worst-performing companies. Still, John Roe, head of advisory services at the Institutional Shareholder Services unit says most companies do a pretty good job linking pay and performance. “Is there room to grow? Yes,” he added. The Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Google teaches self-driving cars how to honk

Engineers with Google’s self-driving car project have taught its autonomous prototypes when it’s appropriate to honk, and also the cars have learned how to use different honks and beeps depending on the circumstance. The engineers designed its software to recognize when honking may be useful – for example, laying on the horn comes in handy if another driver begins to swerve into the lane of the self-driving car. At first the honk was only played in the car but eventually as the algorithm improved, the sound is now broadcast to the outside world. Fortune