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Meta relinquishes one London building lease, British Land reports

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Meta relinquishes one London building lease, British Land reports

British Land on Tuesday said Meta Platforms surrendered one of the two buildings it had leased at London’s Regent’s Place, as tech companies turn cautious about office real estate due to prevailing macroeconomic uncertainties.

The property firm said the lease surrender would lead to an earnings per share dilution of about 0.6 pence for its half-year period ending Sept. 30.

The FTSE midcap firm said it was “comfortable” with current market expectations for the 2024 fiscal year despite the move by the Facebook-owner, as it saw a better-than-anticipated collection of historic COVID-19 arrears.

British Land said 1.2 million square feet of leasing was done across the portfolio in the first five months to Aug. 31, with the returns coming in 13.1% ahead of estimated rental value (ERV).

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The company last week raised its retail park estimated rental value growth outlook for fiscal year 2024 to 3%-5% from 2%-4% earlier, driven by “significant” leasing momentum in the business.

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TikTok, Meta, X CEOs to testify at US Senate hearing in January

TikTok, Meta, X CEOs to testify at US Senate hearing in January

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TikTok, Meta, X CEOs to testify at US Senate hearing in January

The chief executives of social media companies Meta, X, TikTok, Snap and Discord will testify on online child sexual exploitation at a Jan. 31 U.S. Senate hearing, the Senate Judiciary Committee said on Wednesday.

Senator Dick Durbin, the panel’s Democratic chairman and the ranking Republican Lindsey Graham said Discord and X had initially balked at participating and refused to accept a subpoena. “Now that all five companies are cooperating, we look forward to hearing from their CEOs,” they said in a statement.

It will be the first appearance by TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew before U.S. lawmakers since March when the Chinese-owned short video app company faced harsh questions, including some suggesting the app was damaging children’s mental health.

Proposed legislation has stalled in Congress that would give the Biden administration new powers to block Americans from using foreign communications technology such as TikTok, which is used by more than 150 million Americans.

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Durbin and Graham said the hearing will allow committee members to press CEOs from some of the biggest social media companies on their failures to protect children online.

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, X CEO Linda Yaccarino, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel and Discord CEO Jason Citron will testify.

“Big Tech’s failure to police itself at the expense of our kids cannot go unanswered,” Durbin and Graham said.

The committee this year has approved a number of bills including one that would remove tech firms’ immunity from civil and criminal liability under child sexual abuse material laws that was first proposed in 2020.

Another would establish a National Commission on Online Child Sexual Exploitation Prevention and another to modernize investigations and prosecutions of online child exploitation crimes.

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EU Commission lawyers initially opposed warning Amazon on iRobot deal – sources

EU Commission lawyers initially opposed warning Amazon on iRobot deal – sources

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EU Commission lawyers initially opposed warning Amazon on iRobot deal - sources

European Commission lawyers initially opposed sending a warning to Amazon over its $1.4 billion acquisition of robot vacuum maker iRobot (IRBT.O), three people with direct knowledge of the matter said on Wednesday.

The Commission’s legal service did not think a statement of objections regarding the deal was warranted, in contrast with antitrust officials handling the case, the people said. Without such a charge sheet, the deal would have been cleared unconditionally.

The lawyers subsequently changed their mind and backed antitrust officials’ decision to send the charge sheet setting out their concerns, the sources said on condition of anonymity, declining to provide confidential details.

The Commission declined to comment.

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Antitrust officials can override objections from the legal service by either tweaking or narrowing their concerns to get their backing or by appealing to the top officials.

Sources had previously told Reuters the deal would be cleared unconditionally.

The EU competition enforcer sent a statement of objections to Amazon on Monday, narrowing the case to concerns about the deal restricting competition in the market for robot vacuum cleaners and dropping initial worries that the deal would strengthen the company’s position as an online marketplace provider.

While Amazon might still gain unconditional approval to buy iRobot, the charge sheet indicates that officials are looking to remedies from the company to address their concerns.

The case echoes that of Google which only won the EU green light to buy Fitbit in 2020 after agreeing to restrictions on how it will use customers’ health-related data, in effect creating a data silo.

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Some of the issues in the Amazon deal are covered in new tech rules known as the Digital Markets Act which sets out a list of dos and don’ts for Big Tech, but antitrust officials do not want those obligations as an excuse to take a more lenient line on the deal, one of the people said.

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After 50 years, US to return to Moon on Jan 25

After 50 years, US to return to Moon on Jan 25

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After 50 years, US to return to Moon on Jan 25

 More than 50 years after the last Apollo mission, the United States will try once again to land a craft on the Moon on Jan 25, said the head of what could be the first private company to successfully touch down on the lunar surface. 

The lander, named Peregrine, will have no one on board. It was developed by American company Astrobotic, whose CEO John Thornton said it will carry NASA instruments to study the lunar environment in anticipation of NASA’s Artemis manned missions.

Several years ago, NASA opted to commission US companies to send scientific experiments and technologies to the Moon — a program called CLPS. These fixed-price contracts should make it possible to develop a lunar economy, and provide transport services at a lower cost.

“One of the big challenges of what we’re attempting here is attempting a launch and landing on the surface Moon for a fraction of what it would otherwise cost,” said Thornton Wednesday at a press briefing at his company’s base in in Pittsburgh.

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“Only about half of the missions that have gone to the surface of the Moon have been successful,” he said. “So it’s certainly a daunting challenge. I’m going to be terrified and thrilled all at once at every stage of this.”

Takeoff is scheduled for December 24 from Florida aboard the inaugural flight of the new rocket from the ULA industrial group, named Vulcan Centaur.

The probe will then take “a few days” to reach lunar orbit, but will have to wait until January 25 before attempting landing, so that light conditions at the target location are right, Thornton said.

The descent will be carried out autonomously, without human intervention, but will be monitored from the company’s control center.

In the spring, the Japanese start-up ispace had already attempted to become the first private company to land on the Moon, but the mission ended in a crash. Israel also suffered a setback in 2019. Only four countries have successfully landed on the Moon: the United States, Russia, China and, most recently, India.

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In addition to Astrobotic, NASA has signed contracts with other companies, such as Firefly Aerospace, Draper and Intuitive Machines. The latter is due to take off aboard a SpaceX rocket in January.

“NASA leadership is aware of the risks and has accepted that some of these missions might not succeed,” said Chris Culbert, the CLPS program manager. “But even if every landing isn’t successful, CLPS already had an impact on the commercial infrastructure needed to establish a lunar economy,” he said.

With its Artemis program, NASA wants to establish a base on the surface of the Moon. 

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