United Tech elevator, jet-engine orders slow, shares drop

United Technologies Corp posted tepid quarterly orders for its Otis elevators and Pratt & Whitney jet engines businesses, and shares of the diversified U.S. manufacturer fell nearly 2 percent on Tuesday.

The company also cut its cash flow forecast for the year, while analysts said higher-than-expected second-quarter profit was muddied by uncertainty over one-time gains and losses.

Shares of United Tech, a Dow index member whose products serve the aerospace and commercial building sectors, were off 1.9 percent in mid-day trading, while those of most rival manufacturers traded higher.

“A little bit slower order growth may have spooked some people,” Edward Jones analyst Christian Mayes said. “We have had strong growth the last few quarters and it slowed down a bit.”

Orders at Otis increased 3 percent but they were essentially unchanged in China, where the company is seeking to capitalize on rising urban populations.

United Tech Chief Financial Officer Greg Hayes noted that a year ago, orders at Otis had risen 39 percent in China, making for a difficult comparison this quarter.

Analysts have been concerned that a slowdown in the Chinese economy could undermine United Tech’s commercial building business, which also includes air conditioners and security systems.

“The Chinese economy is cooling a little bit,” Hayes said on a conference call with analysts.

At Pratt, orders for commercial spare engines slumped 6 percent, reversing course after rising 11 percent in the first quarter.

Sales at Pratt also slipped 0.9 percent. The unit is introducing a new engine expected to propel growth for years to come.

United Tech’s second-quarter net income rose 8 percent to $1.68 billion, or $1.84 per share.

Analysts on average were looking for $1.71 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

“Although EPS was a beat in the quarter, we think results on an underlying basis were essentially in-line,” with various one-time items clouding expectations, RBC Capital Markets analyst Robert Stallard said in a research note.

Revenue rose 7 percent to $17.19 billion.

United Tech’s revenue increased 3 percent on an organic basis, which excludes sales from a helicopter agreement with Canada and net divestitures.

The company said last month that it had signed a revamped agreement to provide Canada with maritime helicopters from its Sikorsky unit, with the deal leading to higher revenue in the second quarter but also to a $438 million charge to earnings.

United Tech’s aerospace components unit, UTC Aerospace Systems, was a bright spot in the quarter, with spare part orders jumping 28 percent.

United Tech projected 2014 earnings of $6.75 to $6.85 per share, raising the low end from $6.65. Analysts had already been looking for $6.86 per share.

“The Street was already near the top end of the company’s guidance, and with today’s (second-quarter) beat and not raising the top end of the guidance, it’s a de-facto lowering of the EPS guidance for the second half,” said Jim Corridore, an equity analyst with S&P Capital IQ.

The company said it now expected less than $1 billion in acquisitions for 2014, after previously projecting about $1 billion in deals. It expects to buy back $1.25 billion in shares this year, up from $1 billion previously.

At its March investor day, United Tech signaled that it would probably be more interested in bigger than smaller deals, and was more likely to make an acquisition to support its business serving commercial buildings than for its aerospace business. But executives also said at the time they did not see such a deal imminently.

EU antitrust regulators likely to step up Google probes: WSJ

European Union antitrust regulators are preparing to step up investigations of Google Inc’s practices on several fronts and are likely to revise certain terms of a settlement involving its search engine that was proposed earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

Google has been the target of a European Commission investigation since November 2010, when more than a dozen complainants, including Microsoft Corp, accused the company of promoting its own services at their expense.

In February, Google agreed to make concessions on how it displays competitors’ links, striking a deal that ended a three-year antitrust probe and avoided a hefty fine.

But the agreement has been criticized, both by tech companies and European politicians, as inadequate. Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said at the time he would accept Google’s concessions without consulting complainants, prompting a furious response.

On Tuesday, the Commission said it was considering formal complaints to the agreement and aimed to make a decision on the matter in September.

“We have written to the formal complainants in the ongoing proceedings and we have not received yet all their replies,” a spokesman for the Commission said. “In early August all replies will have been submitted. We will then thoroughly analyze the arguments they contain and, depending on the outcome of that analysis, the next steps will be decided by Mr. Almunia in September.”

Google may face other investigations, including regarding its Android operating system for smartphones.

The European Commission recently sent a fresh request for information to handset makers on their dealings with Android, which runs on roughly four-fifths of the world’s smartphones. That line of inquiry is likely to turn into a formal investigation, the Journal reporting, citing a person with knowledge of the situation.

Last month, Almunia said he could initiate an investigation of YouTube if he saw any attempt by Google to abuse its dominance of online video searching.

In a guest editorial for German newspaper Bild on Tuesday, Martin Shulz, head of the EU Parliament, argued that the decision on how to treat Google should not be taken by an outgoing Commission. Almunia will vacate his post later this year.

“The EU has to make the decision on how to deal with Google with care,” he said in the editorial. “It cannot be that we’ve been discussing Google for months, and that the decision takes place when half of Europe is on holiday.”

Google did not respond to a request for comment.


CBS Outdoor buys Van Wagner billboard unit for $690 million

CBS Outdoor Americas Inc said Monday it would buy the billboard business from Van Wagner Communications, a privately held company with outdoor advertising in New York’s Times Square and on buses on the Las Vegas strip, for $690 million in cash.

The deal includes about 1,100 large-format billboards in 11 U.S. markets, which had total revenue of $206 million in 2013, CBS Outdoor said on Monday.

“It gives a tremendous boost to our assets,” CBS Outdoor Chief Executive Officer Jeremy Male said in an interview, adding that the billboards are in “really iconic locations that we think will be significantly additive to our portfolio in the U.S.”

Male said there would be “great upside” in converting some of Van Wagner billboards to digital billboard technology. About 1.5 percent of CBS’ billboard are digital, about the same percentage as Van Wagner’s, and make up about 10 percent of CBS’ billboard revenue.

Reuters reported exclusively last week that Van Wagner was exploring a sale that could fetch more than $600 million, and that CBS Outdoor was one of the companies interested in buying the assets.

The deal is subject to regulatory review and expected to close early next year. It will be immediately add to adjusted funds from operations per share in the mid-single-digit range in percentage terms, Male added.

CBS Outdoor, whose customers include Apple Inc AAPL.O, McDonald’s Corp MCD.N and Sony Corp 6758.T SNE.N, went public in late March after it was spun off from CBS CBS.N.

The company has about 329,100 displays in the United States and about 26,100 displays across Canada and Latin America.

CBS Outdoor plans to hire some Van Wagner employees. Van Wagner will keep its blimp business and sports consulting arm, which works with more than 200 professional and U.S. college teams.

Centerview Partners, Goldman Sachs GS.N and Peter J. Solomon advised CBS Outdoor, while Jones Day was the legal adviser. Van Wagner was advised by Evercore Partners and Onera Media, while Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson was the legal adviser.


Israel’s Mobileye starts road show for $500 million NYSE IPO

Mobileye N.V., which makes software and cameras that help cars avoid accidents, said on Monday it has launched a road show for its U.S. initial public offering of around $500 million.

The Israeli based company will sell 27.75 million shares – 8.325 million by Mobileye itself and another 19.425 million by the selling shareholders.

Mobileye said it expects the IPO on the New York Stock Exchange to price at $17 to $19 a share and list under the symbol MBLY. That would bring in proceeds of $472 million to $527 million.

The selling shareholders have also granted the underwriters an option to purchase up 4.16 million additional shares to cover any over-allotments.

Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are lead underwriters.

The company’s collision-avoidance technology is used in more than 3 million vehicles made by the likes of BMW and General Motors.

Mobileye’s systems include a windshield-mounted camera that takes pictures of what is in front of the driver. The images are processed and, in real-time, a small device on the dashboard gives the driver audio-visual warnings.

Amnon Shashua, the firm’s chairman, and Ziv Aviram, its chief executive, each own 9 percent in the company.

Mobileye’s other top shareholders include Goldman Sachs Group Inc, Fidelity Investments, BlackRock, and Enterprise Holdings, the No 1 U.S. car rental company.

Mobileye’s revenue doubled to $81.2 million for the year ended Dec. 31. The company swung to a profit of about $20 million in the year from a loss of $53 million a year earlier.

Payments startup Stripe launches in Australia, tests in three other countries

Stripe launched in Australia and began testing in three Scandinavian countries on Monday, as the three-year-old payments startup backed by a trio of PayPal co-founders slowly enlarges its global footprint.

Its latest international expansion came after it struck a rare deal with Chinese payments service Alipay, an affiliate of Alibaba Group Holding Inc, to allow Chinese buyers to pay for purchases on the U.S. service.

“Stripe’s mission is to grow Internet commerce by providing everything an online business needs to accept payments,” John Collison, co-founder and president of Stripe, said in a blogpost on Monday.

Stripe now operates in several countries including Canada, Britain and Ireland, and is beta-testing in European countries such as Finland and Switzerland. It began beta-testing on Monday in Denmark, Norway and Sweden, a company spokeswoman said.

Stripe touts a simple-to-use multi-currency service as an easy way for businesses to begin accepting payments from around the world. It takes a cut of several percentage points off transactions across its platform.

The company has raised $130 million from investors. It was valued at $1.75 billion in a January round of funding from venture capitalists, including Khosla Ventures, Sequoia Capital and Founders Fund. Other backers include Andreessen Horowitz and PayPal co-founders Peter Thiel, Max Levchin and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk.

The transaction puts Stripe in the rarefied company of startups valued at more than $1 billion just three years after brothers Patrick and John Collison debuted their service.

Its clients have included ridesharing service Lyft and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

China’s JD.com takes aim at Alibaba with Paipai relaunch

Chinese e-tailer JD.com on Thursday relaunched its Paipai online marketplace, opening a new front in its escalating battle against the country’s e-commerce market leader Alibaba Group Holding.

Paipai’s relaunch marks the first time that JD.com, the No.2 player by market share, has directly taken on Alibaba’s core e-commerce offering, Taobao. Paipai and Taobao both provide an online marketplaces for consumers and small businesses to sell goods to one another.

Alibaba, which is preparing for a potentially record-breaking initial public offering (IPO) in New York this summer, said in its investor prospectus that gross merchandise volume on Taobao reached $48 billion during the March quarter.

JD.com acquired Paipai in March as part of a sweeping $215 million deal with Tencent Holdings that effectively aligned the two companies against Alibaba.

JD.com on Thursday said that it had incorporated its own search algorithms and delivery infrastructure into Paipai and would keep advertising rates low to lure new sellers.

The company, which is expected to receive a boost in the mobile market thanks to its alliance with Tencent, raised $1.78 billion in a May IPO in New York but remains unprofitable.

IBM beats revenue estimates, EPS

International Business Machines Corp reported higher than expected quarterly revenue and earnings per share, as it continued its shift to higher-end businesses such as big data, cloud computing, and security and mobile services.

Total revenue fell 2 percent to $24.4 billion in the second quarter, above analysts’ average estimate of $24.1 billion.

The world’s largest technology services company’s net profit rose to $4.1 billion, or $4.12 per share, from $3.2 billion, or $2.91 per share, a year earlier.

On an adjusted basis, the company earned $4.32 per share, beating analysts’ average estimate of $4.29, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.IBM shares fell 0.62 percent to $191.30 in after-hours trade. Hardware revenue plunged 11 percent to $3.3 billion, the seventh out of the last eight quarters the sector has seen double-digit declines weighed by continued cyclical pressure on its Power Systems servers. The company’s software business grew, with revenue rising 1 percent to $6.5 billion. IBM expects the sector to bring in half of the company’s profits by 2015.The company’s global technology services fell 1.7 percent to 9.6 billion.


Jawbone adds food-tracking to its wristbands

Jawbone, maker of wireless headsets and wristbands, is pushing a new food-tracking service it hopes will catch on with health-conscious weight-watchers.

In a move to grow its share of the nascent wearables market, the San Francisco-based company on Wednesday introduced new features to its main wearable gadget, called Up.

Jawbone Up users can now log food, water and assess the healthiness of foods, spokesman Andrew Rosenthal said. The app also offers a list of restaurant menus and a food library, making it easier for people to check calorie counts before placing an order. Those with a specific health and fitness goal in mind can use the app to track their progress.

The wristband also tracks metrics like steps taken and hours slept.

“Now, we can track the calories you consume and burn,” said Rosenthal. The goal for the Jawbone system, he added, is to put “all this data in context.”

Jawbone competes with rivals like Fitbit, which accounted for nearly half of the world’s 2.7 million wearable band shipments in the first quarter of 2014, according to research firm Canalys.

Many industry executives expect Apple Inc to release an iWatch replete with health and fitness-tracking sensors.

Jawbone reportedly raised $250 million in venture funding last February. In April of 2013, Yahoo chief executive Marissa Mayer joined the company’s board.

Startup Lets Offices Know Who Just Walked In

A Boston-based startup is helping companies track their employees around the office using wireless sensor beacons, to improve collaboration.

n the office of the future, you may not so much walk into a room as log into it automatically. That’s what Sam Dunn, the CEO and co-founder of Boston-based startup Robin, thinks. The company is using wireless sensors to make rooms in office buildings aware of the people in them and let employees know exactly where their co-workers are.

With Robin’s software, when employees walk into a room, their smartphones alert a wireless transmitter using Bluetooth LE. They can then share certain predefined information with colleagues, which might be different for, say, a conference room than for a kitchen. When someone walks into a meeting, for instance, everyone else at the table could automatically have access to the person’s name, Twitter handle, LinkedIn profile, and perhaps a shared presentation on Dropbox. The system currently works with iBeacons, wireless network sensors developed by Apple to alert iOS devices when they’re in particular locations, and a few other Bluetooth LE devices.

So far, the Robin system has been implemented in a limited number of pilot locations. News Corp, the newspaper and publishing company, uses it on its executive floor in New York for room and desk booking; a handful of co-working spaces around the country use it to keep track of general room use and availability.

Robin isn’t the only group experimenting with beacons. Burcin Becerik-Gerber, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Southern California, has done similar work in her lab, although her primary interests have been in tracking firefighters and victims in burning buildings, and in improving energy efficiency in office buildings by identifying empty rooms (see “Innovators Under 35: Burcin Becerik-Gerber”).


The team at Robin recognizes the privacy issue, but Dunn doesn’t think it’s going to be a major problem. He compares having a Robin persona and entering an office building to having a Facebook profile and joining a Facebook group.


Some prominent hedge funds hurt by tech are back with gains

For some hedge funds hurt by tumbling technologystocks earlier this year, tenacity has been a virtue.

Andor Capital and Tiger Global Management, two of the industry’s most closely watched investment firms, delivered good news to clients as they finalized first-half returns.

Tiger Global, which oversees $14.5 billion in hedge fund and private equity portfolios and was founded by Chase Coleman, told investors that the hedge fund portfolio rose 6 percent in June, leaving it up 15.25 percent for the year, said an investor who is not permitted to discuss the portfolio publicly.

Tiger Global’s hedge fund portfolio, run by Feroz Dewan, was flat going into May and delivered an 8 percent gain that month.

A spokeswoman for the firm declined to comment.

Andor Capital, run by Dan Benton, delivered even bigger gains, reporting a 19.5 percent rise in June, which almost wiped out the year’s losses. Andor is now down 1.5 percent for the first six months of 2014, an investor in his fund said.

For Tiger Global, Andor and a handful of other firms it was a rough start to 2014, with many of the chalking up rare losses in March when technology stocks crumbled. Philippe Laffont’s Coatue Management had lost 8.7 percent in March while John Thaler’s JAT Capital Management lost 9 percent in March.

Still, these managers stuck by their bets, even as clients worried about quickly global economies would recover and how central banks would react to growth.

Benton, who had been called one of the greatest tech investors when he worked with Art Samberg at Pequot Capital Management, listed five tech stocks as his biggest holdings.

Electric vehicle maker Tesla Motors Inc, his biggest bet, gained roughly 11 percent in June. Twitter Inc, which had tumbled 35 percent this year and rebounded 26 percent in the last month, was his second-largest position.

He also held Google Inc, Apple Inc and Facebook Inc, stocks that have been very popular with a many hedge funds.

Benton had closed Andor Capital during the financial crisis but came back in 2011, first managing his own cash and then taking on family and friends plus a few outside clients.

With the S&P 500 index up 7.4 percent for the year and the Dow industrials closing above 17,000 for the first time on Thursday, hedge fund returns have been largely lackluster this year. Funds have returned, on average, only 1.77 percent, early data from Hedge Fund Research shows, results that have prompted frustration among big investors such as pension funds.

David Einhorn’s Greenlight Capital rose 1.6 percent in June and is up 6.7 percent for the year, while Barry Rosenstein’s JANA Partners fund returned 1.6 percent in June and is up 5.3 percent this year. William Ackman’s Pershing Square Capital Management climbed 2.4 percent in June and is up 25 percent.