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Breakfast Briefing: Putin Wins, Tesla Loses Execs & a Tech Tax

Putin Wins Landslide

Vladimir Putin won a sweeping victory with the slogan “Strong president, strong Russia”.

Editor’s Remarks: There was absolutely no doubt that Putin, 65, would win the Russian election, given that his only credible challenger, Alexei Navalny, has been jailed. The election means that Putin, who has been in power for the last 18 years, will serve another six years as Russia’s leader. The election has been overshadowed by the poisoning of Sergei Skripal in the UK, which the international community has pinned on Russia. Despite creeping Russian influence in elections around the western world, Moscow will host this year’s FIFA World Cup – an event that Putin will no doubt use to snub western leaders and perpetuate his strongman image to his electorate.

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Tesla Bleeds Executives

A slew of top executives have left Elon Musk’s Tesla in recent months, troubling investors. 

Editor’s Remarks: Susan Repo, Tesla’s corporate treasurer and VP of finance, and Eric Branderiz, its chief accounting officer, have departed the company in the last few weeks. Their exits follow the departure of Jon McNeill, the VP of business development, last month and CFO Deepak Ahuja last year. Board member Steve Jurvetson is currently on leave following misconduct allegations that he vehemently denies. The worrying number of executive exits, many of which are from the company’s finance department, has raised questions about whether Musk will achieve his production targets soon.

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EU Unveils Digital Tax Plan

The EU has drafted a 3% tax on large digital companies operating in the EU.

Editor’s Remarks: The levy will increase the tax paid by the world’s tech giants, many of whom are using complex structures to radically minimise their tax liabilities. The European Commission has been toying with a turnover tax for some months but has affirmed that the new 3% levy is just a temporary measure and that a more comprehensive tax plan is in the works. The eventual tax regime will target companies that offer advertising services or sell user data, such as Facebook and Alphabet, and will apply only to companies with an annual worldwide revenue of over €750m.

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Prince Salman Meets Tech Titans

Prince Salman is planning to meet Apple’s Tim Cook and Google’s Sundar Pichai during a US tour.

Editor’s Remarks: The Saudi crown prince is set to hold talks with President Donald Trump and senior government officials this week as he embarks on a tour of the US. Although his plans have not yet been finalised, Prince Salman will be holding meetings in Los Angeles with top Hollywood moguls as he prepares to allow mainstream cinemas in the kingdom for the first time in 35 years. He will also be speaking to the heads of both Google and Apple as he endeavours to increase inbound investment to his country.

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The SEC Slams Theranos

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has Silicon Valley in its crosshairs.

Editor’s Remarks: After Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes settled with the SEC last week over fraud allegations levied against her, the SEC has demanded that startups “tell investors the truth about what their technology can do today, not just what they hope it might do someday.” The case, which led to Holmes forfeiting her stock, paying a fine and letting go of the reins at the company she has spent her entire adult life building, is a landmark for the US tech scene. The SEC’s message is that startups, many of which attract billions in venture capital, are not immune from regulatory scrutiny.

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