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‘Angry Birds’ maker Rovio pummeled after profit warning

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Angry Birds game maker Rovio Entertainment warned on profits on Thursday, wiping more than a third off the Finnish firm’s stock price amid deepening doubts about its valuation.

Investors in the company behind the Angry Birds games and movie franchise have had a rocky ride since last year’s initial public offering of Rovio, which blamed increased marketing costs and other investments for the lower profit outlook.

Rovio forecast its 2018 operating margin at 9-11 percent versus 10.6 percent in 2017 and said it expected sales of 260-300 million euros versus 297 million last year. This was below analysts’ forecasts of a margin of 14.5 percent and sales of 336 million euros, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Rovio saw rapid growth after the 2009 launch of the original “Angry Birds” game, in which players used slingshots to attack pigs who stole birds’ eggs. But the company plunged to an operating loss and cut a third of its staff in 2015 due to tough competition and a shift to games available for free.

Shares in Rovio were down 39 percent to 6.07 euros by 0850 GMT. In November, the stock dropped by about 20 percent after Rovio’s first interim report as a listed company.

“Competition in the mobile game industry is very tough and user acquisition has become more expensive for the companies,” said Atte Riikola, analyst at Inderes Equity Research.

He said expectations may have been too high at the time of Rovio’s listing, which valued it at $1 billion euros.

“The mobile game industry is very hot, it is believed that there’s a lot of growth ahead. But the sector may be overinvesting at the moment,” Riikola, does not have a rating for Rovio stock, said.

Rovio had bounced back in 2016 with a help of its 3D Angry Birds movie for which it is planning a sequel. Its game titles now include “Angry Birds 2,” “Angry Birds Blast”, “Angry Birds Friends” and “Battle Bay.”

Fourth-quarter operating profit at Rovio more than doubled to 10.4 million euros on revenue up 17 percent to 73.9 million euros ($90.6 million). The company is due to publish its full interim results on March 2.

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Wall Street, Apple Asia suppliers, currencies, oil

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SINGAPORE — Stocks in Japan were set to trade lower at the Friday open, following yet another record session overnight for major indexes on Wall Street.

Futures pointed to a lower open for Japanese stocks. The Nikkei futures contract in Chicago was at 28,645 while its counterpart in Osaka was at 28,600. That compared against the Nikkei 225’s last close at 28,756.86.

Over in Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 dipped fractionally in morning trade.

Shares of Apple suppliers in the region will be watched after the Cupertino-based tech juggernaut’s stock stateside surged overnight. That came after a top analyst from Morgan Stanley said she expects a record December quarter print for Apple, ahead of the tech giant’s earnings..

Overnight on Wall Street, the Nasdaq Composite advanced 0.6% to close at a new high of 13,530.91 while the S&P 500 gained less than 0.1% to finish its trading day at 3,853.07, eking out another fresh high. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, on the other hand, shed 12.37 points to close at 31,176.01.

Currencies

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 90.077 following an earlier high above 90.4.

The Japanese yen traded at 103.49 per dollar, stronger than levels above 103.7 against the greenback seen earlier this week. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.7765, having risen from levels below $0.77 seen earlier in the trading week.

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Stock futures flat to end record-setting week

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John Nacion | NurPhoto | Getty Images

Contracts tied to the major U.S. stock indexes held around the flatline Thursday evening as Wall Street appeared headed to close out the record-setting week on a muted note.

Dow futures lost 27 points while S&P 500 futures ticked slightly higher. Nasdaq-100 futures fell 5 points, or less than 0.1%.

The after-hours moves came after a strong showing from the Nasdaq Composite earlier in the day during the regular session.

The index rose to another record as investors set bets for strong tech earnings next week. The tech-heavy benchmark climbed 0.6% to close at a new high in large part thanks to a 3.7% pop in Apple shares.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 both had more muted sessions, with the former dipping 12 points and the latter up less than 0.1% to eke out another fresh high.

Hopes for a robust earnings season from the country’s largest communications and tech stocks have kept the mega-cap stocks trending upward, and the major indexes near records, during the holiday-shortened week.

Apple and Facebook have risen 7.7% and 8.6%, respectively, this week ahead of their quarterly results, while Microsoft has gained 5.8%.

Wall Street’s eyes are still turned toward Washington as new President Joe Biden works to lay the early foundation of his Covid-19 and economic recovery agenda.

Investors are increasingly confident a pared-down version of Biden’s original $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill will be considered by Congress. Some moderate senators have expressed doubts over the need for another bill, especially one with such a price tag, less than one month after Congress passed a $900 billion stimulus in December.

Meanwhile, the Senate is expected on Friday to overwhelmingly confirm former Fed Chair Janet Yellen as Biden’s Treasury secretary. If confirmed, she would be the first woman to lead the department.

In corporate news, shares of IBM fell more than 6% in the extended session after the company reported fourth-quarter sales below where analysts were expecting. Revenue fell 6% on an annualized basis, the fourth consecutive quarter of declines.

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Dr. Fauci says Covid vaccines appear to be less effective against some new strains

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New data shows that the Covid-19 vaccines currently on the market may not be as effective in guarding against new, more contagious strains of the coronavirus, White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Thursday.

A handful of new strains of the coronavirus have emerged overseas that have given scientists some cause for concern. Some variants that have been identified in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil appear to be more transmissible than previous strains but not necessarily more deadly.

While it’s no surprise the virus is mutating, researchers are quickly trying to determine what the changes might mean for recently developed lifesaving vaccines and therapeutics against the disease.

Some early findings that were published in the preprint server bioRxiv, which have yet to be peer reviewed, indicate that the variant identified in South Africa can evade the antibodies provided by some coronavirus treatments, and may reduce the efficacy of the current line of available vaccines.

However, even if the drugs are less effective, they will still likely provide enough protection to make the vaccines worth getting, Fauci said. Both vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna have proven to be highly effective, creating a “cushion effect” that would allow for some dip in their effectiveness.

A dip in the vaccines’ effectiveness would be “all the more reason why we should be vaccinating as many people as you possibly can.” Mutations occur when the virus spreads and replicates itself, which can be suppressed if enough people are inoculated against the disease to build so-called herd immunity.

“Bottom line: We’re paying very close attention to it. There are alternative plans if we ever have to modify the vaccine. That’s not something that is a very onerous thing, we can do that given the platforms we have,” Fauci said during the White House press briefing.

This is a developing story. Please check back later for updates.

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