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US, EU health care giants jump at China’s International Import Expo

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A child receives a vaccination shot at a hospital in Huaibei in China’s eastern Anhui province on July 26, 2018.

– | AFP | Getty Images

SHANGHAI – Some of the world’s largest medical and health care companies are stepping up their bets on the Chinese market, regardless of slowing economic growth and trade tensions.

At this week’s China International Import Expo in Shanghai, health care giants such as AstraZeneca, Boston Scientific, Eli Lilly and Thermo Fisher Scientific unveiled massive floor displays to promote their products in the Chinese market.

The companies are looking at China’s hundreds of millions of consumers and local talent. China spent $777 billion on health last year, a figure set to grow rapidly if the country is to match the level of developed nations’ spending on the industry, according to Export.gov, a website run by the the International Trade Administration (ITA) and U.S. Department of Commerce.

The Chinese government launched its first import expo last November in an effort to bill the country as a buyer, rather than manufacturer, of the world’s goods. While the European Union and American chambers of commerce in Shanghai said members did not necessarily benefit from participating in the first trade fair, official reports said the total number of American companies joining the second expo increased by 18.

There’s a lot of tension at the national and central levels … but at the end of the day it’s governors and mayors that are looking for investment and trade and exports from their states.

Matthew Margulies

vice president of China operations for the U.S.-China Business Council

This year, Massachusetts-based Thermo Fisher said it showed off some products to the Chinese or global market for the first time.

Meanwhile, UK-based AstraZeneca announced the establishment of new regional headquarters in Chengdu, Guangzhou and Hangzhou, in addition to Beijing. The company said it is expanding the role of its research and development center in Shanghai.

“The challenge we’re bringing is that our development team here in Shanghai, is no longer … in charge of products in China only. They will take the lead on global projects,” CEO Pascal Soriot said at a ceremony on Wednesday.

Those are just two of more than 300 medical and health care companies that exhibited at the second China International Import Expo, and they accounted for about a tenth of roughly 3,000 exhibitors, according to official data.

China’s Ministry of Commerce said that at this year’s expo, U.S. companies had the largest exhibition floor space of any country, at 47,500 square meters (11.7 acres).

The primary contingent of these U.S. participants was concentrated in the medical and health care industries, according to state media. Per official data, these included Merck‘s and AstraZeneca’s 800 square-meter displays (8,611 square feet).

Unequal market access a challenge

These international health care giants are trying to tap the Chinese market even as foreign companies complain of policies that favor domestic players.

Carlo D’Andrea, vice president at the EU Chamber of Commerce in China, cited one example in which a local Chinese government stipulated that hospitals must purchase a certain amount of medical devices from domestic companies.

“If China is to offer the highest quality product, they should pay attention to the need of the patients,” D’Andrea said in a phone interview Tuesday.

The chamber’s business confidence survey for 2019 found that 43% of respondents said market access restrictions or regulatory barriers resulted in missed business opportunities. For more than 10% of those affected, they said those barriers were worth more than a quarter of their annual revenue in China, according to the survey.

That unequal market access in China’s state-dominated environment is a major issue in ongoing trade tensions between Beijing and Washington. The dispute between the world’s two largest economies has persisted for more than a year, with each country levying tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of goods from the other.

Opportunities beneath the surface

But for businesses, many opportunities remain at a subnational level, said Matthew Margulies, vice president of China operations for the U.S.-China Business Council.

“There’s a lot of tension at the national and central levels … but at the end of the day, it’s governors and mayors that are looking for investment and trade and exports from their states,” he said. “At that level there’s a lot of optimism around the conference.”

When China lowers the market access barrier and gives the Europeans opportunity to invest, they take the opportunity to invest in the territory.

Carlo D’Andrea

EU Chamber of Commerce in China

Case in point: A Wisconsin association for the ginseng root — known for its health benefits — had a presence at the expo despite noting that trade with China was about a quarter of what it had been due to tariffs.

China’s Ministry of Finance said this week that, as was the case last year, some goods would be exempt from tariffs if purchased during the import expo.

On Thursday, China’s Ministry of Commerce also indicated that a “phase one” trade agreement with the U.S. would include a rollback of tariffs from both sides. Beijing in September also exempted cancer drugs and a total of 16 American products from tariffs for a year.

The EU Chamber’s D’Andrea noted that cosmetics and pharmaceuticals are two industries in which he is seeing increased investment, thanks partly to improved government policy.

“When China lowers the market access barrier and gives the Europeans opportunity to invest, they take the opportunity to invest in the territory,” he said.

For global pharmaceutical companies, China already contributes an average 8% in revenues for the top ten global multinational players, McKinsey said in a report in May.

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Facebook drops 16 spots on Glassdoor’s list of best places to work

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Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies at a House Financial Services Committee hearing in Washington, October 23, 2019.

Erin Scott | Reuters

Facebook saw its ranking on Glassdoor’s list of the “Best Places to Work” list slide for a second year in a row, tumbling 16 spots to 23rd. Its desirability ranking dropped from 4.5 to 4.4 out of a perfect 5 according to employees, who use the site to evaluate their employers anonymously.

The top three spots on the 2020 list are held by HubSpot, Bain & Company and DocuSign, respectively.

It’s a precipitous fall for Facebook, which claimed reached the top spot in Glassdoor’s 2018 rankings. It fell to No. 7 in the 2019 list, following reports in March 2018 that political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica had improperly accessed the data of 87 million Facebook users.

Facebook’s drop comes as regulators put the social media company in the crosshairs of antitrust investigations. The 2020 Glassdoor rankings show that employees no longer regard working at the social media company as they once did. After the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the company struggled to recruit college graduates and software engineers, former Facebook recruiters told CNBC in May.

Glassdoor bases its ranking on eight factors, including work/life balance, senior management and compensation and benefits. To be ranked, companies must have at least 1,000 employees and receive at least 75 ratings across the eight categories that Glassdoor takes into consideration during the eligibility period.

Among the complaints, employees told Glassdoor that Facebook is now “painstakingly slow” when it comes to making decisions on matters of privacy due to its numerous scandals over the past two years. Employees also complained that high-profile projects are extremely political and there is a lack of work-life balance.

“There’s been a lot of external criticism that’s been coming toward Facebook,” said Glassdoor Community Expert Sarah Stoddard. “There’s a high expectation for employees to be highly productive which leads to long working hours, and that’s a reason we keep seeing Facebook drop.”

Despite its declining score and fall in the rankings, Facebook remains well above the average Glassdoor company rating of 3.5. Employees praised Facebook’s mission-driven culture, the talent at the company and the perks and benefits.

“Employees continue to call out that the mission of the company is part of what drives them,” Stoddard said.

Facebook was not the only tech company to drop in the rankings. Google dropped three spots, landing at 11th place with an award score of 4.5. Apple dropped 13 spots to 84th and an award score of 4.3. Amazon once again failed to crack the list of 100.

Microsoft, meanwhile, climbed up 13 spots, landing at No. 21 with an award score of 4.4.

Here is Glassdoor’s list.

WATCH: Here’s how to see which apps have access to your Facebook data — and cut them off

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26 million subscribers watched first week

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Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Ray Romano star in Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman.”

Netflix

Netflix has a history of not publicizing many of its viewership metrics, but the company isn’t shying away from saying how many of its subscribers watched “The Irishman,” the Golden Globe-nominated mobster film.

More than 26 million global accounts (26,404,081, to be exact) watched at least 70% of “The Irishman” in the first seven days the film appeared on the Netflix platform, according to Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer. Sarandos spoke Tuesday at UBS’s Global TMT Conference in New York.

Netflix estimates more than 40 million accounts will watch the Martin Scorsese-directed film in the first 28 days, said Sarandos, who noted that it’s likely far more people have actually seen the movie because multiple viewers frequently watch simultaneously using one Netflix account.

Netflix hopes the popularity of “The Irishman” will spur more top content makers to sign deals with the streaming giant to showcase their best creative works. While director Martin Scorsese has implored “The Irishman” viewers not to watch the film on their phones, the shortened window between theatrical release and Netflix debut has allowed many people to view the film who probably wouldn’t have seen it if they had to go to a movie theater. Sarandos noted a night out to a movie theater in New York could cost close to $100 or more when including ticket prices, transportation and other incidentals.

“When you think about that, people understand the value proposition of a big new movie this week at Netflix,” said Sarandos at the UBS conference. “It translates into how they value Netflix.”

“The Irishman,” which stars Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, is a three-and-a-half hour long drama detailing the life of self-identified mob hitman Frank Sheeran. The movie had a limited theatrical debut on Nov. 1 and launched on Netflix on Nov. 27. “The Irishman” garnered a Golden Globe best drama nomination earlier this week.

Follow @CNBCtech on Twitter for the latest tech industry news.

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NBC says it topped $1B in national ad sales for 2020 Summer Olympics

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Tokyo 2020 mascots, Miraitowa (L) and Someity (R) on stage during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Two Years To Go Ceremony at Tokyo Skytree on July 24, 2018 in Tokyo, Japan.

Matt Roberts | Getty Images

NBCUniversal has received more than $1 billion in national advertising commitments for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, the company said Tuesday.

On a conference call with reporters Tuesday, executives said this reflects double-digit growth over where it was pacing eight months before the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2016. Dan Lovinger, EVP of Advertising Sales for NBC Sports Group, said the company expects to surpass Rio’s total of $1.2 billion in national ad sales. The Olympics will run between July 24 and August 9, 2020.

There’s interest from new advertisers too, executives said, with more than half of advertisers committing being new to the summer games.

Next summer will be a hot one for media, with an approaching election and proximity to the Democratic National Convention and the Republican National Convention falling before and after opening and closing ceremonies, respectively.

A report from Interpublic Group of Cos.-owned media research group Magna released Monday said national TV ad sales declined by 3% in 2019 to $42 billion this year and will decline further in 2020 “even factoring the incremental ad revenues generated around the Summer Olympics.” Meanwhile, digital media is expected to grow 11% in 2020, to reach 60% of total ad spend.

But NBC executives, who said more than 7,000 hours of coverage will be delivered from Tokyo, are thinking more about audiences than where they’re watching. With so much of linear TV’s audience decamping in favor of digital platforms, executives said the company has created a “single audience guarantee” for whether a viewer is watching via linear television or on a digital platform. The cost of ads range between $1 million and more than $100 million, they said.

Executives said this enables advertisers to “toggle back and forth” to take advantage of spikes in viewership — making so they’re not really delineating between a linear viewer or a digital viewer, they said.

Since NBC exclusively owns the rights to distribute in the U.S. through 2032, executives said they’re able to create partnerships with social platforms and distribute content in various formats depending on how viewers are consuming it. For instance, NBC and Twitter announced over the summer the social media platform will show limited live event coverage and shows.

The advent of digital video has not been kind to linear television, but Mark Marshall, President of Ad Sales and Partnerships, pointed out that events like this are the ones really pulling consumers to tune in.

“There’s less and less big places where people gather; sports is one of those places where people absolutely do gather,” he said. “Sports continue to bring large audiences together.”

Disclosure: CNBC parent NBCUniversal owns NBC Sports and NBC Olympics. NBC Olympics is the U.S. broadcast rights holder to all Summer and Winter Games through the year 2032.

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