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Alibaba to close books early for $13.8 billion Hong Kong listing

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A logo of Alibaba Group is seen during Alibaba Group’s 11.11 Singles’ Day global shopping festival at the company’s headquarters in Hangzhou, China, November 11, 2019.

Aly Song | Reuters

Alibaba will close its order books to institutional investors early for its upcoming secondary listing in Hong Kong, a sign that demand for shares is strong, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter told CNBC.

The e-commerce giant will close its book at 12 p.m. ET on Tuesday, earlier than initially planned, the sources, who wished to remain anonymous because they are not authorized to speak publicly, said. One of the sources who spoke to CNBC said the book will close half a day earlier than originally scheduled.

An Alibaba spokesperson declined to comment when contacted by CNBC.

“The book is well-covered,” one source said. “The international offering received strong feedback.”

Alibaba got the greenlight from Hong Kong regulators for the secondary listing last week, CNBC previously reported.

News of Alibaba’s plans to close the books early was first reported by Reuters.

The Chinese e-commerce giant will issue 500 million new ordinary shares plus 75 million “greenshoe” options. These give the underwriting banks the ability to sell more shares than the original amount set.

Of those 500 million shares, 12.5 million will be reserved for retail investors. Alibaba has the option to increase the portion available for retail investors to 50 million shares or 10% of the total offering.

The company previously said those retail shares will be priced at no more than 188 Hong Kong dollars (about $24.01). However, the remaining shares for institution investors, could be priced higher than that.

At 188 Hong Kong dollars a share, the total amount raised will be around $13.8 billion if the greenshoe option is exercised.

Alibaba will set the final offer price by Nov. 20 Hong Kong time. Shares of Alibaba will begin trading on Nov. 26.

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Sony invests $250 million in ‘Fortnite’ maker Epic Games

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Character actors from the Epic Games Fortnite video game dance during the E3 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, on June 12, 2019.

Kyle Grillot | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Sony has invested $250 million in Epic Games, the company behind the popular battle-royale video game “Fortnite.”

The PlayStation console maker will take a minority stake in Epic, the two companies said Thursday, in a strategic investment deal that expands on an existing relationship between both firms.

Other than being known for creating hit titles like “Fortnite” and the “Gears of War” franchise, Epic is seen as a major player in the video games industry thanks to its Unreal game-engine software that powers many of the world’s top games. The company also runs an online video games store that competes with Steam.

“Epic’s powerful technology in areas such as graphics places them at the forefront of game engine development with Unreal Engine and other innovations,” Sony CEO Kenichiro Yoshida said in a statement Thursday. “There’s no better example of this than the revolutionary entertainment experience, Fortnite.”

“Through our investment, we will explore opportunities for further collaboration with Epic to delight and bring value to consumers and the industry at large, not only in games, but also across the rapidly evolving digital entertainment landscape.”

The investment is subject to regulatory approvals, Sony and Epic said.

It’s a significant deal for Sony into one of the world’s top gaming brands. Privately-held Epic is also backed by another household name in the industry, Chinese firm Tencent.

The news arrives as Sony gears up to launch its PlayStation 5 console later this year. The Japanese firm has been intensifying its battle with Microsoft to convince gamers to buy its next-generation device over the upcoming Xbox Series X.

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TikTok transparency report shows it removed 49 million videos

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TikTok removed over 49 million videos for content violations in just six months, according to the company’s latest transparency report, published Thursday. 

Less than 1% of all videos published on the platform are removed for content violations, TikTok said, in what is its second transparency report. 

India, where the app was banned last week, had 16.5 million videos removed, which is roughly four times more than any other country. 

The U.S., which is “looking at” banning the app, had the second most videos removed with 4.6 million. Pakistan ranked third (3.7 million), the U.K. was in fourth (2 million), and Russia was in fifth (1.3 million).  

Globally, the main reason for removal was “adult nudity and sexual activities,” with one in four of the deleted videos removed for this reason in December. 

Other reasons included alcohol and drug taking, violence, self-harm or suicide. Less than 1% of the videos removed violated TikTok’s polices on hate speech, integrity and authenticity, and dangerous individuals and organizations. 

Of the videos removed, TikTok said 89.4% were taken down before they received any views. 

TikTok refused to disclose how many were taken down by human moderators and how many were removed by the company’s software. 

Owned by China’s ByteDance, the short video app said that it had 500 requests from governments and law enforcement agencies in 26 countries during the second half of 2019. That’s up 67% on the first half of the year, when it received 298. 

India, which was TikTok’s largest market in terms of user numbers, made 302 requests, and TikTok shared data in 90% of those cases. The U.S. made 100,  and TikTok shared data in 82% of those cases. Elsewhere, Japan made 16, Germany made 15, Norway made 10, and the U.K. made 10. 

“Any information request we receive is carefully reviewed for legal sufficiency to determine, for example, whether the requesting entity is authorized to gather evidence in connection with a law enforcement investigation or to investigate an emergency involving imminent harm,” TikTok said in the report. 

Governments requested content be removed on 45 separate occasions but TikTok did not comply with all of those. The bulk of the requests (30) came from India. 

“If we believe that a report isn’t legally valid or doesn’t violate our standards, we may not action the content,” TikTok said. 

The report states that TikTok did not receive any user information or content removal requests from China or Hong Kong. In fact, China doesn’t get mentioned in the report at all. That could be because ByteDance operates a clone of TikTok in China called Douyin so any government requests are likely to be filed there instead.

TikTok isn’t available for download in China and a spokesperson for the company wasn’t immediately available to clarify whether requests to Douyin would be in a separate report.

TikTok has launched “trust and safety hubs” in Dublin, Singapore and Mountain View, California, as part of an effort to provide a more local approach to content moderation. 

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German prosecutors probe Wirecard for money laundering

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The lettering of the payment service provider Wirecard can be seen on a laptop screen

Silas Stein | picture alliance | Getty Images

German state prosecutors are investigating Wirecard for suspected money laundering, a spokeswoman for the Munich prosecutor’s office said on Thursday.

“We are investigating suspected money laundering,” the spokeswoman told Reuters, saying the inquiry was directed at individuals from Wirecard. She said it followed a number of criminal complaints this year and last.

Wirecard declined to comment.

The implosion of what was seen as a German success story once worth $28 billion has caused major embarrassment with experts and politicians criticising what they see as a hands-off approach on the part of the authorities.

Wirecard filed for insolvency last month owing creditors almost $4 billion after disclosing a 1.9 billion euro ($2.1 billion) hole in its accounts that its auditor EY said was the result of a sophisticated global fraud.

Wirecard started out handling payments for gambling and adult websites and now processes payments for companies including Visa and Mastercard.

Some of the world’s biggest investors held its shares before a whistleblower said it owed its success to a web of sham transactions.

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