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Hong Kong retail sales post worst slump on record as protests take toll

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People run into a shopping mall after police fired tear gas in the Central district of Hong Kong on November 11, 2019.

Dale de la Rey | AFP | Getty Images

Hong Kong’s retail sales in October fell by their steepest on record, as ongoing anti-government protests that have gripped the Chinese-ruled city for nearly six months scared off tourists and hit spending.

Retail sales in October fell 24.3% from a year earlier, government data showed on Monday, against a revised 18.2% drop in September and a 23% fall in August, as violent clashes spread across shopping districts and took a heavy toll on malls and restaurants.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam renewed her appeals for peace in the Chinese-ruled city but failed to offer any concessions to anti-government protesters despite a resounding victory for pro-democracy parties in local elections.

Protests have sprung up on an almost daily basis since June, with crowds gathering with little notice, at times forcing the government, businesses, schools and even the international airport to close.

Market analysts say the outlook is overshadowed by the protests and a weak Chinese yuan that translates into weaker spending.

Retail operators, from prime shopping malls to family-run businesses, have been forced to close for multiple days over the past few months.

Retail sales fell to HK$30.1 billion ($3.85 billion) in October, a ninth consecutive month of decline. In volume terms, retail sales in October fell 26.2%, compared with a revised 20.3% drop in September.

“The local social incidents with increasing violence depressed consumption sentiment and severely disrupted tourism- and consumption-related activities,” a government spokesman said.

The government will monitor the implications for the labor market and the economy, he added.

Hong Kong sank into recession for the first time in a decade in the third quarter, as months of political protests plunged the city into its worst crisis since it reverted from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

Financial Secretary Paul Chan said on Monday the city could record a budget deficit in this financial year, the first in 15 years.

“The external environment is uncertain, the economic growth of major trading partners is expected to slow down, and the local social incidents are not yet ended. The damage caused is yet to be restored. Hong Kong’s economic prospects next year are full of challenges,” Chan said.

Tourism hit

October tourist arrivals fell 43.7% on year to 3.31 million, according to the Hong Kong Tourism Board. They compared with a 34.2% drop in September.

The number of mainland visitors fell 45.9% in October, accounting for 76.1% of the total.

Many businesses have felt the pain, especially some of the city’s large luxury retailers who rely heavily on mainland Chinese spending, as the protests show no sign of easing.

Sales of jewelry, watches, clocks and valuable gifts plunged 42.9% on-year in October, data showed. Medicines and cosmetics fell 33.5%, while department store sales dropped 31.1%.

The Hong Kong Retail Management Association has urged landlords to halve rents for six months, anticipating that some retailers may have to sack staff or even shut down.

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Apple Tim Cook seen eating Singaporean foods in Tiong Bahru Market

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Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple, in Sun Valley, Idaho, United States, on July 12, 2019.

Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Apple CEO Tim Cook started his Wednesday with a Singaporean breakfast in the quaint and charming neighborhood of Tiong Bahru — one of the oldest housing estates in Singapore known for its 1930s streamline moderne architecture.

In a post on his professional Facebook page, Darren Soh said he and fellow photographer Aik Beng Chia had breakfast with Cook at the Tiong Bahru Market and gave the tech CEO a “quick tour.”

On what appears to be Soh’s private page, he said, “Tim tried Chwee Kueh, Carrot Cake, Soya Bean Milk but his favourite was pandan flavoured Gao Teng Kueh.”

Chwee kueh is a dish of steamed rice cakes topped with preserved radish. The carrot cake that Cook tried is likely a savory dish of stir-fried radish cake, and does not contain carrots like the Western dessert. Cook’s apparent favorite dish of the morning, “gao teng kueh,” is a multi-layered cake typically made with tapioca flour, rice flour and coconut milk.

Earlier this week, Cook was in Japan, based on recent photos shared on Twitter.

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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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