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SynBiotic pops as new German government pledges make weed legal

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Tom Franck | CNBC

Shares of German cannabis company SynBiotic rose sharply on Thursday shortly after the incoming government pledged to make the drug legal.

The Munich-based company’s shares were up 33% to 29 euros ($33) on the Frankfurt stock exchange. The company now has a market cap of over 100 million euros.

A deal was reached on Wednesday between the center-left Social Democratic Party, the Greens and the Free Democratic Party that will see them govern together in a three-way coalition for the first time. The so-called “traffic light” coalition agreed on plans to legalize the sale of cannabis for recreational use to adults in licensed shops.

Led by Lars Muller, SynBiotic wants to use cannabis compounds to treat conditions like chronic pain, stress and sleep issues. Cannabis has a number of negative side effects depending on its strength, the frequency it is taken and the individual.

Tech investor Christian Angermayer told CNBC via email Thursday that he owns 45% of SynBiotic’s shares.

“The biggest profiteer [of German cannabis legalization] is my cannabis platform company SynBiotic, which is the only German listed cannabis company — and one of the biggest ones in general,” Angermayer said.

Angermayer has invested in a company called ATAI, which is trying to develop drugs that can be used to treat mental health conditions. ATAI’s shares popped 40% on its Wall Street debut in June but they’ve since halved in value.

Alexander Galitsa, an analyst at investment bank Hauck and Aufhauser, wrote in a note to clients on Thursday that the German cannabis market is poised for “explosive growth” in the coming years.

Galitsa pointed to studies that suggest cannabis legalization could generate between 3.4 billion euros and 4.7 billion euros of annual tax revenue, while also creating an estimated 27,000 new jobs.

“Evidently, this is excellent news for SynBiotic who has already established a strong position in the European cannabinoid market and especially in Germany,” he said.

“Thanks to its first-mover advantage in Germany and a broad coverage of the value chain, SynBiotic is ideally positioned to benefit from the regulatory changes and to establish itself as the European market leader,” Galitsa added.

Recreational use of cannabis in Canada was legalized in late 2018 and the annual revenue has already exceeded 2 billion euros, Galitsa said, before adding that Canada is home to significantly fewer people.

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SpaceX starts construction of Starship launchpad in Florida

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An aerial view of Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center shows where SpaceX had previously started work on a Starship launchpad (bottom right corner), captured during a flyover by the Inspiration4 crew on Sept. 13, 2021.

John Kraus / Inspiration4

SpaceX has begun building a launchpad for its Starship rockets in Florida, CEO Elon Musk announced on Friday, as the company looks to add another location to launch the mammoth rocket that is in development.

“Construction of Starship orbital launch pad at the Cape has begun,” Musk said in a tweet.

Starship is the massive, next-generation rocket SpaceX is developing to launch cargo and people on missions to the moon and Mars.

A Starship prototype test fires its six Raptor rocket engines on November 12, 2021 in Boca Chica, Texas.

SpaceX

The company had previously started some work on a Starship-specific launchpad on the grounds of Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, which SpaceX leases from the agency to launch its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets. But, since builders have poured concrete for the foundation of the Starship pad in late 2019, the location has largely remained dormant.

When SpaceX began Starship development in earnest two years ago, the company started building rocket prototypes both nearby the NASA complex and at its private facility in Boca Chica, Texas. The company later pivoted to focus on work at the Boca Chica site, which is nicknamed “Starbase,” and has since conducted Starship test flights and more from the Texas location.

Last month Musk said that SpaceX will “hopefully launch” the first Starship prototype to orbit in January or February from Texas, the company’s next major step in developing the rocket. That test is pending regulatory approval, as SpaceX needs a launch license from the Federal Aviation Administration for the mission – with the federal agency expecting to complete a key environmental assessment by the end of this year.

Musk’s tweet on Friday marks the renewal of work on the Florida launch site for the mammoth rocket, as he pushes SpaceX to perform as many as a dozen Starship test flights next year.

His construction announcement also comes as SpaceX works to resolve a “crisis” with production of the Raptor engines that power Starship rockets, which Musk disclosed in an email to employees the day after Thanksgiving. Musk’s email described a dire situation, warning of a “genuine risk of bankruptcy” for SpaceX if the company is not flying Starship rockets regularly by the end of 2022. In a brief update earlier this week, Musk tweeted that issues with the Raptor engines are “getting fixed” but did not provide more details on the problem or solution.

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DocuSign stock plunges after the company gave weak Q4 guidance

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Dan Springer, chief executive officer at DocuSign.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Shares of e-signature software maker DocuSign were down more than 39% Friday morning after the company reported guidance for the fourth quarter that fell short of analyst estimates.

DocuSign predicted fourth-quarter revenue would come between $557 million and $563 million, while analysts had on average expected revenue of $573.8 million for the quarter, according to Refinitiv.

Still, DocuSign beat analyst expectations for the third quarter, reporting earnings per share of 58 cents, adjusted, compared to 46 cents analysts anticipated, and $545.5 million in revenue versus $531 million expected, according to Refinitiv.

Several firms, including JPMorgan, Piper Sandler, UBS and Wedbush lowered their ratings on the stock following the earnings report. While Citi analyst Tyler Radke maintained a buy rating, he cut his price target from $389 a share to $231, calling the report, “one of the biggest [software as a service] whiffs in recent memory.”

“The pandemic tailwinds came to a much faster than expected halt for DocuSign, catching the company off guard,” JPMorgan analyst Sterling Auty wrote in a note to clients.

The company has seen rapid growth as it benefited from the rise of remote work during the pandemic. DocuSign reported its sixth straight period of revenue growth of over 40%, but said in the next quarter it anticipates growth to come in around 30%.

CEO Dan Springer acknowledged that the figure would be a disappointment after such exceptional growth earlier in the year.

“While we had expected an eventual step down from the peak levels of growth achieved during the height of the pandemic, the environment shifted more quickly than we anticipated,” Springer said on the earnings call.

The company also said its president of international, who was previously CFO, left the company on Nov. 30.

-CNBC’s Ari Levy contributed to this report.

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F1 shouldn’t get involved in politics, FIA boss says before Saudi Grand Prix

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It isn’t the role of motorsport to “get involved with political issues,” the leader of the top international auto racing organization said as Formula One faces criticism for allowing a grand prix to go ahead in Saudi Arabia this weekend.

“Motorsport has not to be used as a political platform. That is absolutely essential,” said Jean Todt, president of the FIA, which is Formula One’s governing body.

Human rights groups have urged F1 to use its power to challenge abuses in Saudi Arabia, accusing the sport of ignoring its commitment to equality and diversity. Activists also accuse Formula One of being complicit in “sportswashing” for the Saudi regime.

The penultimate grand prix of the 2021 season takes place on Sunday in the coastal city of Jeddah. It will be the first in a long-term contract for Saudi Arabia to host F1 races. One of the sport’s biggest stars expressed his unease about racing in Saudi Arabia.

Seven-time F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton, who is vying for an eighth title against current championship leader Max Verstappen, said Thursday that he was uncomfortable racing in the country due to its human rights record. But he conceded that “the sport has taken a choice to be here.”

“And whether it’s right or wrong, while we are here, it’s important we do try to raise awareness,” he said, describing the country’s repression of LGBTQ people as “terrifying.”

Saudi Arabia, citing Islamic Sharia law, forbids homosexuality, and LGBTQ people face persecution there. The topic remains highly taboo across the Middle East. Hamilton has vowed to wear a rainbow helmet in Saudi Arabia, and in the season’s final race in Abu Dhabi. The Mercedes driver wore the helmet for the first time at the previous race in Qatar, to protest against anti-LGBTQ laws in the country.

The Saudi government and the Saudi embassy in the U.K. did not immediately respond to CNBC requests for comment on Friday.

Jeddah, SAUDI ARABIA: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP talks in the Drivers Press Conference during previews ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia at Jeddah Corniche Circuit on December 02, 2021.

Hassan Ammar – Pool/Getty Images

Todt taped his remarks with CNBC on Tuesday, before Hamilton’s comments. The executive defended Formula One against criticism in his interview, which aired Friday.

“Saying that, going in certain countries where there are some doubts about the way things are occurring, we give the opportunity for people to talk, and I think we give some more visibility to the countries,” Todt said. “There is full freedom to anybody who wants to speak, who wants to demonstrate — they can do it.”

Other drivers have stood up for LGBTQ rights, such as Aston Martin driver and four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel. He wore a rainbow-colored shirt during the national anthem at the Hungarian Grand Prix, for instance.

On Saudi Arabia specifically, Todt contended that a lot of progress had been made in recent years.

“Saudi Arabia until 2018 could not host one international event because women were forbidden to drive, now women can drive, so changes are occurring, but we should not get involved in political matters,” he said.

BAHRAIN – MARCH 28: FIA President Jean Todt looks on from the grid during the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 28, 2021 in Bahrain.

Dan Istitene – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

As the only black driver in the history of F1, Hamilton has also been a passionate advocate for racial equality. Since the killing of George Floyd and the subsequent global protest movement last year, a number of drivers have joined the British racer in taking a knee before races to draw attention to racial injustice.

Todt told CNBC’s Geoff Cutmore that he respected and admired Hamilton’s leadership on diversity and inclusion issues, which he called a “global problem which needs to be addressed.”

“Before each start of the grand prix, we give space to the drivers to be able to demonstrate their attention for the problem, but of course, more needs to be done,” he added.

Todt’s reluctance to take action on issues around human rights and freedom of expression stands in stark contrast to the approach of Steve Simon, chairman and CEO of the Women’s Tennis Association.

Simon announced this week that the WTA would suspend all tournaments in China over the Chinese government’s treatment of tennis player Peng Shuai, after she made a sexual assault allegation against a top government official. He accused Beijing of censoring Peng and failing to prove that she is “free and able to speak without interference or intimidation.”

“None of this is acceptable nor can it become acceptable. If powerful people can suppress the voices of women and sweep allegations of sexual assault under the rug, then the basis on which the WTA was founded – equality for women – would suffer an immense setback,” Simon said in a statement Thursday.

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