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U.S. FDA halts sales of Juul e-cigarettes

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An electronic cigarette device made by JUUL is shown in this picture illustration taken September 14, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake/Illustration

By Chris Kirkham

(Reuters) -The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday blocked e-cigarette maker Juul Labs Inc from selling its nicotine products in the United States, potentially dealing a fatal blow to the once high-flying San Francisco company.

Following a nearly two-year-long review of scientific and public health data submitted by the company, the FDA said the applications “lacked sufficient evidence” regarding the toxicological profile of the products to demonstrate that marketing them would be appropriate for the protection of public health.

Juul, along with other e-cigarette brands including British American Tobacco (NYSE:BTI) Plc’s Vuse and Imperial Brands (OTC:IMBBY) Plc’s Blu, had to meet a September 2020 deadline to file applications to the FDA showing that its products provided a net benefit to public health.

The agency had to judge whether each product was effective in getting smokers to quit and, if so, whether the benefits to smokers outweighed the potential health damage to new e-cigarette users – including teenagers – who never smoked.

“We recognize these make up a significant part of the available products and many have played a disproportionate role in the rise in youth vaping,” FDA Commissioner Robert Califf said in a statement on Thursday.

Juul did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Juul and other e-cigarette makers have been selling products in the United States for years without being officially authorized by the FDA, as regulators have repeatedly delayed deadlines for e-cigarette companies to comply with federal guidelines.

Teenage use of e-cigarettes surged with the rise in popularity of Juul in 2017 and 2018.

E-cigarette use among high school students grew from 11.7% in 2017 to 27.5% in 2019, before falling back to 11.3% in 2021, according to a federal survey.

Researchers who conducted the survey for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the most recent youth e-cigarette data cannot be compared to earlier years because of changes in how the survey was conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2020, the FDA banned all flavors except tobacco and menthol for cartridge-based e-cigarettes such as Juul. The company had pulled all other flavors including mint and mango in late 2019, following regulatory scrutiny and an outcry from anti-smoking advocates.

The Biden administration has been looking at other ways to help people quit smoking in an effort to cut down on preventable cancer deaths. It said this week it plans to propose a rule establishing a maximum nicotine level in cigarettes and other finished tobacco products to make them less addictive.

Altria Group (NYSE:MO) Inc, which has a 35% stake in Juul, closed down 9% on Wednesday after the Wall Street Journal first reported, citing people familiar with the matter, the FDA was preparing to order Juul to take its e-cigarettes off the market.

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Easing chip shortages to help Volkswagen in H2 – CEO

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Volkswagen logo is pictured at the 2022 New York International Auto Show, in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., April 13, 2022. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

BERLIN (Reuters) – Volkswagen (ETR:VOWG_p) sees a strong second half of 2022 and expects progress in catching up with rival Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) as easing chip shortages start to offset supply chain bottlenecks and rising costs, the carmaker’s CEO said on Tuesday.

“We are earning more than ever,” Chief Executive Herbert Diess said at a works meeting, adding Volkswagen is ramping up electric vehicle volumes in its biggest markets in Germany and China thanks to easing semiconductor shortages.

This should allow the carmaker to narrow the Volkswagen-Tesla gap this year and meet its goal of becoming market leader by 2025 if it seizes the moment while the U.S. electric car maker burns cash on large investments, the CEO said.

“Elon (Musk) has to ramp up two highly complex factories in Austin and Gruenheide at the same time – as well as expand production in Shanghai. That’s going to take strength out of him,” Diess said.

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Reliance Chairman Mukesh Ambani steps down as director of telecom arm

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Mukesh Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance Industries, arrives to address the company’s annual general meeting in Mumbai, India July 5, 2018. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas

BENGALURU (Reuters) – Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani has stepped down as director of Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd, the conglomerate’s telecom arm said on Tuesday.

Reliance Jio said https://refini.tv/3Nrs773 it has appointed Mukesh’s son and non-executive director Akash Ambani as the chairman of its board. Akash has been involved with the telecom unit since its launch in late 2016, where he started as a director.

India’s telecoms sector had been upended after the entry of Jio, which triggered a price war that forced some rivals out of the market and turned profits into losses.

Jio, which started out offering mobile teleservices, has been aggressively investing in services like internet broadband and forging ties with handset makers to launch low-cost smartphones and providing 5G services.

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UBS Downgrades Ebay, Farfetch to Neutral on Guidance Risks

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© Reuters. UBS Downgrades Ebay (EBAY), Farfetch (FTCH) to Neutral on Guidance Risks

By Senad Karaahmetovic

UBS analyst Kunal Madhukar downgraded shares of Farfetch (NYSE:FTCH) and eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) to Neutral from Buy.

EBAY shares are cut alongside the price target (to $48.00 from $60.00 per share) despite low expectations. Still, the analyst expects 2022 GMV to fall by 17%, which is worse than the guidance of 16%-14% and the Street’s consensus of 15%.

“We think the buy side may already be lower than the Street. YTD, the stock has been one of the better performers within the eCommerce space, benefiting from both a ~2% dividend yield and aggressive share repurchases. However, when the market rebounds, we think EBAY shares could lag smaller cap peers (which are likely to grow much faster in a recovery) until investors have better visibility into organic growth at eBay. Consequently, we think the shares likely will remain range-bound until visibility improves,” Madhukar told clients in a note.

The price target on Farfetch shares goes to $10.00 from the prior $13.00 as Madhukar sees too optimistic assumptions for growth from the side of the company’s management.

“In addition to slower growth, we think upside is limited by lack of visibility into key drivers of value, including FPS volumes and economics, as well as on China. Granted, the YNAP deal could be a positive catalyst (link), but if the disclosure is limited (like with the recent deal with Neiman Marcus Group or NMG), it may be challenging for investors to understand if it creates shareholder value or not. Last, FTCH remains a profitless-tech company in an environment where investors are acutely focused on profits, and thus, there is limited valuation support,” the analyst added.

Similar to eBay, Madhukar sees shares remaining “range-bound until we have better visibility into growth and/or the path to profitability.”

Shares of eBay and Farfetch are down 2.4% and 2.2%, respectively, in pre-market Tuesday.

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