Connect with us

International

Apple’s App Store is in the Bullseye of Antitrust Measures

Why anti-competitive probe into tech giants could spell trouble for Apple and its App Store

Published

on

This article was originally published by The Conversation.

 
If the coronavirus pandemic has shown us anything, it’s just how much people depend on a few large technology companies. The use of mobile apps and web services has increased significantly in recent years, as people adapted to new ways to stay in touch. At the same time though, antitrust regulators in the US and Europe have been taking a much closer look as part of a growing desire to investigate the dominance of some large players in the technology market. One of the issues is the amount of control that platform operators have over significant parts of the economy, and their ability to act as “gatekeepers” to markets in an anti-competitive manner. The EU has recently introduced new legislation to cover online platforms. Recently there have been a number of significant stories outlining a range of problems that developers have experienced with the Apple App Store in particular. This has led to developers forming a group called the Coalition for App Fairness, which advocates for three key issues to be resolved in Apple’s App Store. 1. Anti-competitive policies and conflicts of interest, where Apple is both the “gatekeeper” to the platform, admitting and setting the rules for third-party apps (such as Spotify), while also providing its own services (Apple Music, for example). 2. Charging 30% transaction fees on app sales and in-app purchases, and preventing developers from using or making users aware of other ways to pay with lower fees. 3. A lack of freedom for users to exercise choice and buy from others, which would allow a free market to settle on transaction fees.

Criticism and concern

One of the most significant criticisms of the company’s approach to the App Store is that there is no course of appeal available for developers that doesn’t rest with Apple. Larger companies have been able to negotiate exceptions to the rules, but in this case, the exception appears to apply only to three large tech companies (ClassPass, Facebook and Airbnb), and not to other independent apps. This risks further exacerbating the concerns expressed by politicians on both sides of the Atlantic, around the dominance of large tech companies due to their influence and bargaining power.
Apple's App Store button on an iPhone with a finger hovering above it.
Many app developers are afraid to challenge Apple as the only platform available to sell their creations is the company’s App Store. YM German/Shutterstock
An especially problematic situation arises where Apple is both “gatekeeping” apps, while also running its own competing app – Spotify has to share 30% of each first-year subscription with Apple via the App Store, and 15% of subscriptions after the first year – but Apple’s own competing music subscription service pays no such fee. Apple’s rules also prevent developers from telling users that it is cheaper to subscribe outside of the App Store ecosystem. Developers are often unwilling to speak publicly about problems with Apple, as their business or livelihood depends on their apps being available on the App Store. Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, recently assured the US House Judiciary Panel: “We do not retaliate or bully people. It’s strongly against our company culture.” Still, Epic Games, maker of the phenomenally successful Fortnite had its request for a restraining order against Apple granted in part, as a result of what they argued to be wider retaliations against their actions. In August of this year, Epic Games introduced a new way to pay for virtual items directly, without Apple receiving a 30% cut of the sale. This meant users would pay less. Apple argued this breaks their developer agreement, and threatened to block all of Epic Games’ developer accounts, including those for unrelated products. While Apple definitely has an argument that the gaming company breached its developer agreement, Epic Games argues the terms are anti-competitive and thus illegal, as they deprive customers of choice, and raise prices. The court found that Epic Games was at risk of “irreparable harm” due to the some of the seemingly retaliatory measures being levelled at separate legal entities. The problem is that most developers cannot afford to take this kind of costly legal action. The Epic Games case has encouraged more developers to speak up about concerns regarding Apple’s commercial App Store practices, with one developer even going so far as to liken some of their conditions to “Mafia extortion”. Apple argues that its policies make sure apps “meet our high standards for privacy, performance, and security” to maintain consumer trust, and this certainly makes sense for some of their technical restrictions and rules which ensure apps don’t abuse users’ personal data or files. But it’s clear that some of Apple’s restrictions go significantly beyond this, such as where apps are prevented from notifying users of Apple’s 30% fee. In other cases, developers have complained that Apple is trying to force them to make certain commercial decisions, such as auto-renewing free trial subscriptions, which they do not agree with, and don’t want to make. We asked Apple for a response to these issues but have yet to receive a reply.

Monopoly game

At the end of all of this, you’d be forgiven for thinking these developers should simply make their apps available elsewhere. The problem with the App Store is that there is no “elsewhere” – Apple prevents anyone from making a competing App Store, so the only way to get an app on an iPhone or iPad is via the App Store, with the 30% fee. A scathing report by the House Committee on the Judiciary on the impacts of monopoly power on the digital economy has also pointed out the high cost and practical issues with switching away from Apple devices. The report has also accused Apple of making up “unwritten rules when convenient”. It is perhaps therefore fitting that a company accused of acting as “judge, jury and executioner” towards developers on its own platform looks increasingly likely to see its own future decided in a regular courtroom before a regular judge.

Greig is a member of the UK 5G security group, and the UK Telecoms Data Taskforce, and is involved in the delivery of 5G Testbeds & Trials projects funded by DCMS.

Read More

Continue Reading

International

Four burning questions about the future of the $16.5B Novo-Catalent deal

To build or to buy? That’s a classic question for pharma boardrooms, and Novo Nordisk is going with both.
Beyond spending billions of dollars to expand…

Published

on

To build or to buy? That’s a classic question for pharma boardrooms, and Novo Nordisk is going with both.

Beyond spending billions of dollars to expand its own production capacity for its weight loss drugs, the Danish drugmaker said Monday it will pay $11 billion to acquire three manufacturing plants from Catalent. It’s part of a broader $16.5 billion deal with Novo Holdings, the investment arm of the pharma’s parent group, which agreed to acquire the contract manufacturer and take it private.

It’s a big deal for all parties, with potential ripple effects across the biotech ecosystem. Here’s a look at some of the most pressing questions to watch after Monday’s announcement.

Why did Novo do this?

Novo Holdings isn’t the most obvious buyer for Catalent, particularly after last year’s on-and-off M&A interest from the serial acquirer Danaher. But the deal could benefit both Novo Holdings and Novo Nordisk.

Novo Nordisk’s biggest challenge has been simply making enough of the weight loss drug Wegovy and diabetes therapy Ozempic. On last week’s earnings call, Novo Nordisk CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen said the company isn’t constrained by capital in its efforts to boost manufacturing. Rather, the main challenge is the limited amount of capabilities out there, he said.

“Most pharmaceutical companies in the world would be shopping among the same manufacturers,” he said. “There’s not an unlimited amount of machinery and people to build it.”

While Novo was already one of Catalent’s major customers, the manufacturer has been hamstrung by its own balance sheet. With roughly $5 billion in debt on its books, it’s had to juggle paying down debt with sufficiently investing in its facilities. That’s been particularly challenging in keeping pace with soaring demand for GLP-1 drugs.

Novo, on the other hand, has the balance sheet to funnel as much money as needed into the plants in Italy, Belgium, and Indiana. It’s also struggled to make enough of its popular GLP-1 drugs to meet their soaring demand, with documented shortages of both Ozempic and Wegovy.

The impact won’t be immediate. The parties expect the deal to close near the end of 2024. Novo Nordisk said it expects the three new sites to “gradually increase Novo Nordisk’s filling capacity from 2026 and onwards.”

As for the rest of Catalent — nearly 50 other sites employing thousands of workers — Novo Holdings will take control. The group previously acquired Altasciences in 2021 and Ritedose in 2022, so the Catalent deal builds on a core investing interest in biopharma services, Novo Holdings CEO Kasim Kutay told Endpoints News.

Kasim Kutay

When asked about possible site closures or layoffs, Kutay said the team hasn’t thought about that.

“That’s not our track record. Our track record is to invest in quality businesses and help them grow,” he said. “There’s always stuff to do with any asset you own, but we haven’t bought this company to do some of the stuff you’re talking about.”

What does it mean for Catalent’s customers? 

Until the deal closes, Catalent will operate as a standalone business. After it closes, Novo Nordisk said it will honor its customer obligations at the three sites, a spokesperson said. But they didn’t answer a question about what happens when those contracts expire.

The wrinkle is the long-term future of the three plants that Novo Nordisk is paying for. Those sites don’t exclusively pump out Wegovy, but that could be the logical long-term aim for the Danish drugmaker.

The ideal scenario is that pricing and timelines remain the same for customers, said Nicole Paulk, CEO of the gene therapy startup Siren Biotechnology.

Nicole Paulk

“The name of the group that you’re going to send your check to is now going to be Novo Holdings instead of Catalent, but otherwise everything remains the same,” Paulk told Endpoints. “That’s the best-case scenario.”

In a worst case, Paulk said she feared the new owners could wind up closing sites or laying off Catalent groups. That could create some uncertainty for customers looking for a long-term manufacturing partner.

Are shareholders and regulators happy? 

The pandemic was a wild ride for Catalent’s stock, with shares surging from about $40 to $140 and then crashing back to earth. The $63.50 share price for the takeover is a happy ending depending on the investor.

On that point, the investing giant Elliott Investment Management is satisfied. Marc Steinberg, a partner at Elliott, called the agreement “an outstanding outcome” that “clearly maximizes value for Catalent stockholders” in a statement.

Elliott helped kick off a strategic review last August that culminated in the sale agreement. Compared to Catalent’s stock price before that review started, the deal pays a nearly 40% premium.

Alessandro Maselli

But this is hardly a victory lap for CEO Alessandro Maselli, who took over in July 2022 when Catalent’s stock price was north of $100. Novo’s takeover is a tacit acknowledgment that Maselli could never fully right the ship, as operational problems plagued the company throughout 2023 while it was limited by its debt.

Additional regulatory filings in the next few weeks could give insight into just how competitive the sale process was. William Blair analysts said they don’t expect a competing bidder “given the organic investments already being pursued at other leading CDMOs and the breadth and scale of Catalent’s operations.”

The Blair analysts also noted the companies likely “expect to spend some time educating relevant government agencies” about the deal, given the lengthy closing timeline. Given Novo Nordisk’s ascent — it’s now one of Europe’s most valuable companies — paired with the limited number of large contract manufacturers, antitrust regulators could be interested in taking a close look.

Are Catalent’s problems finally a thing of the past?

Catalent ran into a mix of financial and operational problems over the past year that played no small part in attracting the interest of an activist like Elliott.

Now with a deal in place, how quickly can Novo rectify those problems? Some of the challenges were driven by the demands of being a publicly traded company, like failing to meet investors’ revenue expectations or even filing earnings reports on time.

But Catalent also struggled with its business at times, with a range of manufacturing delays, inspection reports and occasionally writing down acquisitions that didn’t pan out. Novo’s deep pockets will go a long way to a turnaround, but only the future will tell if all these issues are fixed.

Kutay said his team is excited by the opportunity and was satisfied with the due diligence it did on the company.

“We believe we’re buying a strong company with a good management team and good prospects,” Kutay said. “If that wasn’t the case, I don’t think we’d be here.”

Amber Tong and Reynald Castañeda contributed reporting.

Read More

Continue Reading

International

Petrina Kamya, Ph.D., Head of AI Platforms at Insilico Medicine, presents at BIO CEO & Investor Conference

Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb….

Published

on

Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb. 26-27 at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City. Dr. Kamya will speak as part of the panel “AI within Biopharma: Separating Value from Hype,” on Feb. 27, 1pm ET along with Michael Nally, CEO of Generate: Biomedicines and Liz Schwarzbach, PhD, CBO of BigHat Biosciences.

Credit: Insilico Medicine

Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb. 26-27 at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City. Dr. Kamya will speak as part of the panel “AI within Biopharma: Separating Value from Hype,” on Feb. 27, 1pm ET along with Michael Nally, CEO of Generate: Biomedicines and Liz Schwarzbach, PhD, CBO of BigHat Biosciences.

The session will look at how the latest artificial intelligence (AI) tools – including generative AI and large language models – are currently being used to advance the discovery and design of new drugs, and which technologies are still in development. 

The BIO CEO & Investor Conference brings together over 1,000 attendees and more than 700 companies across industry and institutional investment to discuss the future investment landscape of biotechnology. Sessions focus on topics such as therapeutic advancements, market outlook, and policy priorities.

Insilico Medicine is a leading, clinical stage AI-driven drug discovery company that has raised over $400m in investments since it was founded in 2014. Dr. Kamya leads the development of the Company’s end-to-end generative AI platform, Pharma.AI from Insilico’s AI R&D Center in Montreal. Using modern machine learning techniques in the context of chemistry and biology, the platform has driven the discovery and design of 30+ new therapies, with five in clinical stages – for cancer, fibrosis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and COVID-19. The Company’s lead drug, for the chronic, rare lung condition idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, is the first AI-designed drug for an AI-discovered target to reach Phase II clinical trials with patients. Nine of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies have used Insilico’s AI platform to advance their programs, and the Company has a number of major strategic licensing deals around its AI-designed therapeutic assets, including with Sanofi, Exelixis and Menarini. 

 

About Insilico Medicine

Insilico Medicine, a global clinical stage biotechnology company powered by generative AI, is connecting biology, chemistry, and clinical trials analysis using next-generation AI systems. The company has developed AI platforms that utilize deep generative models, reinforcement learning, transformers, and other modern machine learning techniques for novel target discovery and the generation of novel molecular structures with desired properties. Insilico Medicine is developing breakthrough solutions to discover and develop innovative drugs for cancer, fibrosis, immunity, central nervous system diseases, infectious diseases, autoimmune diseases, and aging-related diseases. www.insilico.com 


Read More

Continue Reading

International

Another country is getting ready to launch a visa for digital nomads

Early reports are saying Japan will soon have a digital nomad visa for high-earning foreigners.

Published

on

Over the last decade, the explosion of remote work that came as a result of improved technology and the pandemic has allowed an increasing number of people to become digital nomads. 

When looked at more broadly as anyone not required to come into a fixed office but instead moves between different locations such as the home and the coffee shop, the latest estimate shows that there were more than 35 million such workers in the world by the end of 2023 while over half of those come from the United States.

Related: There is a new list of cities that are best for digital nomads

While remote work has also allowed many to move to cheaper places and travel around the world while still bringing in income, working outside of one's home country requires either dual citizenship or work authorization — the global shift toward remote work has pushed many countries to launch specific digital nomad visas to boost their economies and bring in new residents.

Japan is a very popular destination for U.S. tourists. 

Shutterstock

This popular vacation destination will soon have a nomad visa

Spain, Portugal, Indonesia, Malaysia, Costa Rica, Brazil, Latvia and Malta are some of the countries currently offering specific visas for foreigners who want to live there while bringing in income from abroad.

More Travel:

With the exception of a few, Asian countries generally have stricter immigration laws and were much slower to launch these types of visas that some of the countries with weaker economies had as far back as 2015. As first reported by the Japan Times, the country's Immigration Services Agency ended up making the leap toward a visa for those who can earn more than ¥10 million ($68,300 USD) with income from another country.

The Japanese government has not yet worked out the specifics of how long the visa will be valid for or how much it will cost — public comment on the proposal is being accepted throughout next week. 

That said, early reports say the visa will be shorter than the typical digital nomad option that allows foreigners to live in a country for several years. The visa will reportedly be valid for six months or slightly longer but still no more than a year — along with the ability to work, this allows some to stay beyond the 90-day tourist period typically afforded to those from countries with visa-free agreements.

'Not be given a residence card of residence certificate'

While one will be able to reapply for the visa after the time runs out, this can only be done by exiting the country and being away for six months before coming back again — becoming a permanent resident on the pathway to citizenship is an entirely different process with much more strict requirements.

"Those living in Japan with the digital nomad visa will not be given a residence card or a residence certificate, which provide access to certain government benefits," reports the news outlet. "The visa cannot be renewed and must be reapplied for, with this only possible six months after leaving the countr

The visa will reportedly start in March and also allow holders to bring their spouses and families with them. To start using the visa, holders will also need to purchase private health insurance from their home country while taxes on any money one earns will also need to be paid through one's home country.

Read More

Continue Reading

Trending