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Alphabet hits $1 trillion; Sprint shares fall on deal uncertainty


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Alphabet hits $1 trillion; Sprint shares fall on deal uncertainty

Closing arguments in a multistate attempt to block the merger between T-Mobile US Inc. and Sprint Corp. began Jan. 15, casting a spotlight on the uncertainty surrounding the deal.

States attempting to thwart the conditional federal approval of the deal may have legal precedent on their side, though each side distilled its case well before the judge, said Blair Levin, policy adviser at telecom and technology-focused New Street Research.

For her part, Gigi Sohn, a distinguished fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy who previously worked for former Democratic Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler, said the states did a better job of "showing that a merger in this market from four to three will raise prices [and] hurt competition."

"And I don't think the companies did a particularly good job of sort of combating that," Sohn said.

Perhaps the clearest sign of doubt came on the markets, where Sprint shares traded down 3.0% for the week, as of 3 p.m. ET Jan. 17, at $4.82 per share compared to their proposed deal value of $6.62. T-Mobile shares were up 3.2% for the same period.

This week, executive shake-up news had investors considering ViacomCBS Inc.'s future, as well. The company reorganized its international networks division, which will now have two brand groups and three pan-regional management hubs, all reporting directly to ViacomCBS Networks International President and CEO David Lynn. The company also promoted JC Acosta to president of ViacomCBS Networks Americas. Acosta will be in charge of the company's operations across Latin America.

The shake-up did not stop there. George Cheeks, vice chairman of Comcast Corp.'s NBCUniversal Content Studios, stepped down to replace Joe Ianniello as the head of CBS's operations within ViacomCBS, Variety reported Jan. 14.

ViacomCBS shares were off by about 1.1% for the week, as of 3 p.m. ET, Jan. 17.

Meanwhile, Alphabet Inc. achieved a market superlative during the week when it crested the $1 trillion market-cap mark.

The jump followed the announcement that its Google unit will phase out support for third-party cookies in its Chrome browser within two years. The company also revealed two acquisitions during the week: no-code application development platform Appsheet and Irish retail company Pointy. No deal terms were disclosed for either transaction, but The Irish Times reported the company paid $160 million for Pointy.

Google shares were up 1.7% for the week as of 3 p.m. ET on Jan. 17, giving the company a market value of $1.01 trillion.

NBCUniversal also unveiled its new streaming video platform Peacock this week.

Peacock will have three versions: a free, ad-supported service; a more robust, ad-supported edition; and an ad-free offering. The premium ad-supported service will be free for Comcast and Cox Communications Inc. customers but will cost $4.99 per month for everyone else. Customers of Comcast and Cox can upgrade to an ad-free version for $5.00; other consumers will pay $9.99 for the ad-free service.

Comcast's cable and internet-only customers will have access to Peacock Premium on April 15. Cox customers will get access July 15.

Peacock Premium will feature 15,000 hours of content, comprising 600 movies and 400 TV series. The free offering will provide users with more than 7,500 hours of programming. The company expects to reach 30 million to 35 million active accounts by 2024, and it expects the service to break even financially by then.

Comcast shares hopped up 2.2% for the week, as of 3 p.m. ET, Jan. 17.

Elsewhere in streaming, analysts began issuing expectations for Netflix Inc. as the company prepares to release its fourth-quarter 2019 earnings results Jan. 21. During its third-quarter earnings commentary, the company pulled back its full-year membership forecast, citing a potential impact from the launch of competitive platforms, such as The Walt Disney Co.'s Disney+, but analysts generally do not believe the competition will impact fourth-quarter 2019 results. Some are looking for a beat.