Category Archives: Journalism

New Story: As Allegations Swirl Around SoftBank, It Calls Them ‘Sabotage’

A new story out Thurs., which I wrote with my WSJ colleagues Bradley Hope and Alex Frangos, begins:

A contentious back-and-forth between SoftBank Group Corp. 9984 0.90% and attorneys who say they represent anonymous, disgruntled shareholders is riling the Japanese telecommunications titan.

The difficulties for SoftBank come as it is poised to begin investing $100 billion in technology startups around the world, and they have drawn concern from a Saudi Arabian investment vehicle that is set to commit $45 billion to the SoftBank technology fund.

The allegations from the attorneys have lingered over the past year about the conduct of top SoftBank executives, especially in India. The company announced last week it had taken a loss on $1.4 billion on investments, largely in Indian startups. In March, a complaint was submitted to an Indian financial regulator purporting to identify financial malfeasance in those deals, including that current or former SoftBank executives received kickbacks connected with the investments.

Click through to read the rest.

Our Scoop Yesterday: Apple Manufacturer Assembles First iPhones in India

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The exclusive, which I wrote with my WSJ colleagues, begins:

NEW DELHI—An Apple Inc. manufacturer has completed a trial run of the first-ever iPhones assembled in India, in an important step in the U.S. tech giant’s push into the fast-growing South Asian market.

The manufacturing of Apple’s cheapest iPhone model, the SE, was handled earlier this month by Taiwanese contract manufacturer Wistron Corp., which has an assembling unit in the southern state of Karnataka, a state official with direct knowledge of the matter told The Wall Street Journal.

Apple said in a statement that it has begun initial production of a small number of iPhone SE handsets in Bangalore and will begin shipping the Indian-made devices to domestic customers this month. The first devices could hit stores as early as this week or next, according to a person familiar with the matter.

A Wistron spokeswoman said the company doesn’t comment on “market rumors or speculation.”

With sales cooling in China—long an engine for Apple’s growth—the Cupertino, Calif., company has been looking for new ways to build its brand in India. Apple has sought concessions on the taxes it pays to import some components, government officials say.

The story was followed by may other outlets.

Scoop Mon. With Colleagues: Indonesia’s Go-Jek in Talks to Raise $1 Billion

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The exclusive, with my WSJ colleagues P.R. Venkat and Kane Wu, begins:

Go-Jek, the Indonesian motorcycle-hailing startup backed by KKR & Co., Warburg Pincus LLC and others, is in talks with investors to raise $1 billion, people familiar with the process said.

The new money would give the Jakarta company added power to battle rivals Uber Technologies Inc. and Singapore’s Grab for a lead in Southeast Asia’s largest economy. The company is seeking the new money to expand, with the first round of bids due by the end of this month, one of the people said.

Beijing’s China International Capital Corp. and Zurich-based Credit Suisse Group AG are among the banks assisting in raising funds, according to people familiar with the matter. Representatives for Go-Jek didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The cash injection would give Go-Jek a pre-money valuation of about $2 billion, the people said. A pre-money valuation refers to the value of a startup before fresh funds are included. Go-Jek raised around $550 million in August at an undisclosed valuation.

This would be more money for one of Southeast Asia’s hottest startups. And more competition for Uber and Grab in the region.

By Me Yesterday: Microsoft, eBay, Tencent Pour $1.4 Billion into India’s Flipkart

The story begins:

NEW DELHI—Indian e-commerce startup Flipkart Group has raised $1.4 billion from Microsoft Corp., eBay Inc. and Tencent Holdings Ltd., taking a hit to its valuation to raise the cash it needs to defend its home market from Amazon.com Inc.

Flipkart, which was started in 2007 by two former Amazon employees, said Monday that the new investment values the Bangalore company at $11.6 billion. That allows Flipkart to retain its title as India’s most valuable startup but is still a step down from the $15 billion valuation it received during fundraising in 2015.

“This is a landmark deal for Flipkart and for India,” Flipkart founders Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal said in the statement, calling it the company’s biggest fundraising round ever.

Flipkart said Chinese internet firm Tencent led the round, but a Flipkart spokeswoman declined to provide a breakdown of investments by company.

Separately, eBay said on Monday that it was selling its Indian business to Flipkart and was making a $500 million cash investment in the startup for an equity stake.

Facebook Live Video: A Colleague and I Talk Trump, H-1B Visas

I mentioned in this in my most recent Newley’s Notes, but wanted to embed the video here in an individual post.

On Friday my colleague Eric Bellman and I discussed Pres. Trump and potential restrictions on H-1B skilled worker visas. The video is embedded above and on The Wall Street Journal Facebook page here.

Click through for comments and reactions from viewers.

My most recent H-1B-related story is here: “Indian Outsourcing Firms Look to Get Ahead of Immigration Curbs.

A round-up of my most recent H-1B-related stories is here. And our previous Facebook Live appearances are here (discussing India’s “demonetization”) and here (talking about Amazon in India).

Hate Fake News? Subscribe to a Newspaper

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I’m not sure where I found it, but I came across this excellent column from November by Leonard Pitts, Jr. It begins:

There is good news on fake news.

As you doubtless know, the proliferation thereof has people fretting. President Obama has dubbed it a threat to democracy. And there is a rising demand for social-media outlets like Facebook and Twitter, often used as platforms for these viral untruths, to take corrective action.

But the good news is that anyone who wishes to avoid fake news can do so easily. There is, in fact, a news platform that specializes in gathering and disseminating non-fake news. So committed are its people to this mission that some have been known to risk, and even to lose, their lives in the process.

Granted, this platform is imperfect — sometimes it is guilty of error or even bias. But hardly ever will you find it trafficking in intentional falsehoods.

So what, you ask, is this miracle medium? Well, it’s called a “newspaper” Maybe you’ve heard of it.

Ahem.

Yes, there is a point here, and it is this: The facts are knowable — and easily so. So the proliferation of fake news should tell you something.

Yes, newspaper reporters make mistakes. Yes, editors make mistakes. Yes, newspapers suffer from organizational failings. And yes, newspapers must continue to become not merely papers, but digital news organizations, in order to best serve their audiences.

But Pitts’s point — that newspapers by their very nature are designed to surface truths, unlike so many other kinds of media outlets — is a crucial one indeed in today’s low-signal, high-noise environment.

Hate fake news? Consider subscribing to a newspaper, if you haven’t already.

H-1B Visas and Trump: Round-up of My Recent WSJ Stories

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I’ve been writing a lot in the last few months about the H-1B skilled worker visa program, which thousands of people, mainly Indians, use to work in the U.S.

The program was designed to allow companies to hire workers for jobs they can’t fill locally, like those demanding sophisticated tech skills. But some say firms, like large Indian outsourcing companies with offices in the U.S., abuse the program to bring in less sophisticated workers as cost-saving measures — and lay off American workers — since they’ll do jobs for less than money.

It’s a huge issue not just for big American tech firms that want to be able to hire the best global talent, but also for Indian IT services firms that employ millions of people.

And with President Trump on the campaign trail assailing the program, many workers are concerned that changes to the program could force them to leave the country.

That’s the subject of my most recent story, which came out Monday. The headline: “Indian Workers in U.S. Fear Trump H-1B Visa Crackdown.

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They story — which I reported out for weeks, interviewing dozens of people — has produced quite a reaction online, prompting more than 450 comments on The WSJ site, and more than 800 reactions, 230 shares and 150 comments on Facebook.

Stay tuned for more on this topic.

Meanwhile, so they’re all in one place, I wanted to share links to some of my previous H-1B-related stories:

What the White House Said About Its Plans for H-1B Visas (Jan. 31, 2017):

Tighter restrictions on skilled worker visas to the U.S. could come via both executive action by President Donald Trump and via Congressional moves, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Monday.

Indian IT services firms are already girding for possible changes to the H-1B program, which they use to send tens of thousands of workers to the U.S. annually.

While a significant shakeup of the visa program would likely need to be approved by Congress, President Trump could use an executive directive to take steps like ending a provision announced in 2014 that allows spouses of H-1B visa holders to work in the U.S, as The Wall Street Journal reported last week.

H-1B Visas: How Donald Trump Could Change America’s Skilled Worker Visa Rules (Jan. 24, 2017):

During his campaign, President Donald Trump assailed a skilled-worker visa program used to send foreigners to the U.S., and in his inaugural speech Friday he said the country would “follow two simple rules; buy American and hire American.”

Indian outsourcing firms are already preparing for potential changes to visa rules, which could present a challenge because they send thousands of workers to the U.S. every year via the H-1B program.

So how much, and how quickly, could Mr. Trump change the regulations?

A significant shakeup would likely need to be approved by Congress, though there are some steps Mr. Trump could take himself immediately, analysts say.

Indian Outsourcing Firms Prep for Curbs on H-1B Visa Workers Under Trump (Jan. 19, 2017):

NEW DELHI—President-elect Donald Trump doesn’t take office in Washington until Friday, but he is already forcing firms in India’s mammoth $108 billion technology-outsourcing industry to rethink their hiring practices in the U.S., their largest market.

While Mr. Trump has chastised U.S. firms for offshoring American jobs, Indian outsourcing firms could be set to see renewed heat for doing the opposite—placing foreign workers in the U.S., mainly through a skilled-worker visa, known as the H-1B. Faced with the prospect of possible new curbs on those visas from a president who has pledged to ensure that Americans get their first pick of available jobs, outsourcers are ramping up hiring both on American college campuses and at home in India.

H-1B Visas: U.S. Lawmaker Re-Introduces Bill to Tighten Rules (Jan. 6, 2017):

A prominent Republican lawmaker is taking another shot at tightening U.S. rules for high-skilled worker visas ahead of Donald Trump’s inauguration as president later this month.

Rep. Darrell Issa, one of the highest-profile Republicans in Congress and a supporter of Mr. Trump, said Wednesday in a statement on his website that he is reintroducing a bill designed to “stop the outsourcing of American jobs” and ensure laws are not “abused to allow companies to outsource and hire cheap foreign labor from abroad.”

What Will Happen to H-1B Skilled-Worker Visas Under Donald Trump? (Nov. 17, 2016):

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump will likely crack down on the use of skilled-worker visas issued to Indian outsourcing firms, said a leading anti-immigration campaigner.

Mr. Trump is still picking his cabinet, and how his policies will evolve is hard to guess, but he was elected pledging to restrict immigration. That means the tens of thousands of mostly Indian migrants entering America on high-skilled worker, or H-1B, visas could become a target for tougher vetting, said Roy Beck, president of Arlington, Va.-based NumbersUSA, which advocates for limited immigration.

“It would be very surprising if we don’t see the rules around H-1Bs really tighten,” he told The Wall Street Journal.

On Austin Tice, Syria, and Risks Freelancers Take

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Though it was published back in October, I only yesterday read this in-depth Texas Monthly story by Sonia Smith on Austin Tice.

Tice, a former Marine and budding freelance photojournalist, disappeared in Syria in 2012.

There has been little information available publicly since then about his fate, aside from a haunting video posted online after his apparent capture.

After reading the story, I came across some recent reports from earlier this month in which his parents say the Obama administration has told them they believe their son is alive.

Of course, it is unclear what will happen now with President-Elect Trump taking office.

The Texas Monthly story serves as a reminder of:

  • Just how violent and long-running the Syria conflict has been
  • The difficulty news organizations have had reporting on the situation, since journalists have specifically been targeted
  • In Tice’s case, the risks that reporters have taken to cover the war — particularly freelancers, who may have little training and organizational support, and may be especially motivated to take risks in order to make a name for themselves.

    For example, in the story, several fellow reporters say they cautioned the clearly brave Tice to be more cautious in his reporting, to not venture into especially dangerous areas, and not to post on social media about this whereabouts.

Amazon Pulls Indian-Flag Doormats as New Delhi Threatens Punishment

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That’s the subject of my story yesterday, which begins:

Amazon.com Inc. pulled doormats emblazoned with the Indian flag from its Canadian website after the South Asian nation’s foreign minister threatened to oust the Seattle company’s employees.

“This is unacceptable,” Sushma Swaraj, India’s foreign minister, wrote on Twitter Wednesday in response to a posting from a user showing an image of the doormats for sale.

Ms. Swaraj, who has 7 million followers on the platform, called on Amazon to remove the “insulting” products and threatened to rescind visas for Amazon’s foreign staff in India if action wasn’t taken.