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Elon Musk presents Tesla ‘Master Plan 3’ with emphasis on sustainable energy

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Elon Musk speaks at Tesla’s 2023 investor day on March 1.
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Electric vehicle maker Tesla hosted a 2023 Investor Day presentation in Austin, Texas, on Wednesday. CEO Elon Musk took the stage to share his “Master Plan 3,” and to discuss how Tesla plans to scale up in the face of increasing competition.
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The presentation was long on vision and general statements about moving to sustainable energy sources, but short on new specifics about how Tesla would help society achieve that vision.

Near the beginning of the presentation, Musk said, “There is a clear path to a sustainable-energy Earth. It doesn’t require destroying natural habitats. It doesn’t require us to be austere and stop using electricity and be in the cold or anything.” He added, “In fact, you could support a civilization much bigger than Earth, much more than the 8 billion humans could actually be supported sustainably on Earth.”

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Musk was initially joined on stage by Senior Vice President of Powertrain and Energy Engineering at Tesla, Drew Baglino. They discussed a future in which the company would play a role in “re-powering the grid with renewable fuels” as they ramp up battery production, both for Tesla’s electric vehicles and for the company’s utility-scale energy storage systems.

Tesla’s goal is to produce 20 million electric vehicles per year by 2030, executives reiterated. The company reported full year deliveries of around 1.31 million vehicles in 2022.

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The company’s charging leader, Rebecca Tinucci, said that in 2022 Tesla provided 9 terawatt hours across charging methods, including AC home charging and away-from-home charging points, including 40,000 Superchargers. The entire U.S. consumes about 4,000 terawatt hours of electricity per year. Tinucci also noted that about half of the company’s Superchargers in the EU are open to other vehicles, and that the company just opened 10 Superchargers in the US to other vehicles.

Tesla design leader Franz von Holzhausen and vice president of vehicle engineering Lars Moravy took the stage to show off a number of planned manufacturing changes meant to improve the efficiency of Tesla vehicle production. But von Holzhausen said that Tesla would not yet reveal its “next gen” vehicle.

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The company’s powertrain vice president, Colin Campbell, said that Tesla’s next powertrain factory will be 50% smaller than the one in Austin, Texas, but will have the same capacity. He also said the company is working on a new kind of drive unit that is compatible with any battery cell type, and a motor that will be built without any rare earth metals.

Ahead of the 2023 Investor Day, at a press conference on Tuesday, Mexico president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Tesla had agreed to build a large factory in Monterrey, Mexico. He said Tesla agreed to use recycled water and take other initiatives to cope with water-scarcity in the region.

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Tesla shares have rebounded from declines during 2022, and are up more than 60% for the year so far. However, the stock dropped 1.43% on Wednesday prior to the event, and nearly 3% after hours.

According to Ortex, a short interest tracker, “After delivering $4.5 billion in profits to short sellers in January, TSLA’s 19% rise in February has helped pile on losses for TSLA bears. ORTEX estimates that TSLA shorts incurred $3 billion in losses for February, the biggest short loss of the month by a meaningful margin (#2 was NVDA with a $1.5 billion loss for shorts).”

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Mizuho Securities analysts maintained a buy rating on shares of Tesla ahead of Investor Day, seeing Tesla in a leadership position in a growing market for fully electric vehicles. They wrote, in a note earlier this week, “Near-term, we see continued strength in TSLA’s market share, but see cheaper competitor EVs coming to market as potentially dilutive to TSLA’s share of the US EV market.”

Currently, the lowest-priced Tesla available is the Model 3 sedan, which starts at a price point of around $43,000, they wrote. Seven models from other automakers are currently priced below that, Mizhuo noted.

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Musk’s ambitious Master Plan Part Deux was published in 2016, and has not been completely fulfilled. It included four main objectives:

  • “Create stunning solar roofs with seamlessly integrated battery storage”
  • “Expand the electric vehicle product line to address all major segments”
  • “Develop a self-driving capability that is 10X safer than manual via massive fleet learning”
  • “Enable your car to make money for you when you aren’t using it”.

— CNBC’s Michael Bloom contributed to this report.



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TikTok CEO got grilled by lawmakers from both parties on whether the Chinese-owned app can protect American privacy

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TikTok Chief Executive Shou Zi Chew reacts during a session for him to testify before a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing entitled “TikTok: How Congress can Safeguard American Data Privacy and Protect Children from Online Harms,” as lawmakers scrutinize the Chinese-owned video-sharing app, on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 23, 2023.
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Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters

“Welcome to the most bipartisan committee in Congress,” boomed Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Ga., speaking to the TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew, a couple hours into a marathon hearing about the potential threat to U.S. consumers from the massively popular short-form video app.
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“We may not always agree on how to get there, but we care about our national security, we care about our economy and we sure as heck care about our children,” Carter said.

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Chew found little reprieve during the questioning from either side of the aisle on Thursday. Lawmakers grilled him on the app’s potential to harm kids through its addictive features and potentially dangerous posts, as well as whether data from U.S. users could end up in the hands of the Chinese government through its China-based owner, ByteDance.

After more than five hours of questioning, it’s clear that lawmakers on the committee are not satisfied with TikTok’s current ownership structure, even if not all of them are calling for a full ban. But Chew’s testimony did not quell many concerns that lawmakers had about its ties to China or the adequacy of its risk-mitigation plan, Project Texas. In some cases, it may even provide fodder for those who believe the risk from TikTok is unacceptable.

“I’ve not been reassured by anything you’ve said so far and I think quite frankly your testimony has raised more questions for me than answers,” Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del., said at one point in the hearing.

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It’s not clear how Thursday’s hearing will translate into action. But several members seemed focused on passing a comprehensive digital privacy bill, like the one the panel approved last Congress but didn’t get to the floor for a full chamber vote. That sort of legislation would help resolve data privacy concerns that exist across all tech companies, including U.S. businesses like Meta, Google, Twitter and Snap.

Read more about tech and crypto from CNBC Pro

Congress has been mulling such a bill for years with no results. Rep. Greg Pence, R-Ind., noted this was the 32nd hearing Congress has held on privacy and Big Tech.

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A ban or forced sale of the app, which some members think is the only way to solve the immediate risks, is another matter. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS) is reviewing ByteDance’s acquisition of TikTok’s predecessor app, Musical.ly. It could recommend that the president force divestment if members can’t agree on an acceptable alternative to mitigate national security risks.

Or, the government could find other ways to try to ban the app. For example, the bipartisan RESTRICT Act introduced in the Senate would give the Commerce secretary the ability to review technology from foreign adversary countries and recommend the president ban the technology if the risks can’t be appropriately mitigated.

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In one particularly dramatic moment on Thursday, Rep. Kat Cammack, R-Fla., played a video she found on TikTok showing what appeared to be an animated gun continuously reloading with the caption “Me asf at the, House Energy and Commerce Committee on 3/23/23.” TikTok removed the video at some point during the hearing.

TikTok played down the importance of Thursday’s hearing in a statement.

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“Shou came prepared to answer questions from Congress, but, unfortunately, the day was dominated by political grandstanding that failed to acknowledge the real solutions already underway through Project Texas or productively address industry-wide issues of youth safety,” TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter said. “Also not mentioned today by members of the Committee: the livelihoods of the 5 million businesses on TikTok or the First Amendment implications of banning a platform loved by 150 million Americans.”

Clarity on China connections

Chew began his opening remarks by sharing details of his background and the countries to which he’s been connected. Chew said that he’s lived in Singapore, the United Kingdom and the U.S. Like him, his parents were born in Singapore and his wife was born in Virginia.

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Notably, China wasn’t on the list.

But during the hearing, lawmakers drilled down into TikTok’s ties to China through its parent company.

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While TikTok recently found a few allies on Capitol Hill, lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee did not display a similar level of sympathy. On Wednesday, Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., likened the focus on TikTok to a “red scare” over China, but many of his Democratic colleagues on Thursday seemed deeply concerned about security risks stemming from TikTok’s Chinese ownership.

Throughout the hearing, the lawmakers interrogated Chew about the ability of China-based ByteDance employees to access U.S. data, its failure to remove some dangerous or harmful posts and whether the company has interacted or aligned itself with the Chinese Communist Party.

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Chew denied that TikTok shares data with the Chinese Communist Party. He said the company doesn’t have a policy to ask individual employees about their party affiliations in China, but pointed out that ByteDance CEO Liang Rubo is not a member of the party.

A key question for members of the committee seemed to be whether TikTok could uphold American values while being a subsidiary of a Chinese company. Lawmakers and intelligence officials fear that Chinese government officials could access U.S. user data from ByteDance through a Chinese law that allows officials to obtain company information for purported national security reasons.

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“We do not trust TikTok will ever embrace American values — values for freedom, human rights, and innovation,” said Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R.-Wash., who supports a TikTok ban, in prepared remarks.

“TikTok needs to be an American company with American values and end its ties to the Chinese Communist Party,” Rep. Darren Soto, R-Fla., later echoed.

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Chew admitted that China-based employees can still access some U.S. data, but that new data will stop flowing once the firm finishes deleting it from its Singapore and Virginia-based servers as part of its Project Texas mitigation plan.

But several members said they think the project is still inadequate to protect American data.

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“I don’t find what you suggested with Project Texas and this firewall that’s being suggested to whoever will be acceptable to me,” ranking member Frank Pallone, D-N.J., said. “I still believe that the Beijing communist government will still control and have the ability to influence what you do.”

It didn’t help that The Wall Street Journal reported that China said it would oppose a forced sale of TikTok, saying that it would involve an export of technology.

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“Despite your assertions to the contrary, China certainly thinks it is in control of TikTok and its software,” said Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, pointing to the news article.

Burgess and others also asked Chew about his preparation and whether ByteDance employees were involved in getting him ready for the hearing. Chew said TikTok’s team in D.C. helped him prep.

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Later, Chew told Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Va., that TikTok shares legal counsel with ByteDance. Griffith said under that arrangement, “there is no firewall, legally,” since those lawyers could share information with each other.

When Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz., asked if Beijing has persecuted the Uyghur minority group in the country, Chew sought to redirect the discussion back to TikTok.

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“While it’s deeply concerning to hear about all accounts of human rights abuse, my role here is to explain what our platform does,” Chew said.

Later, when Rep. August Pfluger, R-Texas, asked if TikTok supports genocide, Chew again sought to bring the conversation back to app. Asked a second time, Chew answered that no, it does not.

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Toward the end of the hearing, Chew expressed that his testimony was attempting to do something almost impossible. Referencing a report that members brought up from the University of Toronto-based Citizen Lab, Chew said, “Citizen Lab is saying that they cannot prove a negative, which is what I have been trying to do for the last four hours.”

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WATCH: TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew: Never had any discussions with Chinese government officials as CEO

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew: Never had any discussions with Chinese government officials as CEO



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‘Can’t get their act together’: Crypto firms slam SEC, Washington for lack of clarity on rules

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Ethereum co-founder says ether is not a security
Crypto companies are frustrated at the U.S. government for its lack of clear rules for the industry and the Securities and Exchange Commission for its aggressive actions against digital currency firms, according to multiple executives who spoke to CNBC.

Unlike other countries, the U.S. has yet to come up with a comprehensive framework or set of regulations that allows cryptocurrency and blockchain firms to operate without fear of being targeted by regulators.

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Meanwhile, since the collapse of crypto exchange FTX last year, the U.S. SEC has stepped up enforcement action against companies.

On Wednesday, the SEC sent exchange Coinbase a Wells notice, warning the company that it had identified potential violations of U.S. securities law. The SEC also unveiled fraud and unregistered securities charges against crypto founder Justin Sun and celebrities that endorsed the digital coins he was pushing.

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The SEC is currently in legal disputes with a number of other companies including Ripple, Genesis and Gemini.

“It feels uncollaborative,” a senior crypto executive at the Paris Blockchain Week event told CNBC, wishing to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the matter. “It’s very frustrating for players that have been doing right the whole time.”

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Joe Lubin, CEO of ConsenSys and co-founder of Ethereum, told CNBC Thursday that he thought the ecosystem was “generally frustrated.”

“I think we’re sort of continuing to watch the SEC play this game of punishing the people that are still surviving. And it’s a little bit, you know, sort of a frustrating thing to observe,” Nicolas Cary, president of Blockchain.com, told CNBC on Thursday.

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Much of what the SEC has done involves applying existing regulations to the crypto industry, which were formed several decades after the Howey Test — one of the key tests to determine whether something is a security or not.

Many in the crypto industry feel this is not the right path to take.

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“Where I think you have less successful regulatory regimes is when you try to analyze crypto through the lens of traditional finance. You say, ‘well, is it a bit like a security? Is it a commodity?’ … No, it’s kind of none of those things. It’s crypto,” Oliver Linch, CEO of Bittrex Global, told CNBC Wednesday.

The SEC was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.

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‘Clarity’

CNBC spoke to numerous executives on the ground at Paris Blockchain Week, one of the most prominent crypto conferences in Europe, and one request executives made to U.S. regulators was the need for clarity.

“We’d love to have a little bit more clarity in regulation,” Silvio Micali, founder of blockchain company Algorand, told CNBC on Wednesday.

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Bitcoin has had a strong start to the year with the cryptocurrency seeing a huge rally.

Jakub Porzycki | Nurphoto | Getty Images

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Some have expressed some sympathy with the SEC, however, suggesting that the watchdog is just operating within existing rules and that it is up to the U.S. government to change them.

“What are they supposed to do? If all you’re given is a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail,” Bittrex Global’s Linch said.

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Blockchain.com’s Cary said the SEC is “trying to do their job to protect consumers.”

What the SEC says

SEC Chair Gary Gensler addressed a lot of these points in a opinion piece he wrote in The Hill this month, suggesting the regulator has been clear on the rules.

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“I find the talking point that there’s a lack of clarity in the securities laws unpersuasive,” Gensler said. “Some crypto companies might message that the laws are unclear rather than admitting that their platforms don’t have sufficient investor protection.”

Crypto industry frustrated by SEC's enforcement actions

He laid out instances where crypto firms come under existing securities laws, such as when a company offers lending products.

Gensler also said “crypto intermediaries aren’t exactly lining up to register with the SEC and comply with the laws enacted by Congress.”

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The SEC chair said enforcement actions are “another tool” in the regulator’s toolbox to root out “noncompliance.”

U.S. risks falling behind Europe

Executives have warned that the lack of clear regulation in the U.S. could see it fall behind other countries and jurisdictions.

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“It’s incumbent, I think, on Congress to actually create a legal regulatory framework that regulates crypto properly, because … crypto is here to stay,” Linch said.

Governments across the globe are weighing up how to regulate crypto. Places like Switzerland and Dubai have marketed themselves as crypto-friendly destinations with favorable regulation.

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Meanwhile, the European Union is slated this year to introduce the Markets in Crypto-Assets, or MiCA, regulation, designed to bring some rules in and around digital currency companies.

Ripple optimistic about reaching positive resolution to SEC case, president says

When asked by CNBC if the U.S. is at risk of falling behind other jurisdictions in the crypto economy, Monica Long, president of Ripple, said: “We think so.”

“Europe is really emerging as a leader in terms of setting really clear regulations and rules that allow crypto companies and also traditional finance to embrace crypto,” Long said.

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The Ripple president referenced MiCA, a law that required the agreement of all 27 nations that make up the EU, calling it “remarkable when the U.S. has one government and they can’t get their act together.”



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These tech giants are still making money, but layoffs are coming hard and fast

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Google and Facebook parent Meta are some of the companies that have laid off workers in recent months.
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From the U.S. to Europe and Asia, global tech giants from Microsoft and Google, to Amazon, SAP and more have laid off thousands of employees since the start of the year.
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That’s despite most of these companies being profitable.

“Headcount reduction is a result of over hiring during the pandemic and a slower growth outlook than originally forecasted,” according to a report by financial services company Jefferies.

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With interest rates and inflation remaining elevated, consumers are pulling back spending amid uncertainty in the global economy.

As a result, companies “need to reduce headcount in order to regain operating efficiency with a headcount that matches current demand trends,” the analysts at Jefferies said.

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With interest rates rising, capital has become more expensive and companies started reining in their headcount costs.

“Particularly for startups, the surge in employment was partly fueled by cheap capital,” wrote a Bank of America Global Research report.

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Here are some of the more prominent global tech firms that have axed staff despite earning big money.

Microsoft

Microsoft posted a net profit of $16.4 billion for the quarter ended Dec. 31, down 8% from a year ago. Its cloud business drove results, with Microsoft Cloud revenue at $27.1 billion, up 22% year-over-year.

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The firm also delivered “record results” in fiscal year 2022 ended Jun. 30 despite a “dynamic environment,” CEO Satya Nadella said in the tech giant’s annual report.

“We reported $198 billion in revenue and $83 billion in operating income. And the Microsoft Cloud surpassed $100 billion in annualized revenue for the first time,” he said in the fiscal year 2022 report.

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Despite that, Microsoft announced in January that it’s laying off 10,000 workers as the firm braces for slower revenue growth.

Alphabet, parent of Google

Google parent Alphabet announced in January it will be cutting 12,000 workers.

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The company missed on earnings and revenue in the fourth quarter, but managed to eke out a 1% year-on-year revenue growth for the quarter ended December.

CFO Ruth Porat said during the earnings call that Alphabet added 3,455 people during the quarter, most of them technical roles.

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She also told CNBC’s Deirdre Bosa the company is meaningfully slowing the pace of hiring in a bid to deliver profitable growth in the longer run.

“Over the past two years we’ve seen periods of dramatic growth. To match and fuel that growth, we hired for a different economic reality than the one we face today,” said CEO Sundar Pichai, in a memo to staff.

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Amazon

SAP

Germany’s SAP said it met guidance across the board for full year 2022, with cloud revenue increasing 24% from a year ago. The enterprise software company also returned to positive operating profit growth of 2%.

However, SAP announced in January that it’s cutting up to 3,000 jobs, as the leadership seeks to steer the company toward double-digit profit growth in 2023.

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Sea Group

Singapore-based tech giant Sea Group reported net income of $422.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2022 — the company’s first quarterly profit since it started in 2019.

Days later, the Indonesian unit of Sea’s e-commerce arm Shopee conducted a fresh round of layoffs, affecting less than 500 full-time and contractual employees, according to media reports.

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Last year, the company reportedly already cut more than 7,000 jobs — or about 10% of its workforce.

Other tech firms in Asia have not been spared either.

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Indonesia’s GoTo Group, Singapore’s Sea Group, Carousell, Foodpanda and South Korea’s Naver and Kakao are some of the companies that have cut employees in the last few months.

Dell

Meta announces more layoffs

The headcount reduction was conducted in an effort to “stay ahead of downturn impacts,” co-COO Jeff Clarke said in a memo to employees.

While fiscal year 2023 revenue improved, Dell’s operating income dipped 26% to $1.18 billion in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2023 as demand for PCs and laptops slowed globally.

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Apple

Apple has dodged mass layoffs so far, having hired at a slower pace than Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Meta.

But the iPhone-maker is also seen tightening its belt.

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The company reportedly delayed bonuses for some employees and limited hiring in March. Apple let go of contract staff in August, according to a Bloomberg report.

The iPhone maker missed expectations for revenue, profit, and sales for several lines of business in the first quarter of fiscal year 2023 which ended Dec. 31 last year.

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CEO Tim Cook blamed it on a strong dollar, production disruptions in China, and macro headwinds.

This is not exhaustive list.

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