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Exxon CEO Darren Woods promises investors a strong dividend despite 2020 losses

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Exxon CEO Darren Woods told CNBC on Thursday the oil giant is committed to its dividend even though the company lost more than $20 billion in 2020 and as activist investors push for change.

“We’re going to continue to return cash to shareholders through a very strong dividend,” Woods said on “Squawk Box.”

He noted that 2020 was “certainly the worst environment” that Exxon has ever faced as the coronavirus brought global economies to a standstill, sapping demand for fuel. At one point, West Texas Intermediate crude futures dipped into negative territory — an event that many had previously thought impossible.

“We had to strike that balance of continuing to invest for the future, continuing to pay a dividend, and we used our balance sheet to kind of draw down through these very low periods of time,” Woods said.

Amid the challenges over the last year, Exxon slashed its capital spending plan and reduced its workforce in an effort to preserve its dividend. The cost-cutting measures meant the company continued its payout, although Exxon didn’t raise its dividend in a break with tradition.

The company’s current yield of 6.2% is among the highest in the S&P 500, making it an attractive bet for income-seeking investors.

Woods’ comments came a day after Exxon’s annual investor day, where the company highlighted its global portfolio, financial capability and commitment to reducing emissions through carbon capture.

In research reports following the investor day, Wall Street firms including Evercore ISI and Bank of America said they believe the dividend is safe.

Exxon has faced pressure from activist investors since at least December, and on Monday the company announced two new board members, including Jeff Ubben, an activist investor and ESG proponent.

The other new board member is Mike Angelakis, chairman and chief executive officer of Atairos and former CFO of Comcast.

“We were looking for people that have experience and a successful track record in allocating capital, finding value and opportunities and helping businesses transition, and I think Jeff and Michael really fit that bill,” Woods told “Squawk Box.”

Still, Engine No. 1, an activist group that’s been targeting Exxon since December, said the new board changes are not enough. The firm, which includes founders from activist hedge funds such as Partner Fund Management and Jana Partners and won the support of California pension giant CALSTRS, has nominated its own slate of four new directors.

“While ExxonMobil has now conceded the need for board change, what is missing are directors with diverse track records of success in the energy industry who can position the Company for success in a changing world,” Engine No. 1 said Wednesday.

Exxon shares were up 2.8% on Thursday morning. The stock is up 37% for 2021 through Wednesday’s close.

Disclosure: CNBC is owned by Comcast’s NBCUniversal unit.

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Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2021/03/04/exxon-ceo-darren-woods-says-company-will-still-pay-a-strong-dividend-despite-2020-losses.html

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Tesla’s solar panels and Powerwall batteries are becoming a package deal

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If you’re still thinking about getting a Tesla Powerwall or equip your roof with its redesigned solar panels, you should probably consider getting both or going elsewhere entirely. Elon Musk revealed in a tweet that “Starting next week, Tesla Solar Panels & Solar Roof will only be sold as an integrated product *with* Tesla Powerwall battery” creating the kind of brand synergy he’s been seeking.

Electrek reported last month that Tesla’s website had started telling potential Powerwall buyers that the only way to get the in-demand battery would be to order solar panels too, so it looks like this policy works both ways. Beyond just tying two big-ticket items together, Musk went on to say that “Tesla can unlock higher capabilities for free via software update next month” for Powerwall 2, and that for new installations, solar power will feed exclusively to the battery.

Of course, as Electrek also mentioned, even if you already have a contract with Tesla for your panels, it may have altered the deal with a higher price than originally estimated, citing “roof complexity.”

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/tesla-solar-powerwall-exclusive-bundle-063934061.html

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The US Postal Service is monitoring social media for ‘inflammatory’ postings

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The United States Postal Service may not be a likely candidate if you’re asked to name the government agencies you think are monitoring social media posts, but it’s apparently been doing just that. According to Yahoo News, the Postal Service’s law enforcement arm — the United States Postal Inspection Service or USPIS — has been running a surveillance program called the Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP). Analysts with the team have reportedly been trawling social media websites for “inflammatory” posts and then distributing the information they collect to other agencies through Homeland Security. 

Yahoo News got its hands on a document describing the kinds of content the iCOP analysts found revolving around planned protests for the World Wide Rally for Freedom and Democracy back in March. The bulletin contained posts collected from Facebook, Parler, Telegram and other social media sites. It noted that Parler users, in particular, commented about their intent to use the rallies to engage in violence, with some posters saying that it’s their opportunity to “do serious damage.” 

The iCOP analysts concluded that there was “no intelligence is available to suggest the legitimacy of these threats.” However, the notice said they will continue monitoring social networks and identifying posts discussing planned attacks and violent actions. 

That government agencies are keeping an eye on Parler and Facebook groups doesn’t come as a surprise, considering the role they played in giving people a platform to plan the Capitol riot back in January. Civil liberties experts expressed their surprised that the Postal Service is monitoring posts online, though, when the postal service isn’t related to social media. When asked by Yahoo News, the USPIS explained that its actions are meant to protect the postal service, its infrastructure, employees and its customers. It said in a statement:

“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is the primary law enforcement, crime prevention, and security arm of the U.S. Postal Service. As such, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service has federal law enforcement officers, Postal Inspectors, who enforce approximately 200 federal laws to achieve the agency’s mission: protect the U.S. Postal Service and its employees, infrastructure, and customers; enforce the laws that defend the nation’s mail system from illegal or dangerous use; and ensure public trust in the mail.

The Internet Covert Operations Program is a function within the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which assesses threats to Postal Service employees and its infrastructure by monitoring publicly available open source information.

Additionally, the Inspection Service collaborates with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to proactively identify and assess potential threats to the Postal Service, its employees and customers, and its overall mail processing and transportation network. In order to preserve operational effectiveness, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service does not discuss its protocols, investigative methods, or tools.”

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/us-postal-service-monitoring-social-media-050234115.html

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Disney’s new deal with Sony gets Spider-Man flicks on Disney+

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Just a couple of weeks ago, Sony Pictures closed a deal with Netflix over exclusive streaming rights for its theatrical streaming releases starting in 2022 as well as catalog titles and some new originals they will team up to produce. Now Disney has also announced a licensing deal with Sony Pictures for theatrical releases from 2022 – 2026, as well as number of its older catalog titles.

So what’s going on? Netflix’s deal secures exclusive US rights for the period after the movies are released theatrically and on Blu-ray / video on-demand, about nine months after they come out in theaters. Disney’s deal kicks in after that, for the window where movies usually run on cable TV or broadcast networks with ads (as Deadline mentions, this deal follows up on a similar one Sony had with the now-Disney-owned network FX). 

Other than new movies, the deal also secures streaming rights for older movies including Spider-Man movies that have been missing from the MCU set on Disney+ and evne Into the Spider-Verse (after their exclusivity on Netflix expires). Other than Disney+ and the company’s various cable networks, this also covers Hulu and a note in the press release it will add a “significant number of library titles” starting in June.

There’s no word on how much money is changing hands, but Sony Pictures exec Keith Le Goy said in a statement that “This agreement cements a key piece of our film distribution strategy, which is to maximize the value of each of our films, by making them available to consumers across all windows with a wide range of key partners.”

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/sony-disney-licensing-014946942.html

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‘Resident Evil 4’ comes out on Oculus Quest 2 this year

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As promised, Oculus had new details to share about the upcoming VR remaster of Resident Evil 4. When it comes out on Oculus Quest 2 later this year, you’ll get to replay the GameCube classic in first-person. That means many of the gameplay systems have gotten a tweak to make them better suited for VR. For instance, you can move Leon by pushing forward the analog stick on the Quest 2’s Touch controllers or by taking advantage of the teleportation and room-scale features developer Armature has added to the game. Weapons and items will be physical objects in the game world you’ll be able to pick up. That means if you want to switch to say your pistol, you can grab it from Leon’s holster instead of jumping into the menu. 

Outside of gameplay tweaks, Armature tried to keep the experience similar the one Resident Evil fans know and love. You’ll see cinematics in their original format and the studio says it faithfully recreated animations and textures in Unreal Engine 4. Oculus and Armature promised to share more details on the remaster soon. 

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/resident-evil-4-oculus-quest-2-223807329.html

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