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Mergers and acquisitions make a comeback as TikTok deal seizes headlines

A slew of high-profile headlines led by Microsoft's expected acquisition of social media video app TikTok helped bring the Nasdaq to another record high on Monday.

Why it matters: The mergers-and-acquisitions market looks like it's bouncing back, joining the revived credit and equity markets as well as the market for new public companies through IPOs and special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs).


  • Goldman Sachs did warn in a recent note to clients that the 51 SPAC offerings this year — raising a record $21.5 billion that's up 145% from the same period a year ago — have lagged on performance so far.

What's happening: In addition to Microsoft's big pickup, security company ADT saw its shares jump 56.6% on news that Google plans to buy a nearly 7% stake for $450 million to use ADT services in its Nest home security devices.

  • Varian Medical Systems jumped 22% on news of a $16 billion buyout by Germany’s Siemens Healthineers, and Kansas City Southern gained after a report of a takeover bid expected to be worth $20 billion, Reuters reported.

Flashback: Data firm CB Insights reported last month that M&A deals started picking back up in the back half of the second quarter, but with significantly more deals in Asia where VC deal activity rose 20% quarter over quarter.

  • North America and the rest of the world now look to be picking up the pace.

The big picture: “The market is revolving around M&A activity possibly picking up,” Jake Dollarhide, CEO of Longbow Asset Management, told Reuters. “It means CEOs are more confident about the future. Otherwise, why would they lay out billions of dollars?”

Yes, but: As Axios' Dan Primack noted in mid-July, the approval time for big deals has been increasing as the coronavirus pandemic has slowed and scattered government agencies needed to sign off on them.

  • In general, U.S. regulators have beefed up scrutiny of new deals, especially when there are multibillion-dollar companies involved.
  • This could mean that even as more firms agree to tie-ups in 2020, they could be delayed through the end of the year.

By the numbers: The announced deal value for U.S.-based companies through July 9 was 64% lower than the same period in 2019, according to Refinitiv, with aggregate deal value between Q1 and Q2 2020 down more than 40%.

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Why the startup world needs to ditch "unicorns" for "dragons"

When Aileen Lee originally coined the term "unicorn" in late 2013, she was describing the 39 "U.S.-based software companies started since 2003 and valued at over $1 billion by public or private market investors."

Flashback: It got redefined in early 2015 by yours truly and Erin Griffith, in a cover story for Fortune, as any privately-held startup valued at $1 billion or more. At the time, we counted 80 of them.

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Scoop: Facebook's new moves to lower News Feed's political volume

Facebook plans to announce that it will de-emphasize political posts and current events content in the News Feed based on negative user feedback, Axios has learned. It also plans to expand tests to limit the amount of political content that people see in their News Feeds to more countries outside of the U.S.

Why it matters: The changes could reduce traffic to some news publishers, particularly companies that post a lot of political content.

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Scoop: Amazon quietly getting into live audio business

Amazon is investing heavily in a new live audio feature that's similar to other live audio offerings like Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces and Spotify's new live audio platform, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: As with Amazon's efforts in podcasting and music subscriptions, the company sees live audio as a way to bolster the types of content it can offer through its voice assistant, Alexa, and its smart speaker products.

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Hurricane Ida exposes America's precarious energy infrastructure

The powerful hurricane that plunged New Orleans into darkness for what could be weeks is the latest sign that U.S. power systems are not ready for a warmer, more volatile world.

The big picture: “Our current infrastructure is not adequate when it comes to these kinds of weather extremes,” Joshua Rhodes, a University of Texas energy expert, tells Axios.

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"We must go further": 70% of adults in European Union are fully vaccinated

About 70% of adults in the European Union are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said Tuesday.

Why it matters: The milestone makes the E.U. one of the world's leaders in inoculations, after an initially lagging vaccine campaign, the New York Times notes.

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What Elizabeth Holmes jurors will be asked ahead of fraud trial

Jury selection begins today in USA v. Elizabeth Holmes, with the actual jury trial to get underway on Sept. 8.

Why it matters: Theranos was the biggest fraud in Silicon Valley history, putting both hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of patients' health at risk.

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