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Juul: The rise of a $38bn e-cigarette phenomenon

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A woman vapes a JuulImage copyright
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Juul has experienced explosive growth – but will it continue?

Juul has all the qualities of a standard Silicon Valley success – fat profit margins, explosive growth, and even the cultural cachet to make its name a verb.

But the three-year-old start-up is not a simple technology company: it sells addictive e-cigarettes.

Its popularity among teens has provoked a backlash from authorities, and the announcement last month that it would join forces with Altria, which makes Marlboro cigarettes, has only ramped up the controversy.

So how did the firm grow to be worth more than $38bn (£30bn)?

How did the firm start?

Juul shares an origin story with many other Silicon Valley firms.

Founders Adam Bowen, 43, and James Monsees, 38, met in the early 2000s while in graduate school at Stanford University, where they were studying product design.

Smokers themselves, they went looking for a way to make cigarettes less carcinogenic and foul-smelling, and more socially acceptable.

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Co-founders Adam Bowen (L) and James Monsees (R) are now worth billions, according to Forbes

They set up their company Pax Labs in 2007 and spent about a decade working on vape products, before launching Juul in 2015.

The device, often likened to an unusually long flash drive, ignites liquids inserted via a pod, which come in flavours such as tobacco, mint and mango and can deliver a rush of nicotine roughly equivalent to a pack of cigarettes.

How big is Juul?

Pax Labs spun out Juul as an independent company in 2017, and since then the firm’s growth has been astonishing.

In 2018 alone, Juul expanded from about 225 employees to roughly 1,500, as sales more than tripled, according to analyst estimates.

The firm now claims some 70% of the US e-cigarette market, putting it on track to make what some analysts estimate will be well over $2bn in sales this year.

Juul also sells in seven countries outside the US, including the UK, Germany and France.

Altria’s deal to take a 35% stake in Juul, valued the firm at more than $38bn – more than double the $16bn valuation settled on during its most recent financing round in July.

The deal made Juul’s two co-founders billionaires, according to Forbes. It also put their three-year-old start-up on a par with the market cap of publicly listed companies such as Ford and Delta Airlines.

What’s unique about Juul?

The company doesn’t use the cancer-causing tobacco-burning process of traditional cigarettes.

But in the US, Juul pods deliver more nicotine than many rival e-cigarette brands – a design the firm says was intended to help switch smokers to their products.

That addictive quality is one reason why Juul has caught on.

Analysts also cite Juul’s flavours, discreet size and easy-to-use features, while critics blame early advertising campaigns for creating a “cool” factor that appealed to youth.

Investors focused on Juul’s financial prospects emphasise that its products are cheaper than cigarettes and have higher profit margins.

Why does this matter?

There are about 38 million adults who smoke cigarettes in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, though that number is falling. The percentage of adult smokers dropped from almost 21% in 2005 to about 15.5% in 2016.

Just how much of that is due to e-cigarettes isn’t entirely clear.

But Juul – which has a stated mission of replacing traditional cigarettes – argues that its growth, alongside an accelerating decline in cigarette sales, is no coincidence.

About 25% to 45% of Juul’s sales may be replacing cigarette consumption, Piper Jaffray analysts estimate.

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AFP

Those trends pose enough of a threat for Altria to pay top dollar.

“Although we think Juul had [Altria] over a barrel, the best decision in our view was for [Altria] to bite the bullet [and] take a stake in Juul rather than face potential downside risk,” Bonnie Herzog, a managing director at Wells Fargo Securities wrote in a note to clients.

On a call with investors, Altria boss Howard Willard said he was confident that Juul was worth the price, noting that Altria had been monitoring the firm’s growth for some time.

“What continually happened was they exceeded our optimistic growth projections,” he said.

So will Juul’s growth continue?

The tie-up with Altria should help Juul get its products into more stores in the US and benefit from Altria’s lobbying operation.

The firm is also at the start of what is planned to be a major international expansion, after venturing abroad for the first time in 2018.

But there’s a lot of uncertainty ahead.

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Media captionSweet tasting e-cigarettes “recruit” children

In the US, where authorities have pronounced e-cigarette use among teens an “epidemic”, Juul has announced steps to curb their use among younger buyers, including suspending sales of some of its popular flavours – such as mango, creme and cucumber – in stores.

The firm, which is under investigation by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), also shut down social media accounts and pledged $30m towards research as well as youth and parent education.

Abroad, the company faces different regulatory challenges – notably restrictions on nicotine levels in some markets, including the UK, which could make its pods less distinctive compared with rival e-cigarettes.

In the US, Juul sells pods that contain 5% nicotine by weight – higher than many of its competitors – whereas in places such as the EU it is restricted to 1.7%.

And while analysts say the firm’s profit margins on its products are well above traditional cigarettes, that’s at least in part because they are free of the kinds of taxes levied on traditional tobacco.

Morgan Stanley analyst Pamela Kaufman said at the moment Altria’s decision to invest looks strategic, albeit pricey, but there are risks due to the “potential for further FDA regulation”.

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Riot police squads intervene as pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protesters clash in Montreal

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People wave flags atop cars in traffic during a demonstration to voice support for the people of Palestine, at Toronto City Hall in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on 15 May 2021.


People wave flags atop cars in traffic during a demonstration to voice support for the people of Palestine, at Toronto City Hall in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on 15 May 2021.

  • Violence
    between pro-Israel and pro-Palestine protesters in Montreal was condemned by
    Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
  • Montreal’s
    city police force intervened and declared the protests illegal after tensions
    heightened and clashes broke out.
  • Israeli
    strikes killed 42 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the worst daily
    toll in almost a week of clashes.

Montreal
– Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Sunday condemned the violence and
“despicable rhetoric” that marked several weekend protests throughout
the country, after clashes between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protesters in
Montreal.

The
worst violence in years, sparked by unrest in Jerusalem, is raging between the
Jewish state and Islamist militants.

Israeli
strikes killed 42 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the worst daily
toll in almost a week of deadly clashes.

Speaking
after protests in Montreal, Trudeau condemned what he said was “despicable
rhetoric and violence we saw on display in some protests this weekend”.

While
insisting on the “right to assemble peacefully and express themselves
freely in Canada”, Trudeau stressed in a tweet that there was no tolerance
for “antisemitism, Islamophobia, or hate of any kind”.

Earlier
on Sunday, Montreal police used tear gas following clashes between pro-Israel
and pro-Palestinian protesters.

Several
hundred demonstrators, draped in Israeli flags, had gathered in a central
Montreal square to express solidarity with the Jewish state.

‘Protesting is a right’

Although
the protest started peacefully, tensions ratcheted up with the arrival of
pro-Palestinian demonstrators and clashes soon broke out.

The
SPVM, Montreal’s city police force, declared the protests illegal, and squads
of riot police intervened, using tear gas to separate and disperse the two
groups, according to an AFP journalist at the scene.

The
police spent much of the afternoon in pursuit of the pro-Palestinian
protesters, who spread out and regrouped in commercial streets in the city centre.

Following
the clashes, Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante said on Twitter that
“protesting is a right”, but that “intolerance, violence and
anti-Semitism have no place here”.

She said:

Montreal is a city of peace.

Several
thousand pro-Palestinian demonstrators had gathered on Saturday in central
Montreal to denounce what they said were Israeli repression and “war
crimes” in Gaza.

“Terrorist
Israel”, some protesters chanted, while others held up a banner that read,
“Stop the genocide of Palestinian children”.

Pro-Palestinian
protests happened the same day in multiple Canadian cities, including Toronto,
Ottawa and Vancouver.


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Peter Thiel Helps Fund an App That Tells You What to Do

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“How would you feel about being able to pay to control multiple aspects of another person’s life?” asks the BBC.

“A new app is offering you the chance to do just that.”

When writer Brandon Wong recently couldn’t decide what takeaway to order one evening, he asked his followers on social media app NewNew to choose for him. Those that wanted to get involved in the 24-year-old’s dinner dilemma paid $5 (£3.50) to vote in a poll, and the majority verdict was that he should go for Korean food, so that was what he bought…

NewNew is the brainchild of Los Angeles-based entrepreneur Courtne Smith. The app, which is still in its “beta” or pre-full release stage, describes itself as “a human stock market where you buy shares in the lives of real people, in order to control their decisions and watch the outcome”. For many of us that sounds a bit ominous, but the reality is actually far less alarming. It is aimed at what it calls “creators” — writers, painters, musicians, fashion designers, bloggers etc. It is designed as a way for them to connect far more closely with their fans or followers than on other social media services and, importantly, monetise that connection…

Whenever a vote is cast the creator gets the money minus NewNew’s undisclosed commission… In addition to voting, followers can also pay extra — from $20 — to ask a NewNew creator to do something of their choosing, such as naming a character in a book after them. But the creator can reject all of these “bids”, and if they do so then the follower doesn’t have to part with the money…

Co-founder and chief executive Ms Smith, a 33-year-old Canadian, has big plans for NewNew, and has some heavyweight backers. Investors include Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal, and the first outside person to put money into Facebook. Others with a stake in the business include leading US tech investment fund Andreessen Horowitz, and Hollywood actor Will Smith (no relation to Courtne). Snapchat has also given technical support.

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Sandpapergate will haunt Australia cricket forever: ex-bowling coach

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Cameron Bancroft. (Photo by Brenton Geach - Gallo Images/Getty Images)


Cameron Bancroft. (Photo by Brenton Geach – Gallo Images/Getty Images)

The 2018 ball-tampering scandal will haunt Australian cricket forever, much like the infamous underarm delivery of 40 years ago, the team’s former bowling coach David Saker said on Monday.

Saker was responding to opening batsman Cameron Bancroft suggesting that Australia’s bowlers knew about the plan in Cape Town to alter the ball which earned him a nine-month ban and rocked the game.

Saker was Australia’s bowling coach when Bancroft was caught trying to rough up the ball with sandpaper during the third Test against South Africa.

While refusing to be drawn on who knew what, Saker said “the finger-pointing is going to go on and on and on”.

“It’s like the underarm, it’s never going to go away,” he told Fairfax Media, referring to a 1981 incident when Trevor Chappell bowled underarm to ensure New Zealand lost a one-day match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

The notorious delivery is still cited in New Zealand and in cricketing circles as a prime example of unsporting conduct.

However, the ball-tampering scandal – dubbed “sandpapergate” – had a greater impact on Australian cricket, with the then-captain Steve Smith and his deputy David Warner suspended for a year from all cricket and stripped of their leadership roles.

Darren Lehmann also quit as coach and all the top brass from Cricket Australia left after a scathing review blasted their “arrogant and controlling” win-at-all-costs culture.

No one else among the team or coaching staff was held to account but Bancroft’s remarks in an interview with The Guardian newspaper hinted that the team’s bowlers at least knew about the plan.

“Obviously what I did benefits bowlers and the awareness around that, probably, is self-explanatory,” he said.

Saker added: “There was a lot of people to blame. It could have been me to blame, it could have been someone else. It could have been stopped and it wasn’t, which is unfortunate.

“Cameron’s a very nice guy. He’s just doing it to get something off his chest … He’s not going to be the last.”

In response, Cricket Australia said that if anyone had new information, they would look into it.

Saker said he was not opposed to a fresh investigation but added “I just don’t know what they’re going to find out.”

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Mexico’s Andrea Meza crowned Miss Universe

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Miss Universe Andrea Meza


Miss Universe Andrea Meza

UPDATE:

MISS UNIVERSE 2020/2021 IS ANDREA MEZA FROM MEXICO:


UPDATE:

THE MISS UNIVERSE 2020/2021 TOP 5:

1. Mexico

2. India

3. Brazil

4. Dominican Republic

5. Peru


UPDATE:

HERE ARE THE MISS UNIVERSE 2020/2021 TOP 10 CONTESTANTS:

1. Jamaica 

2. Dominican Republic 

3. India

4. Peru 

5. Australia 

6. Puerto Rico

7. Thailand

8. Costa Rica

9. Mexico

10. Brazil


UPDATE:

MISS UNIVERSE TOP 21 IN SWIMWEAR:


UPDATE:

MISS UNIVERSE TOP 21: 

1. Columbia

2. Peru 

3. Australia 

4. France

5. Myanmar

6. Jamaica 

7. Mexico 

8. Dominican Republic 

9. USA

10. Indonesia 

11. Argentina 

12. India

13. Curaçao

14. Puerto Rico

15. Phillipines 

16. Brazil

17. Great Britain

18. Nicaragua

19. Thailand 

20. Costa Rica

21. Vietnam


 UPDATE:

MISS UNIVERSE SOUTH AFRICA NATASHA JOUBERT WALKS THE STAGE AT MISS UNIVERSE 2020/2021:


74 contestants will compete for the title of Miss Universe on 16 May in Hollywood, Florida. 

The Miss Universe pageant takes place on 16 May in the US (02:00 to 05:00 on 17 May SA time). The show will be broadcast live on 1 Magic (DStv Channel 103) with a repeat at 21:30. 

Reigning Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi of South Africa will crown her successor at the end of the event.

Representing South Africa is Natasha Joubert, and South Africans are hoping for the “magic double” – back-to-back consecutive wins, which has only happened once before in the pageant’s history.

Natasha wowed crowds at the national costume competition last week and on Friday impressed during the preliminary round

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Miss Mexico crowned Miss Universe 2021

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By AFP Time of article published 16m ago

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Washington – Miss Mexico was crowned Miss Universe on Sunday in Florida, after fellow contestant Miss Myanmar used her stage time to draw attention to the bloody military coup in her country.

Sunday night marked the Miss Universe competition’s return to television, after the pageant was cancelled in 2020 for the first time due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Andrea Meza, 26, finished first ahead of the Brazilian and Peruvian finalists in a flashy televised event, hosted by American actor Mario Lopez and television personality Olivia Culpo.

Former Miss Universe contestants Cheslie Kryst, Paulina Vega and Demi-Leigh Tebow (who won the title in 2017) served as competition analysts and commentators, and a panel of eight women determined the winner.

Dressed in a sparkling red evening gown, Meza tearfully walked the catwalk as Miss Universe for the first time, before rushing back for a group hug with the other competitors.

Meza beat more than 70 contestants from around the globe in the 69th installment of Miss Universe, which was held at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.

In the days leading up to the final competition, Miss Myanmar Thuzar Wint Lwin, who made the top 21, made waves when she used her time in the spotlight to bring attention to the coup in her country.

“Our people are dying and being shot by the military every day,” she said during her biographical video, which showed photos of her taking part in the anti-coup protests. “Therefore I would like to urge everyone to speak out about Myanmar.”

Natasha Joubert, Miss Universe South Africa 2020 competes on stage in Ema Savahl swimwear during the MISS UNIVERSE® Preliminary Competition.

She also won the award for best national costume: during that competition segment on Thursday, she wore an outfit beaded in traditional Burmese patterns and held up a sign that said, “Pray for Myanmar.”

Myanmar has been in uproar since February 1, when the army ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

At least 796 people have been killed by security forces since then, according to a local monitoring group, while nearly 4 000 people are behind bars.

Miss Singapore Bernadette Belle Ong – who did not make the top 21 – also used the national costume portion to make a political statement.

Dressed in a glittering red bodysuit and matching thigh-high boots, she turned around to reveal her cape – in the colours of the Singaporean flag – was painted with the words “Stop Asian Hate.”

“What is this platform for if I can’t use it to send a strong message of resistance against prejudice and violence?” she wrote on Instagram alongside pictures of her outfit.

The United States in particular has seen a surge in anti-Asian violence in the past year, which activists have blamed on former president Donald Trump’s rhetoric, especially his repeated description of Covid-19 as the “China virus.”

The pageant has also drawn criticism in the past for objectifying the contestants.

In recent years, the competition has shifted image, focusing more on female empowerment and activism.

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