How CEOs see today’s coronavirus world10 min read . Updated: 01 May 2020, 01:34 PM IST
The leaders of Tesla, Microsoft and Facebook, among others, discuss the changes occurring during the Covid-19 pandemic
The Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting lockdowns are altering how businesses operate. Here is how some leaders of the world’s biggest companies described the changes they are seeing.
Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk
“So this is the time to think about the future, and also to ask, is it right to infringe upon people’s rights, as what is happening right now? I think people are going to be very angry about this and are very angry," Mr. Musk said.
“It’s like if somebody wants to stay in the house, that’s great. They should be allowed to stay in the house, and they should not be compelled to leave. But to say that they cannot leave their house, and they will be arrested if they do, this is fascist. This is not democratic. This is not freedom. Give people back their goddamn freedom."
Microsoft Corp. CEO Satya Nadella
“As Covid-19 impacts every aspect of our work and life, we have seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months. From remote teamwork and learning to sales and customer service to critical cloud infrastructure and security, we are working alongside customers every day to help them stay open for business in a world of remote everything," Mr. Nadella said.
“There is both immediate surge demand and systemic structural changes across all of our solution areas that will define the way we live and work going forward."
McDonald’s Corp. CEO Chris Kempczinski
“The exact trajectory of our recovery is highly uncertain," Mr. Kempczinski said. “The world is going to look different coming out of this crisis, and we expect that many of those changes are going to be enduring."
Facebook Inc. CEO Mark Zuckerberg
“Overall, I think during a period like this, there are a lot of new things that need to get built," Mr. Zuckerberg said. “And I think it’s important that rather than slamming on the brakes now, as I think a lot of companies may, that it’s important to keep on building and keep on investing and building for the new needs that people have, and especially to make up for some of the stuff that other companies would pull back on.
“In some ways, that’s an opportunity; in other ways, I think it’s a responsibility to keep on investing in the economic recovery."
Ford Motor Co. Chief Executive Jim Hackett
“Twenty-six years in a job like this, I never had a business plan that was called ‘pandemic,’" Mr. Hackett said. “We just never imagined the economy turning off."
“There is no future if we don’t have an economic system that is always on. We didn’t realize there was an off switch," Mr. Hackett said. “We knew it might go into a recession, more like a dimmer switch, but off?"
“The way I think about the crisis is, you’ve got a priority first of stabilizing [so] you can operate and recover some of the costs that are just flying out the door," Mr. Hackett said. “In parallel, we have begun planning in discussions with the spirit of, ‘Don’t waste the crisis.’"
Yum Brands Inc. CEO David Gibbs
“The three-month period we are going through is going to equate to three years of consumer changes wrapped up in one quarter," CEO David Gibbs said in an interview. “We are reinventing our business on the fly."
“There are going to be some issues we are dealing with now that are temporary. There will be a lot of things that will be more permanent," Mr. Gibbs said. “Our business leaders need to adapt to them."
General Electric Co. CEO Larry Culp
“This is an unprecedented decline in the aviation market and is likely to be challenging for a while," Mr. Culp said in an interview. “We are well aware that it may take a while" for air travel to recover.
Spotify Technology SA CEO Daniel Ek
“When I look ahead, both short and long term, I’m always thinking about what Spotify’s role is within the larger ecosystem. And while most focus is on competition between streaming services, we continue to be focused on the billions of users that are listening to linear radio," Mr. Ek said.
“The 20-year trend is that everything linear dies, and on-demand wins. This is a trend that we suspect will be accelerated by the COVID pandemic. Time at home has moved people out of their cars, requiring them to shift their listening behavior and that’s when they discover streaming and Spotify is the best-positioned to capitalize on this. And because we offer a personalized and on-demand experience, they end up staying."
Google parent Alphabet Inc. Sundar Pichai
“Q1 was in many ways the tale of two quarters. For our advertising business, the first two months of the quarter were strong. In March, we experienced a significant and sudden slowdown in ad revenues," Mr. Pichai said. “Overall, recovery in ad spend will depend on a return to economic activity."
PepsiCo Inc. CEO Ramon Laguarta
“We need to be careful that we don’t project straight lines—the moment the state opens, we are all free and the business will come back. I think there’s going to be a lot of iterations."
“With some exceptions, we largely expect consumers to eventually return to previous habits, as they slowly exit confinement and cautiously settle into a new normal," Mr. Laguarta said. “As behaviors evolve, we expect to see a gradual improvement in [convenience-store and gas-station sales] as people return to work, while the restaurants and venues that involve large gatherings such as movie theaters or sporting events take longer to adjust."
United Parcel Service Inc. CEO David Abney
“We just don’t know when, and we don’t know how far it’s going to bounce back," Mr. Abney said, referring to the dramatic shift to home deliveries from business-to-business shipments. “We don’t know that we’ll ever get back to what we’d call the old normal, but we’re not ready to declare what we see today as a new normal either."
Snap Inc. CEO Evan Spiegel
“We believe that this will accelerate the digital transformation across many businesses, and that the heightened levels of activity we are seeing today will lead to a sustained uplift in the digital economy over time," Mr. Spiegel said.
Intel Corp. CEO Robert Swan
“Near-term PC demand has increased due to work-from-home and online learning, but the second half demand picture is more uncertain. We continue to assess how Covid-19 impacts to the economy will offset the immediate catalysts for more remote work and will balance wafer start plans accordingly," Mr. Swan said.
Coca-Cola Co. CEO James Quincey
“We may be at the end of the big global lockdown, but we are still a long way from the new normal," Mr. Quincey said.
“It’s not so much of a time for trying out all sorts of new and different things if incomes are under pressure," Mr. Quincey said. “You tend to go back to what is known. There will be some favoring of tried and trusted in the short term."
Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. CEO Brian Niccol
“You spend a lot of your time ensuring how you can execute your business in this environment in a safe way," Mr. Niccol said in an interview. “You look back on history, and after 1918 flu came the roaring 20s. We got through it then, and we can get through it now. People are resilient."
Texas Instruments Inc. CEO Richard Templeton
Mr. Templeton said Texas Instruments plans to keep chip production at its factories steady to be positioned for an economic recovery, given its experience in the 2008 financial crisis.
“With the benefit of hindsight, our customers overcorrected to the downside, and we then spent a year and a half chasing back up to support demand," he said of the last recession. With this crisis, “we want to ensure that we have the highest degree of optionality so that we can deal successfully with any outcome."
Netflix Inc. CEO Reed Hastings
“We had an increase in subscriber growth in March. It’s essentially a pull-forward at the rest of the year. So, our guess is that subs will be light in Q3 and Q4 relative to prior years because of that.
“But we don’t use the words guess and guesswork lightly. We use them because it’s a bunch of us feeling the wind. And it’s hard to say. But again, will internet entertainment be more and more important over the next five years? Nothing has changed in that," Mr. Hastings said.
Blackstone Group Inc. President Jonathan Gray
“We’re certainly not in the ‘V’ camp. We’ve been debating what the shape is," Mr. Gray told The Wall Street Journal. “I think it’s an elongated recovery. That’s why we’re not rushing to invest."
AT&T Inc. CEO Randall Stephenson
The pandemic will probably have “long-lasting implications for many things we used to take for granted, like how we congregate, work, travel, interact." But “[b]ottom line, we have very little visibility," Mr. Stephenson said.
“We bring in the smartest and the most genius economists in the world, and you can bring a dozen of them in, and the range of possible outcomes just for the second quarter of 2020 is unbelievably wide," he said.
World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. CEO Vince McMahon
“I don’t know that we’re going to be in the, quote, ‘live event business’ as we were before. I think no one can predict what’s going to happen here. We’re ready if it’s allowed, but I think that’s one of the things, that going forward, I think it’s going to take a while for consumers to want to come out," Mr. McMahon said.
“I think it’s going to be more content-oriented, heavily marketed and in terms of—not live events—but more in terms of programming and social and digital media, which are way up. There are a lot of things we can do there. So, I’d say, creative environment is the way I look at it. Obviously, it’s not a problem, it’s an opportunity."
Las Vegas Sands Corp. CEO Sheldon Adelson
Mr. Adelson said the casino operator is continuing with a $2.2 billion capital investment plan for its Macau resorts, despite gambling revenue in the Chinese territory being down.
“Now is not the time to pause or slow down investment in Macau," Mr. Adelson said. “We see the opportunity and possess both the financial strength and the strategic commitment to make additional investment. With our effort to accelerate investment in Macau, we intend to play a part in supporting the local economy in the short term, and ensure we are in the leading position to capture the eventual recovery in tourism spending."
International Business Machines Corp. CEO Arvind Krishna
“It was a tough decision to withdraw guidance. But these are unprecedented times, and this quarter is not the time to declare that we have clarity—that does not benefit us, and it does not benefit you as investors and analysts," Mr. Krishna said.
Domino’s Pizza Inc. CEO Ritch Allison
“The restaurant industry is facing an existential crisis, and no one knows how many restaurants will survive, or what form the industry will take," Mr. Allison said. “We also don’t know how consumer behaviors and purchasing patterns may evolve."
“I don’t think consumers are going to snap right back to the old patterns and behaviors."
Kimberly-Clark Corp. CEO Michael Hsu
“I don’t think we ever felt like we would be arguing over epidemiological models, and we are. And we’re working through—actually through 11 of them—and they all have different assumptions. While that makes it difficult for us to call the business for this purpose, I will tell you from an operating perspective, we are using those models to predict outcomes to drive scenario planning and contingency plans for all of our operations around the world," Mr. Hsu said.
Schlumberger Ltd. CEO Olivier Le Peuch
Despite the recent agreement by the world’s largest oil producers to cut production, “Q2 is likely to be the most uncertain and disruptive quarter that the industry has ever seen," Mr. Le Peuch said.
“It will require a level of response and depth of resilience that have yet to be fully realized. The actions we have taken so far have been focused on those things we can control in protecting our business—with a clear priority on cash and liquidity—in an uncertain industry and global environment," Mr. Le Peuch said.
This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.