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Home >News >World >What CEOs are seeing and saying about Covid, the Election and the Economy

This is what some of the world’s corporate leaders are saying on their quarterly earnings calls about issues ranging from Covid-19 to the U.S. presidential election.

The Pandemic

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. CEO Lisa Su:

“Our core business is doing very well. I think if you look at some of the components of that, the PC market environment is strong. If you look at all the work from home, school from home trends, I think that has certainly helped this year." (Oct. 27)

Spotify Technology SA CFO Paul Vogel:

“In general all consumption is back above pre-Covid levels. Minutes listened in cars are above pre-Covid levels. In-home listening on smart speakers and gaming consoles is very strong. So the areas that were strong early in lockdown continue to be strong and the weaker areas have recovered. We’re seeing people are in their cars for shorter sessions without their normal commutes and the time of day when people are listening is more spread out—the days look more like the weekends." (Oct. 29)

AutoNation Inc. CEO Mike Jackson:

“What’s happening here is a reorientation and prioritization of the household budget. What the American people are saying and doing is: ‘You know what, I want to move away from density. I want more space at home. I may be working more at home in the future than I thought I would be. And by the way, I love the independence of deciding when I move around and how I move around, and I’m not real excited to get back on public transportation.’ The fact that we have very attractive interest rates is a multiplier effect on this reorientation of the household budget." (Oct. 21)

Coca-Cola Co. financial chief John Murphy:

In China, consumers are “more or less back to where they were pre-Covid. The away-from-home channel is not quite back to where it was. They have managed from March through June to contain and pretty much eliminate the pandemic." China, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand “are all in a bucket that have demonstrated that taking a very disciplined set of measures and applying them consistently has allowed them to emerge faster." (Oct. 22)

Samsung Electronics Co. displays vice president Kim Won-hee:

“There’s still a possibility that with the increase of Covid-19 cases in key markets, such as the U.S. and Europe, some of these countries may go back into lockdown," Kim Won-hee said. “This may lead to economic contraction globally on a long-term basis." (Oct. 29)

Reopening the U.S.

Coca-Cola Co. CEO James Quincey:

“We continue to see progress, but the environment remains dynamic, and it is not a straight-line recovery around the world.…It’s important to remember the world is in a fragile state. We see reopening trends moderating and signs of stalling in September with the increase of restrictions in several markets. There is potential for increased regional lockdowns as we enter colder seasons in the Northern Hemisphere. We are prepared for setbacks." (Oct. 22)

MGM Resorts International CEO Bill Hornbuckle:

“We’re very optimistic that meetings and events at scale will eventually fully return. That being said, we continue to believe that the material recovery in Las Vegas is dependent on the return of larger scale conventions and entertainment platforms along, obviously, with significant air travel…Over the past week we’ve been watching Covid relative trends change across the globe, reminding us all that we’re not out of the woods yet." (Oct. 29)

Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook:

Mr. Cook highlighted precautions the company has taken in retail stores. Apple turned its stores into “an express storefront," he said. “We’ve implemented that in a number of places where we believe it helps from the safety of our employees and the safety of the customer’s point of view but still allows for an interaction to take place. And so we’ve also put a lot more people on the phones because a lot more people are reaching out to us in that way." (Oct. 29)

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. CEO Brian Niccol:

“We’re getting close to being back to where we were performing pre-Covid, even though we’re still in a Covid world. And, clearly, the composition of our sales are different, coming from our much more significant digital business." (Oct. 22)

Autoliv Inc. CEO Mikael Bratt:

Despite a strong third quarter for many auto companies, the risk of new shutdowns looms over future considerations for many companies. “We have, of course, clouds in the skies here in terms of Covid-19," Mr. Bratt said. “But it’s not raining yet." (Oct. 23)

Delta Air Lines Inc. CEO Edward H. Bastian:

“To see a meaningful step up in demand from here, we’ll need business travel to further improve, local quarantines to end and international restrictions to lift. That will only come with widespread advances by the medical community and offices reopening, which many expect will start to happen in the first half of next year." (Oct. 13)

American Airlines Group Inc. CEO Doug Parker:

“Certainly, you’ll see a better environment than we have today, irrespective of what may or may not have happened as it relates to the pandemic itself, because people are getting more and more comfortable with travel. And cities are opening up, and business is returning somewhat. So I think six months from now, it will certainly be better." (Oct. 22)

Netflix Inc. Co-CEO Ted Sarandos:

“Look, I think what’s been happening with consumers’ desire to see films at home has been growing, and we’ve been satisfying it. And I think that was kind of a natural migration that was already happening that this may have accelerated in some dimensions. But I think, at some point, theaters are going to reopen and people are going to go back out to the theaters. I hope so." (Oct. 20)

The Economy

Amazon.com Inc. financial chief Brian Olsavsky:

“I think there’s a lot of uncertainty certainly in Q4. We generally have a lot of uncertainty around the holiday—things from holiday spending to what our costs to fill normal orders would be, weather issues that can come up. This year is an election year. We saw some disruption in 2016. So there’s a whole host of issues that generally come to bear in Q4. I think the fact that Covid is dwarfing all of those is causing us a lot of uncertainty on our top line range. (Oct. 29)

General Electric Co. CEO Larry Culp:

“When it gets cold, people go inside and when people go inside, that tends to be when you see transmission of Covid. So the change of the seasons, I think was somewhat predictable, which is why we stayed away from trying to opine that we’ll be back at 2019 levels in the third quarter of ‘21 or the second quarter of ‘22 or the fourth quarter of ‘23. I just don’t think any of us have that level of visibility given the multiple variables at work. So what we’re trying to do is work on those things within our control and not be unduly optimistic or hopeful that someone’s going to deliver a vaccine tomorrow and all of this will go away." (Oct. 28)

Shake Shack Inc. CEO Randall J. Garutti:

“I think you have to be cautious. As you look out at Covid cases increasing, volatility, we have an election coming up, I think there’s a lot of unknowns in our country right now and globally. If you look at cases in Europe and how that may impact their economies, I think we just have to be cautious." (Oct. 29)

Spotify Technology SA CEO Daniel Ek:

“Initial results indicate that in markets where we’ve tested increased prices, our users believe that Spotify remains an exceptional value and they have shown a willingness to pay more for our service. So as a result, you will see us further expand price increases, especially in places where we’re well-positioned against the competition and our value per hour is high. I would, however, throw in one big caveat—we will continue to tread carefully in these Covid times to ensure we don’t get ahead of the market." (Oct. 29)

United Parcel Service Inc CEO Carol B. Tomé:

“Moving on to the upcoming holiday season, peak is extremely important to our customers, so it’s extremely important to us.…We added automated sort capacity and greatly expanded our weekend operations. We sped up our ground network and are using more real-time data to better manage the expected increase in volume. From my involvement in our peak preparations, I will tell you that, while we expect this holiday season to have its challenges, we are ready to deliver a successful peak." (Oct. 28)

United Parcel Service Inc. financial chief Brian Newman:

We see no signs that the structural market shift to e-commerce will slow anytime soon. In fact, forecasters estimate the e-commerce share of retail has been advanced by two to three years due to the pandemic. (Oct. 28)

JPMorgan Chase & Co. financial chief Jennifer Piepszak:

“We saw a surge in M&A activity this quarter with announced volumes returning to pre-Covid levels as companies began to shift their focus from day-to-day operations to more strategic and opportunistic thinking." (Oct. 13)

Union Pacific Corp. CEO Lance Fritz:

“We saw the economy coming back through the quarter. It snapped back pretty quickly and then grew more slowly, a little bit in fits and starts." (Oct. 22)

Unilever PLC CEO Alan Jope:

“We’ve moved from response mode to now living with Covid-19. But the environment that we’re operating in remains highly unpredictable, and we believe an economic downturn is inevitable. We think that planning for a quick macroeconomic recovery is too optimistic, and we don’t expect to see an acceleration in the near future." (Oct. 22)

Colgate-Palmolive Co. CEO Noel R. Wallace:

“On some of the more Covid-related categories that we’ve seen an increase in category growth, liquid hand soap would be one. Our research indicates clearly that behavior will stay, perhaps not at the current elevated levels, but will certainly, versus historical norms, be at a higher level. Likewise, a lot more people obviously cooking at home. So dish liquid has been significantly accelerated in that regard. I think as long as we see lockdowns, as long as we see people working from home, which, in our estimation, would be through at least half of next year, you’ll continue to see elevated rates." (Oct. 30)

Restaurant Brands International Inc. CEO José Cil:

“Our guests are still grappling with considerable uncertainty around the evolution of the pandemic and associated response measures as well as the implications for the economy and availability of stimulus and other resources." (Oct. 27)

The Rise of Digital

Facebook Inc. operating chief Sheryl Sandberg:

“The digital transformation has been under way for years, but the pandemic has accelerated it dramatically.…According to the US Census Bureau, before the pandemic, e-commerce’s share of US retail sales was steadily increasing by an average of 1 percentage point a year for the past four years. This share leapt by 4 percentage points in Q2 alone. That’s four years of change in less than 100 days. That doesn’t mean we will continue to see sustained acceleration. This may simply be future growth being pulled forward. But it is increasingly clear that the economic recovery will be driven by businesses finding customers and selling online." (Oct. 29)

Microsoft Corp. CEO Satya Nadella:

Overall, what we have learned over whatever—the last nine months or so—is the best way for any business to ensure both resilience as well as pivot and transform and reimagine how to work with some of the constraints is digital tech. So whether it’s infrastructure, whether it’s data or on [software as a service], it’s in fact increased adoption rate. (Oct. 27)

Nestle SA CEO Mark Schneider:

“This is the coming of age when it comes to digital in food and beverage. (Oct. 21)

Supply Chains

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. CEO Lisa Su:

“Our second half has certainly been very strong, and it was stronger than we originally planned. And so we’ve worked closely with our suppliers to improve the supply availability. And I would say that, even with that, demand still exceeds supply in certain segments.…We’re working very closely across the supply chain to ensure that we have enough wafer capacity as well as back-end capacity. And we’re going to continue to work on that. But certainly, there are areas where we would like the supply to be higher." (Oct. 27)

Brunswick Corp. CEO David M. Foulkes:

“We’re very actively managing and monitoring our supply chain. I would say that although we’re experiencing issues that we need to manage on a daily basis, nothing is really slowing us down. So it’s possible that will happen, but that is not the current situation." (Oct. 29)

Microsoft Corp. CEO Satya Nadella:

On the supply chain side, we have worked through. We did get, when we had the initial rush, we did have demand surges that needed us to sort of work through on our supply chain. We feel very good right now on how the supply is working to support the demand. (Oct. 27)

Bunge Ltd. CEO Greg Heckman:

“We do think that, as we’ve been through the cycle once, people have adjusted their supply chains. We still have people eating more at home than away from home, that the shift won’t be as dramatic and that people are more prepared. So, even with the roll in, we’re hoping that it doesn’t have the same impact.…We’re always concerned, but not as concerned, since we’ve been through that cycle once." (Oct. 28)

Unilever PLC CEO Alan Jope:

“There’s a crazy notion that nationalizing your supply chain creates greater resilience. That’s not the case. It’s having a globally connected supply chain with multiple points of back up." (Oct. 22)

Politics

Facebook Inc. CEO Mark Zuckerberg:

“Covid raises questions about how people will vote safely, which will lead to higher levels of voting by mail. I’m worried that with our nation so divided and election results potentially taking days or weeks to be finalized, there is a risk of civil unrest across the country. Given this, companies like ours need to go well beyond what we’ve done before. That’s why we’ve taken additional steps to help people register to vote however they’re comfortable, to clear up confusion about how this election will work and reduce the chance of uncertainty and unrest." (Oct. 29)

Northrop Grumman Corp. CEO Kathy Warden:

“We expect to see continued, strong, bipartisan support for national security in the future as indicated by the $740 billion targeted for fiscal year 2021 appropriations.…While we plan for various budget scenarios, defense spending is largely threat-driven. And today’s threat environment warrants a strong defense. Emerging threats are intensifying, and we believe both political parties are committed to effectively countering these threats." (Oct. 22)

Union Pacific Corp. CEO Lance Fritz:

“What we care about, regardless of who is in the administration, regardless of who controls Congress, is we want elected officials to focus on free, fair and open trade. We want them to be focused on helping the industrial economy grow and thrive in the United States. That means solid infrastructure and good tax policy." (Oct. 22)

Southwest Airlines Co. CEO Gary Kelly:

“We know what the current administration’s view is on imposing quarantines. What we wouldn’t know is…if we have a new administration, what would they require? We just don’t know. And so that would be a concern, and it would certainly blunt the air travel recovery, if you have to contend with quarantine, no question about it." (Oct. 22)

Bloomin’ Brands Inc. CEO David Deno:

[On former Vice President Joe Bidenproposing to raise the minimum wage to $15:] “We don’t know where the policy is going to go.…We’ll be ready for whatever comes to fruition. A very large majority of our employees make above $15 an hour. So we’ll be ready, and we’ll be ready to address it and move forward." (Oct. 23)

Aptiv PLC CEO Kevin Clark:

“Under either scenario that either party were to win, our view is we’ll still have a certain amount of regionalization of the supply chain due to views on tariffs and trade." (Oct. 29)

TDK Corp. CEO Shigenao Ishiguro:

“The trend of digital transformation has been accelerated considerably by the coronavirus, though there may be some differences in policies between Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden. And from the global point of view, I think there would be little impact, whoever wins, on major long-term trends such as energy transformation." (Oct. 30)

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