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Google has yet another ‘heated’ all-hands grilling CEO Sundar Pichai over spending cuts. He replies workers ‘shouldn’t always equate fun with money’

Dissatisfied Google employees have put top executives on the hot seat a few times this year. 

Most recently, they interrogated CEO Sundar Pichai at an all-hands meeting this week about the company’s spending cuts amid a challenging economic climate, CNBC first reported

At the meeting, employees submitted questions via an internal Google tool, and fellow workers then up-voted popular questions for executives to answer.

When asked about why the company is limiting certain budgets, like travel and entertainment, Pichai pointed to the possibility of an imminent recession. ​​“How do I say it?” he said. “We are being a bit more responsible through one of the toughest macroeconomic conditions underway in the past decade.”

Pichai’s remarks follow two quarters of smaller-than-expected growth for Google’s parent company Alphabet as the tech giant adjusts to the post-pandemic economy. “We don’t get to choose the macroeconomic conditions always,” said Pichai.

Inflation is currently running at 8.3%, with the Federal Reserve vowing to continue increasing interest rates to bring it down, even if it triggers a recession in the process.

During the meeting, other employees targeted remarks Pichai made earlier this month about shooting for a 20% productivity gain across the company.

Pichai attempted to provide clarity in his response, highlighting plans to slow future hiring. “Maybe you were planning on hiring six more people but maybe you are going to have to do with four and how are you going to make that happen?” he said. “The answers are going to be different with different teams.”

He also noted that the company hopes to streamline some of its operations. “Sometimes we have a product launch process, which has probably, over many years, grown more complicated than maybe it needs to be,” he said, noting that his 20% goal could be reached by paring down those complications. “At our scale, there is no way we can solve that unless units of teams of all sizes do better.”

During the meeting, Pichai also addressed the idea that cutting back on certain perks shouldn’t signal a change in the company’s culture. “I remember when Google was small and scrappy,” he said. “We shouldn’t always equate fun with money.”

Earlier this year, Pichai and other executives fielded employee questions during a different all-hands meeting that focused on the results of its annual ‘Googlegeist’ survey, which revealed employees’ dissatisfaction with compensation. At the time, they defended Google’s compensation, but said that they’d monitor the growing employee dissatisfaction over the matter. 

“This trend — it is concerning to us and we are keeping a close eye on it,” the company’s vice president of compensation Brett Hill responded.

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The 4-day workweek has detractors but research shows employees get more sleep—and that could reduce ‘bad work outcomes’ 

Just as not every CEO buys into remote work, not every business leader thinks a four-day workweek is right for their company. Employees do appear to get more sleep, though, when given the extra day off—and that could help the bottom line.

“Sleep and work are sort of in competition with each other,” Christopher Barnes, a University of Washington management professor, told Bloomberg this week. “When you trade sleep for work, it’s problematic. You sacrifice your health and have bad work outcomes.”

Juliet Schor, a sociologist and economist at Boston College, is tracking organizations across the globe as they experiment with a four-day week. “Employers are realizing that if they can rethink where people work, they can also rethink how many days they’re on the job,” she said in a TED talk this year.

Among workers who switched to four days, according to her, the percentage getting less than 7 hours of sleep each night dropped from 42.6% to 14.5%, and they registered 7.58 hours per night of sleep, nearly a full hour more than they did before the change.

“I wasn’t surprised that people are getting a little more sleep, but I was surprised at how robust the changes were,” Schor told Bloomberg.

In survey results released this month by the 4 Day Week Campaign in the U.K., 46% of respondents said their business productivity has “maintained around the same level,” while 34% reported that it had “improved slightly,” and 15% said it has “improved significantly.”

But skeptics remain, and the four-day week isn’t for all, including companies that have otherwise shown flexibility by embracing remote work. FleetCor Technologies, for instance, lets certain employees work from anywhere, or use a hybrid model, which it says hasn’t led to a drop in productivity, according to TechTarget.

But the Atlanta-based firm, which processes workforce payments, isn’t considering a four-day workweek. “Our customers need us seven days a week,” chief HR officer Crystal Williams told TechTarget.

In Congress, progressive California lawmaker Mark Takano introduced the 32-Hour Workweek Act in July. The legislation wouldn’t penalize companies for not adopting the four-day workweek, but it would incentivize them to do so, as they’d be required to pay workers overtime after 32 hours.

“There’s economic, political, social upheaval,” he told the New York Times in March. Americans don’t “want to return to the same old normal.”

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Con Edison to sell U.S. renewable energy units to RWE in $6.8B deal (NYSE:ED)

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Consolidated Edison (NYSE:ED) announced Saturday it agreed to sell its wholly-owned Con Edison Clean Energy Businesses to German utility RWE (OTCPK:RWEOY) in a transaction valued at $6.8B.

Con Edison (ED) said the deal will allow it to “sharply focus on our core utility businesses and the investments needed to lead New York’s ambitious clean energy transition.”

RWE (OTCPK:RWEOY) said the acquisition will nearly double its renewables portfolio in the U.S. to more than 7 GW.

In light of the pending deal, Con Edison (ED) said it will forego its previously announced plan to issue up to $850M of common equity in 2022 and withdraw its equity guidance for 2023 and 2024.

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For European pharmas, poor Q3 performance makes the quarter one to forget (NYSE:GSK)

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Like most of the rest of the stock market, the third quarter is one to forget for major European pharmaceutical companies.

In Q3 2022, the S&P 500 was down ~5%. The SPDR MSCI Europe Health Care UCITS ETF, whose primary listing on Euronext Paris (ticker: STW), fared even worse, down 8% for the quarter. Its top 10 holdings are among the largest European pharmas based on market cap.

Europe’s biggest drug company, Roche (OTCQX:RHHBY)(OTCQX:RHHBF), was also the best pharma performer of the quarter, down only 2%.

A major overhang for the company is the impending launch of generics of one of its best selling drugs, Lucentis (ranibizumab), for age-related macular degeneration. In Q2, Roche (OTCQX:RHHBY) reported US sales of the treatment of CHF 316M ($320.1M), a decline of ~4% from the year-ago period.

On Monday, Coherus BioSciences (CHRS) will launch Cimerli, its biosimilar to Lucentis, in the US. In September, the European Medicines Agency’s recommended approval of Stada’s Ximluci biosimilar in the EU.

Roche is hoping that its follow-in to Lucentis, Vabysmo (faricimab), will blunt some of the blow from Lucentis generics. In Q2, it brought in sales of CHF 109M ($110.4M).

The second best performer of the month was fellow Swiss pharma Novartis (NYSE:NVS), which was down ~9%. While Novartis (NVS) benefitted earlier this year from several US drug approvals — such as Vonjo (pacritinib) and Pluvicto (lutetium Lu 177 vipivotide tetraxetan) — Q3 was much quieter on that front.

In the US in the quarter, the FDA approved a combination of the company’s Tafinlar (dabrafenib) + Mekinist (trametinib) for solid tumors with a certain mutation while in the EU, Scemblix (asciminib) was approved in August for chronic myeloid leukemia.

Novartis (NVS) just hit a 52-week low of $52.10 on Sept. 26. A major lingering concern for the pharma is the potential launch of generics of its blockbuster multiple sclerosis drug, Gilenya (fingolimod). It had 2021 sales of ~$2.8B. On Sept. 29, the US Supreme Court issued a stay on a mandate from an appeals court that would have allowed Gilenya generics.

Just behind Novartis (NVS) was Danish pharma Novo Nordisk (NVO), which was off ~10% in the quarter. A key highlight for the diabetes treatment company was its $1.1B acquisition of Forma Therapeutics (FMTX), which is focused on sickle cell disease.

In September, the company was buoyed by data from a late-stage trial showed that showed once-weekly insulin icodec led to better results compared to its own once-daily Tresiba (insulin degludec).

Novo Nordisk has benefitted immensely since the June 2021 approval of Wegovy (semaglutide) as a weight-loss treatment. In Q2, however, revenue of 1.2B Danish Krone (~$158.2M) compared to 1.4B ($184.5M) in Q1.

Wegovy will also likely soon have competition from Eli Lilly’s Mounjaro (tirzepatide). Although currently only approved for diabetes, Lilly is pursuing approval Mounjaro as a weight-loss treatment. In a head-to-head trial, Mounjaro beat Wegovy in terms of A1C and body weight reductions.

AstraZeneca (NASDAQ:AZN) lost 17% in the quarter. It hit a 52-week low of $52.65 on Sept. 26. The company did have some positive catalysts in the quarter in terms of readouts from several trials looking at expanding indications for several of its oncology treatments. Last month, however, Credit Suisse cut its rating to neutral saying that AstraZeneca’s (AZN) current stock price reflects its oncology potential.

The bottom two large European pharmas, GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK) and Sanofi (NASDAQ:SNY), lost, respectively, ~18% and ~26% in the quarter. GSK’s (GSK) major event in Q3 was the July spinoff of its consumer healthcare unit into a separately traded company, Haleon (HLN), which is also down significantly since it began trading.

Sanofi (SNY), as well as GSK (GSK) and Haleon (HLN), were also impacted in the quarter by worries over potential legal exposure to lawsuits over the heartburn drug Zantine (ranitidine) and apparent links to unacceptable levels of potential human carcinogen, N-nitrosodimethylamine. The companies have said there is no evidence that Zantac is linked to cancer.

One closely watched European pharma, BioNTech, was down 14% in the quarter. The company, which along with Pfizer (PFE) developed the COVID-19 vaccine Comirnaty, has been dealing with declining sales of the shots.

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