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Delayed Quote. Delayed  - 05/04 05:24:52 pm
117.86 USD   +0.37%
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Business Watch -- WSJ

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05/04/2016 | 08:50am CEST


Purchase of URX Builds Up Talent

Pinterest Inc. is again paying up to acquire talent as it builds out an image search engine based on its users' intent.

The image-discovery site on Tuesday said it has acquired half the staff at URX, a San Francisco mobile advertising service co-founded by a former Google manager. As is the case with many of Pinterest's purchases, this one was more about acquiring people over tech, a company spokeswoman said.

URX's technology and assets will be shut down. But Pinterest gains URX co-founder and chief executive John Milinovich, who will join as a product manager. Before starting URX, Mr. Milinovich was at Alphabet Inc.'s Google, where he worked on the Google Analytics team and helped roll out the Google Offers coupon service.

About 15 URX employees, including two of the three other co-founders, will also move over to Pinterest, joining the product-management, engineering and partnerships team.

Pinterest declined to disclose financial terms of the deal, which is its 11th acquisition. The deal was mostly composed of stock, according to a person familiar with the deal.

The company is replenishing its talent after losing some high-profile managers in recent months, a common scenario at startups in a rapid growth phase. Most recently, Pinterest's head of engineering Michael Lopp left the company in April after joining two years ago, according to the company spokeswoman. Mr. Lopp had previously worked at Palantir Technologies and Apple Inc.

URX -- started in early 2013 by four former classmates at the University of California, Los Angeles -- specializes in so-called deep links on the mobile Web. In essence, it serves ads in mobile browsers that take users to apps such as Spotify or SeatGeek where they can take actions such as listening to a song or buying tickets to a concert.

Deep linking has become increasingly important to Google, Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc. and other Web companies as users shift to mobile devices and spend more time in apps. The technology aims to add ways to enable people to move seamlessly between specific pages in different apps.

Pinterest says it was intrigued by the URX team's expertise in matching user intent with results as it is builds a "discovery engine" driven by smart recommendations. For example, if a user on Pinterest starts a "board" -- where people save a collection of images, or "pins" -- and names it "nursery," Pinterest would take that as a cue to surface items such as cribs and other family-friendly items.

At Pinterest, URX employees will work on search and discovery, which focuses on understanding the data behind each pin; and rich pins. Rich pins carry extra bits of information, such as the ingredients for a recipe, and aim to help people take actions such as installing an app or buying a product.

Pinterest, valued at $11 billion by investors last year, is working to turn its service into a global one as it seeks to ramp up its advertising business. The Wall Street Journal has previously reported that Pinterest made about $100 million in revenue from advertising in 2015.

URX, incorporated as AdLast Inc., had raised about $15 million in funding from investors including venture-capital firms Accel Partners and First Round Capital, and angel investors such as actress Jamie Lee Curtis and former football player Joe Montana.

--Yoree Koh


Loss Is Bigger Than Expected

Encana Corp. on Tuesday reported a bigger-than-expected quarterly loss and a 79% slump in cash flow as sharply lower oil and gas prices continued to hurt the energy producer's results.

Calgary, Alberta-based Encana, which booked another hefty impairment charge of just over $600 million in the quarter ended March 31 due to the commodity-price rout, also recorded a nearly 11% decline in production.

Encana has recorded a series of steep quarterly losses, and like many of its oil-patch peers, has slashed capital spending and cut its workforce to shave costs. The company said Tuesday it reduced drilling and completion costs in its core assets during the quarter by between 22% and 44% from year-earlier levels, and lowered general administrative costs. It said it is on track to deliver $550 million of year-over-year cost savings.

"Our teams are drilling some of the fastest, highest performing and lowest cost wells in our core four assets and we continue to find greater efficiency in every part of the business," Chief Executive Doug Suttles said in a release.

The company's four key oil-and-gas plays, which contributed 70% of first-quarter production, are in the Eagle Ford and Permian shale-oil basins in Texas and the Duvernay and Montney basins in Western Canada.

Encana reported a first-quarter loss of $379 million, or 45 cents a share, compared with a loss of $1.71 billion, or $2.25 a share a year earlier.

Excluding items, such as large impairments related to lower oil and gas prices, it swung to an operating loss of 15 cents a share from an operating profit of 3 cents a share a year earlier. The latest results missed the 12-cent loss analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected.

Cash flow fell to $102 million from $495 million a year earlier, while revenue declined 40% to $753 million. The company said its realized natural-gas price was down 54% from year-earlier levels and its realized oil and natural-gas liquids price fell nearly 13%.

In February, Encana guided for 2016 production of between 340,000 and 360,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day. It said it is on track to meet or beat that guidance.

--Judy McKinnon

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