Biz Break: Pandora winning in new Westergren era

Top Of The Order: 

Inside Pandora’s Box: Pandora Media co-founder Tim Westergren, who reclaimed the company’s chief executive job at barely a month ago, has had a pretty good start to his second stint running the Oakland-based Internet radio leader. In fact, the last week would have been enough to make the entire month look like a success.

Since Monday, Pandora has started streaming the tracks from Beyonce’s new dark-night-of-the-soul album “Lemonade” and also said its listeners will now be able to stream the episodes of public-radio superseries “This American Life”. And then there was Pandora’s first-quarter earnings results.

Pandora shares rose more than 5 percent to $9.93 Friday as investors got behind the company’s better-than-expected report, which included a loss of 20 cents a share on $297 million in revenue. Wall Street analysts had forecast Pandora to lose 31 cents a share on sales of $286 million. Pandora also saw a slight increase in active listeners during the quarter, to 79.4 million and listener hours rose 4 percent to 5.52 billion from a year ago.

But Westergren has his work cut out for him if he hopes to keep Pandora on the right track. The company is counting on its TicketFly concert-ticketing business and an upcoming on-demand radio service that’s similar to offerings from Spotify and Apple Music to build upon its position in the increasingly competitive Internet radio market.

“With so much of the near-term investments as well as its long-term future hanging on a product that we are yet to see, Pandora currently is a leap of faith,” said Credit Suisse analyst Stephen Ju, in a research note Friday. “It also remains to be seen whether Pandora will be able to convert a significant portion of its free users to paying or attract a new user base with its on-demand service.”

If it can, Westergren’s first month may turn into a winning streak that’s music to the ears of Pandora’s listeners, and investors.

Middle Innings:

A Win For The FBI: We have an idea of how much the FBI paid to get someone to crack open the iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters. Now, the FBI may be able to hack into people’s computers a bit easier than before.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday gave its OK to a rule change that lets judges issue search warrants that will allow law-enforcement agencies to hack into computers in any jurisdiction. The Department of Justice had been working to get the rule changed for three years, and called it necessary to bring the criminal code up to speed in a digital era.

Bottom Of The Lineup:

Here’s a look at how some leading Silicon Valley stocks did Friday…

Movin’ On Up: Gigamon shares climbed 9 percent, while Power Integrations rose 6.2 percent, and TiVo rose almost 6 percent after agreeing to be acquired by Rovi for $1.1 billion. Gains also came from Extreme Networks and Omnicell.

In The Red: Cepheid ended the week on a bum note, as its shares fell more than 19 percent after the Sunnyvale-based maker of diagnostic-testing equipment said it would delay the launch of a new point-of-care system by one year. Losses also came from ShoreTel, Synaptics, NeoPhotonics and Gilead Sciences.

The SV150 Index of Silicon Valley’s biggest companies fell 1 percent to 1,606.

The tech-focused Nasdaq Composite Index fell 0.6 percent to 4,775.

The blue chip Dow Jones Industrial Average ended the day down by 0.3 percent at 17,773.

And the broad-based Standard & Poor’s 500 Index gave up 0.5 percent to close the week out at 2,065.

Quote Of The Day: “In politics, stupidity is not a handicap.” — Napoleon Bonaparte.

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Photo: Pandora’s headquarters building in Oakland. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)


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