Tech companies talk tough but don’t mention Trump where it counts

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Tech companies that have been taking a stand against Donald Trump in the press are silent where it countstheir earnings reports.

Almost no major tech companies have mentioned President Donald Trump in their quarterly earnings reports as posing a risk to their businesses. Google, Facebook, Apple, and the rest might talk a big game about immigration and net neutrality, but when it comes to communicating risks to shareholders, Trump doesn’t seem to be on their minds.

Financial data firm Sentieo combed the earnings releases of 500 U.S. companies to see which ones mentioned Trump. Plenty did, particularly companies in the the healthcare and energy industries.

“Despite Silicon Valley being heavily reliant on foreign skilled migrants, they didn’t mention him at all in the run up to inauguration and that seems to continue to be the case,” said Youssef Essaegh, product manager at Sentieo.

Tech, however, is barely represented. The most recent earnings release of Indian consulting firm Infosys has mentions of Trump only because of a transcript in which analysts asked company president Mohit Joshi about the impact of some proposed policies.

“We dont want to comment on the political side of it, but it is a fact. When there is uncertainty, clients delay decision making, it is very clear,” Moshi said during the call in response to a question about uncertainty created by Trump.

Not wanting to comment is understandable, Essaegh said, particularly since few companies are terribly keen to talk Trump in relations to their bottom lines.

“There’s the flip of the coin, which is if no one rings the alarm bell, you don’t want to be the only one doing it because they’re going to focus on you and think you’re the only one suffering from it,” Essaegh said.

There’s good reason not to rock the boat. The U.S. stock markets have enjoyed a strong run since Trump became president. The tech-heavy Nasdaq index is up almost 19 percent since the start of 2017, with many of the biggest names in tech among the best performers.

Image: Google finance

Trump is still named in plenty of earnings releases, but companies aren’t quite as worried as they once were. Mentions of Trump in the earnings reports of American companies have dropped sharply. From the end of 2016 to the most recent quarter, Trump mentions are down 74 percent among S&P500 companies, Sentieo found.

A similar study by FactSet Research found that chief executives are also referencing Trump less on conference calls.

The earnings reports in particular are important, as companies have a legal responsibility to inform their shareholders of threats that the company is monitoring. That does not necessarily mean Trump should be in them, said Scott Kessler, senior equity analyst at CFRA Research, particularly given ongoing uncertainty over whether his administration can get anything of substance accomplished.

“I think it’s almost unreasonable to expect that every company is going to go through all the possible proposals and make statements about, ‘Well if this happened then this will be the result for us.’ I think there’s just too many uncertainties related to what’s going on here,” Kessler said.

This is not to say that none of Trump’s plans could end up affecting tech companiesfor better or for worse. Issues like immigration could pose a threat, but tax reform has the chance to boost tech companies. Tech could receive a particularly big payday if they’re allowed to bring cash into the U.S. from overseas sales at a lower tax rate.

None of these issues, however, matter much if Trump can’t get anything donea notion that is starting to take hold in financial circles. Tax reform sounds great, but Congress and Trump couldn’t even strike a blow to Obamacare, on which the party has broad agreement.

“I think people reasonably are wondering aloud in some cases if and when those other efforts will start to take shape,” Kessler said.

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