The Federal Trade Commission has paved the way for PepsiCo to buy drink company Rockstar Energy for $3.85 billion, The Post has learned. The regulator approved the deal — announced last month during the coronavirus pandemic — on Friday and the company is expected to close on it in the coming days, sources said. Regulators had been reviewing the acquisition to be sure it wouldn’t reduce competition. PepsiCo owns Mountain Dew Kickstart and is also a partner in Starbucks energy drinks. But Rockstar’s market share has fallen in recent years from almost 20 percent to less than 10 percent, which helped alleviate the FTC’s concerns, a source said. Rivals include Red Bull and Monster, which are part-owned by Coca-Cola. Rockstar founder Russell Weiner, son of conservative talk show host Michael Savage, is not expected to play a big role under the new ownership, the source added. The deal also opens the door to Pepsi introducing new energy drinks, sources said. As Rockstar’s distributor, PepsiCo had been barred from developing competing brands. Mountain Dew’s Kickstart, while often is considered an energy drink, is advertised as a breakfast beverage and has less caffeine than products like Red Bull. The FTC did not return calls. Share this:
Readers: As I mentioned a few weeks back, Nano Hearing Aids — nanohearingaids.com — was giving away 24 pairs of hearing aids through this column. The company is in the process of contacting the people it picked for this giveaway based on their need and their inability to pay for hearing aids on their own. Here is the ninth lucky winner: Winner 9 Nano: I hope you consider me for a pair of hearing aids in your giveaway promotion. I am 59 years old and blind. It is important that I have good hearing to help make up for my lack of eyesight. I have a pretty good HMO, but unfortunately, it does not cover hearing aids. I have been to an audiologist and have been fitted for a pair. But when it came time to purchase them, I couldn’t come up with the money I needed. You’ll be doing my wife a great favor by providing me with hearing aids as I am constantly annoying her by asking, “What?” LOL. Anyway, thank you for reading this and for considering me. C.M. Special note to veterans A lot of you vets have been asking for the free hearing aids that are being given away. And Nano Hearing Aids has been wonderful in granting as many of those requests as possible, along with giving devices out to non-veterans as well. But people who have served in the Armed Forces should know that vets are entitled to free hearing aids through the federal Veterans Administration. You can get all the information you need at www.prosthetics.va.gov/psas/hearing_aids.asp. It’s a benefit you are entitled to, so go for it. Share this:
AT&T’s chairman and chief executive Randall Stephenson is stepping down from the helm of the telecom giant, handing the reins to his No. 2 John Stankey. Stephenson — 13-year company veteran who engineered its controversial, $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner that closed in 2018 — announced his retirement at the company’s annual shareholder meeting on Friday. Stankey, the company’s 57-year-old chief operating officer who recently attracted controversy as CEO of entertainment division WarnerMedia, will succeed Stephenson as CEO effective July 1. Stephenson, 60, said he will serve as executive chairman of the company’s board of directors until January 2021, assisting Stankey in “navigating the difficult economic and health challenges currently facing our country and the world.” “John has the right experiences and skills, and the unflinching determination every CEO needs to act on his convictions,” Stephenson said of Stankey. “He has a terrific leadership team onboard to ensure AT&T remains strong.” Stankey was named president and chief operating officer in October. The exec, who joined AT&T in 1985, was recently thrust into the spotlight when he took the job of CEO of WarnerMedia, formerly known as Time Warner. Since AT&T acquired Time Warner, the hard-charging Stankey has been retooling the division and ruffling some feathers, all the while developing HBO Max, the firm’s catch-all streaming service, that will launch on May 27. Earlier this month, Stankey was replaced as CEO of WarnerMedia by Jason Kilar, the founding CEO of Hulu. “I’m honored to be elected the next CEO of AT&T, a company with a rich history and a bright future,” Stankey said Friday. “We have a strong company, leading brands and a great employee team.” AT&T has recently come under pressure from Elliott Management, the hedge fund controlled by billionaire activist investor Paul Singer, which revealed a $3.2 billion stake in the company last September and pressed for changes to boost its shares. “Elliott supports John Stankey as AT&T’s next CEO,” Elliott partner Jesse Cohn said in a statement. “We have been engaged with the company throughout the search process, which was a robust one, including a range of highly qualified outside candidates and overseen by independent directors. We look forward to working with John as he begins his term as CEO.” Share this:
Global Asset Management? Say what? Global asset management is the path that a client’s portfolio will be taken by a financial services company, whether it is an investment firm or an asset manager. Financial institutions usually provide investment services like investing in Korea aside from a many different traditional and...
Small businesses in New York and New Jersey may have gotten shortchanged on federal coronavirus loans because of bad “logistics” as local banks struggled to meet demand, according to a new study. The COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged New York and New Jersey, killing more than 20,000 people and crippling the world’s most productive local economy, yet the US government’s $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program has delivered the most benefit to businesses in states like Nebraska that have been relatively unscathed, according to the study by SmartAsset. Using COVID-19 cases per 10,000 people and comparing it to the percentage of payroll eligible for PPP statewide, the study shows that Empire State and the Garden State received no extra consideration than states barely touched by the pandemic. New Jersey, with 88 cases per 10,000 residents, received enough PPP funding to protect just over half the payroll that desperately needed it, while New York, with a staggering nationwide high of 114 cases per 10,000, received enough funding to keep only 44 percent of its eligible payroll protected. Only California received less funding by percentage. That state had less than 7 cases per 10,000. By comparison, Nebraska, which had less than 6 cases per 10,000 people and a total of 53 reported deaths from the virus, received enough PPP funding to cover more than 90 percent of the state’s at-risk payroll. Nebraska’s governor has yet to issue the kind of statewide stay-at-home order that brought businesses here to a screeching halt. “You’d think more of this money would go to populations hit the hardest,” said SmartAsset’s Mark LoCastro. “Instead, it’s the opposite.” LoCastro also pointed to the process by which PPP was managed as a potential cause of why the money was thrown around so unfairly. Since banks were given the primary role of accepting and processing PPP applications for the feds, it’s possible that a glut of applications to banks in those states created a logjam that made it harder for New York and New Jersey businesses to get the money they so desperately needed. As The Post reported earlier, many local restaurants have been left fuming amid claims that their banks mishandled their PPP applications, leaving them empty-handed as the hardest-hit city in the nation remains under lockdown. “It comes down to logistics,” said LoCastro. Share this:
OIL ANALYSTS debate the future of transport fuels. That of petrochemicals—used to make everything from plastic packaging to paint—has seemed unequivocally bright. The International Energy Agency (IEA), an industry forecaster, expects them to account for half the growth in oil demand from 2019 to 2025. Better yet, America’s shale boom has furnished cheap feedstock in the form of natural gas. ExxonMobil is spending $20bn on chemical and refining facilities along America’s Gulf Coast, near Texas’s Permian basin. Royal Dutch Shell is building a huge complex in Pennsylvania, atop the Marcellus shale formation—President Donald Trump has called it “one of the single biggest construction projects in the nation”. Saudi Aramco, the largest oil firm of all, this month completed its $69bn acquisition of a 70% stake in SABIC, Saudi Arabia’s chemicals giant. Covid-19 would seem to validate such moves. Use of petrol, diesel and jet fuel has plunged amid lockdowns but plastic packaging and medical supplies are in high demand. However, diversification that makes sense for any individual firm may prove risky for the industry as a whole. On paper, the allure of petrochemicals remains strong. If the internal-combustion engine falls out of favour, the thinking goes, even sanctimonious environmentalists will still purchase polyester camping tents and synthetic sandals. The market increasingly punishes companies that invest in new drilling, so it seems only sensible to build “crackers”, sprawling networks of pipes and furnaces that break the molecular bonds in ethane, a substance extracted from natural gas, to produce ethylene, which can then be woven into those sandals, camping gear and much else besides. The trouble is that too many big oil companies are making the same bet. Last year the increase in ethylene capacity was 60% higher than the rise in ethylene demand, according to the IEA. The subsequent decline in ethylene prices had little impact on companies’ strategies. In November Bernstein, a research firm, tallied nearly $40bn a year in planned capital spending on petrochemical facilities from Shell, ExxonMobil, Total, Chevron Phillips Chemical, Aramco, Abu Dhabi’s ADNOC, Russia’s Gazprom and Rosneft, and China’s Sinopec. All told, global ethylene capacity would rise by about 13m tonnes annually over the next few years, once again about 60% more than the annual rise in demand. The pandemic does mean that oil companies have less cash for new projects. Cheap oil is also benefiting naphtha crackers in Asia, which produce chemicals from crude, and eroding the advantage of American ethane crackers, which rely on gas. Even so, the coronavirus looks unlikely to sap individual oil firms’ enthusiasm for petrochemicals. Extra demand for single-use plastics during the pandemic has combined with lower appetite for recycled goods to lift ethylene prices a bit since April. Converting ethane to ethylene is still profitable, says Alan Gelder of Wood Mackenzie, an energy-research firm, “just not as profitable as some hoped”. For many oil companies facing sceptical investors and an upstream business with uncertain short- and long-term prospects, petrochemicals have the dubious honour of being among their least bad options. ■ This article appeared in the Business section of the print edition under the headline "The hole in the hedge" Reuse this contentThe Trust Project
Dear John: As you know, driving for a living has always been tough. But now, it’s tougher than ever. I had a small service, but as Uber came in, I started driving more and more for it until I was doing it full time. I’ve driven with Uber for almost seven years — over 13,000 trips. On March 19, I started feeling a pain in my chest, and feeling very tired for no reason. I called my doctor, who promptly got me tested for COVID-19. It came back positive. I’m 64 years old, so I didn’t know what to expect. I was lucky. I cleared the virus, and then I realized that there was no work. When my doctor gave me the note to isolate until the test results came back, I contacted Uber. It had made a big show of how it was going to support its drivers. I followed the company’s procedures and submitted the documents to receive 14 days of financial assistance. I was not working for three weeks, so I really was hopeful and grateful that it had this plan to help drivers. I’ve submitted the documents over five times, and have spoken with Uber’s support people multiple times. I have not received even a response to my request for financial assistance because of my COVID-19 infection. I’m now driving for Instacart delivering groceries to make ends meet. The way Uber set up its plan, there was supposed to be a payment of two weeks’ worth of earnings based on the average of your earnings over the previous six months. My average was approximately $1,750 per week. That would be, if it followed through on its promise, $3,500 in sick pay based on my earnings. I don’t have the luxury of sitting around waiting for Uber to live up to its promise. I’m struggling. With my youngest son in his junior year of college and all the other expenses, it’s very tough. If you could help me with this, it would get us through until things are moving again. Hope to hear from you soon. C.F. Dear C.F.: As you know, I contacted Uber on your behalf and your benefits were granted in less than a day. You should get the money shortly. An Uber spokesman said: “The process for this driver clearly took too long, but we’ve now reviewed and approved the claim and reached out to apologize to him. While we’ve already provided millions of dollars in COVID-19-related sick leave for drivers, we know the process still needs to get better, which is why we’re actively working to improve support. “Like many organizations and governments, we have received far more support requests than we normally do, and now advise all those who apply that we aim to process their request within 7 business days,” he added. Glad I could expedite this. Hope you are feeling better. Share this:
AstraZeneca has approached Gilead Sciences about a massive merger that would combine two companies leading the pharmaceutical industry’s battle against the coronavirus, a report says. The British drugmaker reached out to California-based Gilead last month about whether it would be interested in merging, Bloomberg News reported Sunday. But there are no formal talks and Gilead is not currently interested in merging with another large firm, the story said, citing unnamed people familiar with the matter. The tie-up would be the health care industry’s largest ever, according to Bloomberg. AstraZeneca was worth about $140 billion as of Friday, while Gilead had a market value of roughly $96 billion. An AstraZeneca spokesman said the company does not comment on rumors or speculation. Gilead did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday morning. The report comes amid efforts from both companies to develop drugs to fight the novel coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 400,000 people worldwide. AstraZeneca plans to manufacture a vaccine that University of Oxford researchers are developing with backing from the Trump administration. The feds ordered 300 million doses of the shot last month and committed up to $1.2 billion to speed its development and production. US officials have also approved Gilead’s antiviral drug remdesivir for emergency use in certain COVID-19 patients. Research has shown that the treatment has helped people recover from the virus faster. But industry analysts say a mega-merger of the two companies is unlikely given the potential for political opposition in both the UK and the US, Bloomberg reported. There are also strategic questions about the deal as AstraZeneca has a strong product pipeline while Gilead is going through a turnaround, according to the news service. The “US government would likely try to block any acquisition of a major US biopharma company that is involved in pandemic therapeutic development,” Citi analyst Andrew Baum told Bloomberg. Gilead shares were nonetheless up 4.5 percent on the news at $80.20 as of 7:39 a.m. Monday, while AstraZeneca’s US-listed stock was recently down 2.3 percent at $52.60. Share this:
Fiat Chrysler resumed van production on Monday at its Atessa plant in central Italy, a week before the country plans to start lifting a national lockdown put in place to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Italy has said it would allow factories and building sites to reopen from May 4 as it prepares a staged end to Europe’s longest coronavirus lockdown. However, some businesses deemed “strategic” and exporting companies were allowed to resume activity sooner to reduce the risk of being cut out of the production chain and losing business. At the Atessa plant, all workers had their temperature tested at the entrance on Monday. Atessa, which is operated by Sevel, a 50-50 joint venture between Fiat Chrysler and France’s PSA, employs 6,000 people with a pre-virus daily production of 1,200 units, making it Europe’s largest van assembly plant. FCA said production layouts and offices have been rearranged to allow for a greater distance between workers to comply with health and safety rules the automaker had agreed with unions. Most of the plant’s employees were back at work on Monday, it said. Among other measures, FCA has provided workers with personal safety kits, which included face masks, gloves and protective glasses, it said. “We have been working daily with the Italian government and local authorities to prepare for a return to production in Italy, while ensuring there is no compromise to the safety of anyone working at any of our production facilities or offices,” said FCA’s chief operating officer for the EMEA region, Pietro Gorlier. Some other European carmakers also restarted factories on Monday. FCA halted its Italian operations in mid-March in response to Rome’s lockdown rules, but also to falling demand. Small sections of four other FCA plants in Italy restarted operations on Monday to supply parts to Atessa, the company added. FCA informed unions last week of its plans to restart in Atessa and other Italian sites. The carmaker also on Monday resumed preparatory works at its Melfi plant in southern Italy for the final development of Jeep’s new hybrid car, with an average of 750 workers a day expected this week, and at Turin’s Mirafiori plant for its new electric 500 small car, with around 250 workers a day expected. UNRAE, which represents foreign automakers in Italy, said on Monday it expected car registrations to plunge by up to 98 percent this month. Share this:
American businesses are worried about getting sued as some prepare to reopen amid the coronavirus crisis, the head of the US Chamber of Commerce says. Businesses are “anxious” about reopening because the pandemic has created a patchwork of rules and regulations that could expose them to legal liabilities, according to chamber president Suzanne Clark. “When you have a whole new playbook, there are unfortunately a small number of the plaintiffs’ bar who really go hard and look for liability,” Clark said Thursday during a virtual Axios event. “They’re already organizing against healthcare workers and hospitals and medical device manufacturers. And so it scares business owners that there could be a second big economic risk coming.” Some states have announced plans to reopen non-essential businesses in the coming weeks after lockdowns meant to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Georgia was set to let some stores reopen Friday, with Tennessee to follow next week. But businesses are concerned about “litigation risks” amid uncertainty about legal and regulatory issues, according to Clark. For instance, she said, they’ll have to navigate how to follow workplace guidelines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has issued extensive coronavirus guidance. “We’re asking CEOs to operate in a totally different, unprecedented time,” Clark said. “After years of saying don’t discriminate on the basis of health and age, now we’re saying protect your vulnerable populations. When we usually say keep your health data private, now we’re saying you wanna make some things public so that we can trace people who have this virus or understand who has immunity.” Businesses that reopen will also have to rely on essential services such as day care and transportation and make sure they have crucial equipment such as masks and thermometers, Clark said. “While businesses are anxious to reopen for their families and for their communities, for their employees, they wanna make sure when they do it, they do it properly,” she said. Share this:
After a sprint of crisis management, the real leadership test is what comes next. Returning to the familiar would be a mistake.
With millions working at home, more companies want to know how employees are spending their time. Some of them are relying on the same surveillance tools that have been used to monitor work in the office, and they don’t always disclose when the software is added to laptops remotely.