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Wednesday, January 27, 2021
Virgin Orbit is finally living up to its name. British billionaire Richard Branson’s satellite-launching company successfully sent a rocket into space for the first time Sunday, following a failed attempt last year. The California-based firm’s LauncherOne rocket flew into Earth’s orbit from over the Pacific Ocean and dropped off 10 satellites for NASA’s Launch Services Program, the company said. The two-stage rocket was attached to the bottom of a customized 747-400 jet named “Cosmic Girl,” and then released from the plane in midair before igniting and making its way to space, according to the company. “Virgin Orbit has achieved something many thought impossible,” Branson — who’s worth about $6.1 billion, according to Bloomberg — said in a news release announcing the successful launch. “This magnificent flight is the culmination of many years of hard work and will also unleash a whole new generation of innovators on the path to orbit.” Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit successfully launched into space on January 17, 2021.REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo The launch marked a win for Virgin Orbit after it aborted an earlier test run last May soon after its rocket was released from the jet. The company said the failed mission still generated a trove
The group's insurance profit was down by 39.5 per cent to $741 million, impacted by higher reinsurance costs and greater claims payouts after the summer bushfires and hail storms across NSW, Victoria and Canberra. IAG reported it paid $904 million in natural perils claims, exceeding its revised guidance of $850 million and original allowance of $641 million, and chief executive Peter Harmer called for greater action on climate change, saying there was no doubt severe weather was negatively impacting the business. Loading "The high level of natural peril activity over the year underscores the importance of climate action, and the mitigation of its effects, to help make our communities safer, and we continue to advocate for businesses, government and communities to work together on this important issue," Mr Harmer said. The insurer's sliding profits were made worse by a "relatively severe hit" to investment income as a result of volatile market conditions brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, compounded by the historically low interest rate environment. The sale of IAG's Indian business for $326 million meant it was able to claw back some profits but these gains were largely set back by a higher than expected customer remediation
Bitcoin hit a new all-time high on Wednesday, with the cryptocurrency creeping ever closer to the $30,000 mark. The value of one bitcoin hit a record $28,599.99 Wednesday morning, exactly two weeks after breaking through the $20,000 barrier for the first time ever. The value of the digital token has increased just under 300 percent since the beginning of the year. Bitcoin started 2020 trading at roughly $7,000 per coin. The world’s biggest cryptocurrency has attracted investors hungry for fast gains and resistance to inflation. It’s also been boosted by hopes that it will become a more widely used payment method, with mainstream digital payments firms such as PayPal and Square allowing Bitcoin on their platforms. Cryptocurrency backers contend this rally is different from the 2017 surge that pushed Bitcoin near the $20,000 mark because it’s been driven by interest from institutional investors. Bitcoin was most recently trading at $27,693.66 per coin.
Activist hedge fund Third Point is pushing Intel to explore strategic alternatives, including whether it should remain an integrated device manufacturer, according to a letter it sent to the chipmaker’s chairman on Tuesday that was reviewed by Reuters. Third Point CEO Daniel Loeb wrote to Intel chairman Omar Ishrak calling for immediate action to boost the company’s position as a major provider of processor chips for PCs and data centers. The New York-based fund has amassed a nearly $1 billion stake in Intel, according to people familiar with the matter. Loeb said in the letter that Intel’s most urgent task was addressing its “human capital management issue”, as many of its talented chip designers have fled, “demoralized by the status quo.” Intel has lost its pole position in microprocessor manufacturing to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing and South Korea’s Samsung Electronics, Loeb wrote in the letter. Intel is also losing market share in its core PC and data center markets to Advanced Micro Devices, Loeb added. NVIDIA is dominating computational models used in artificial intelligence applications, while Intel has been largely absent in this nascent market, according to the letter. “Without immediate change at Intel, we fear that America’s access to leading-edge
The former chairman of China Huarong Asset Management has been sentenced to death, a court in the northern city of Tianjin said on Tuesday, in one of the country’s highest profile corruption cases. Lai Xiaomin was convicted of receiving or seeking bribes totaling 1.788 billion yuan ($276.72 million) from 2008 to 2018, when he was also a senior banking regulator, according to the Secondary Intermediate People’s Court of Tianjin. Lai, who was expelled from the ruling Communist Party in 2018, was also convicted on a charge of bigamy. Reuters was unable to contact Lai or his lawyer for comment. “Lai Xiaomin was lawless and extremely greedy,” the court statement said. Huarong said its Communist Party committee supports the verdict. “The severe treatment of Lai Xiaomin reflects the strong determination of the Central Committee with President Xi Jinping as the core to administer the party and its zero tolerance in punishing corruption,” the company said in a statement. The court noted that most of the activity in question took place after the 18th Party Congress in late 2012, referring to an event that sparked a sweeping anti-corruption campaign by soon-to-be President Xi Jinping that became a hallmark of his first term.
New York City’s Restaurant Week is back — but this time no reservations are required. The popular, decades-old promotion that lets people try out fancy restaurants at a moderate cost is relaunching after a lull as a takeout-only program. Restaurant Week To Go, as its being dubbed, will kickoff on Jan. 25 to Jan. 31 with participating restaurants offering lunch or dinner with one side dish for $20.21, the city’s tourism bureau NYC & Company said on Wednesday. The service marks a resumption of the semi-annual program after it was cancelled last summer for first time in the 29 years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 100 eateries have signed up for Restaurant Week To Go, including Bar Boulud, RedFarm, Gramercy Tavern and Union Square Cafe, the agency said. Others are expected to join. To entice more to sign up, the tourism bureau has waived the hefty fee to participate in Restaurant Week, said NYC & Company spokesman, Chris Heywood, declining to disclose the fee. “But it’s not as easy to get restaurants to sign up now,” Heywood said. “Some are not doing take-out or are temporarily closed right now.” MasterCard is sponsoring the program and providing diners who
Impulse purchases — gum, mints and snack bars tossed into a shopping basket as one snakes through the supermarket checkout line — are falling as more people get groceries delivered or pick them up curbside. US sales of mints are down 30 percent year-on-year at stores tracked by market researcher Nielsen in the 11 weeks ending on May 16, while sales of gum are down 28 percent. The pandemic has prompted many people to switch to online grocery shopping rather than visiting stores, where snacks and other so-called “impulse purchases” are placed strategically near checkout lines. “Sales in our gum and mint category have also been significantly impacted by social distancing protocols,” Hershey, maker of Ice Breakers mints, said in a filing on Wednesday. Mondelez International last month forecast “material declines” in its gum business, which includes Trident and Stride, in the second quarter, describing that category as “the most impulse in nature.” Gum, which is mostly consumed when people go out, is often bought in convenience stores, many of which are closed, it added. Consumers are not, however, abandoning oral care amid social distancing measures. Toothpaste and mouth wash sales are up 12 percent and 13 percent, respectively, for the 11-week period, according to Nielsen. In general, packaged food makers, including Nestle, Kraft Heinz and General Mills have seen a huge boost since the pandemic forced the closure of restaurants, bars and hotels, leading people to eat more at home. The shaky economy in the US could be another factor in the decline in sales of the “to-go” snack items, because they’re not seen by consumers as necessities, according to Amy Goldsmith, a food marketing consultant in Los Angeles. “With the economy, snacking is probably going to take a hit, if it hasn’t already,” she said. “If you’re not on-the-go, you can make yourself a sandwich or have leftovers from last night, so you’re not wasting.” Performance nutrition bars, which many companies pitch as healthy snacks, are down 19 percent in the 11 weeks ending on May 16, according to Nielsen. Cereal and granola bars, sometimes marketed to replace breakfast, fared better, up 3 percent. Daniel Lubetzky, founder and executive chairman of KIND Snacks, said there remained a lot of uncertainty. “It’s very difficult to plan,” he told Reuters. “People aren’t working out — they’re not on the go as much,” Jon Nudi, General Mills’ head of North America retail, told Reuters on Wednesday, noting that diet-focused bars with low calories or sugar were particularly affected. General Mills, owner of Nature Valley and Larabar snack bars, is the biggest player in a global snack bar market worth $16.7 billion at retail, according to market researcher Euromonitor International. “People, at least for the time-being, have put off dieting … to embrace more indulgent things,” Nudi said, noting his company’s Betty Crocker dessert mixes saw sales jump more than 100 percent in the early days of the pandemic. Nudi said snack bar sales should improve as lockdown rules ease, and noted that recessions usually cause people to seek out value brands, where most of its bars play. Share this:
Even with a coronavirus vaccine on the horizon, major manufacturers are betting big that working from home is here to stay. Major companies from Kimberly-Clark to J.M. Smucker Co. are either expanding their production of goods catering to at-home consumers or revamping it to target this group, according to a new report. It’s just the latest sign that remote work will linger long after the pandemic lifts. Kimberly-Clark, which makes Cottonelle and Scott toilet paper, has been converting one of its factories that makes toilet paper for offices into one that makes products for consumers, according to the Wall Street Journal report. And Kraft Heinz, which makes Kraft Mac & Cheese cups and Oscar Mayer cold cuts, is spending $100 million to increase its eat-from-home lunch offerings next year. “This is a business that has been relatively flat for a while at best,” Adam Butler, president of Kraft’s Easy Meals Made Better division told The Journal. “Now we want to double down on it.” View of the inside of the Kimberly-Clark plant AFP via Getty Images A logo sign outside of a
AFTER A pandemic lull, $900bn-worth of deals were announced in late 2020. This year got off to a hot start, with mgm Resorts’ $11bn bid for Entain, a British betting-shop operator, and a potential $18bn tie-up of Gojek and Tokopedia, two Indonesian tech darlings.■ This article appeared in the Business section of the print edition under the headline "An M&A revival"
The Federal Aviation Administration on Monday said it is issuing long-awaited rules to allow for small drones to fly over people and at night, a significant step toward their use for widespread commercial deliveries. The FAA is also requiring remote identification of most drones, which are formally known as unmanned aerial vehicles, to address security concerns. “The new rules make way for the further integration of drones into our airspace by addressing safety and security concerns,” said FAA Administrator Steve Dickson in a statement. “They get us closer to the day when we will more routinely see drone operations such as the delivery of packages.” The race has been on for companies to create drone fleets to speed deliveries. For night operations, FAA said drones must be equipped with anti-collision lights. The final rules allow operation over moving vehicles in some circumstances. Remote ID is required for all drones weighing 0.55 pounds or more, but is required for smaller drones under certain circumstances like flights over open-air assemblies. One change in the final rule requires that those small drones cannot have any exposed rotating parts that could lacerate human skin. The final Remote ID rule eliminates the requirement that drones
Having nowhere to go and nothing to do is proving an unexpected but lucrative formula for retailers. Holiday spending rose by 6.8 percent to a record $756 billion in November and December, according to new research. Driving the demand, according to retail consulting firm Customer Growth Partners, was a surge in disposable income as consumers hunkered down at home and eschewed activities considered unsafe during a pandemic — including vacations, concerts and sporting events. “Spending has rotated from spending on services over to goods and this is a substantive shift,” said Craig Johnson, president of CGP, which distributed the findings on Wednesday to clients and media. CGP, which based its findings on government data as well as its own proprietary research, had previously predicted a 5.8 percent rise in spending over the holiday season. Instead it found consumers spent more aggressively than expected in the last two months of the year, including on home goods, including outdoor furniture; sporting equipment; appliances; electronics and toys.    Apparel, with the exception of sports-related items, lagged as did accessories, except for sneakers, boots and other footwear. Digital sales accounted for 70 percent of the season’s spending. CGP said. Aiding the spending, CGP said,
Airbnb will prohibit one-night rentals over Halloween weekend as part of its ongoing effort to crack down on party houses. The action, announced Friday, comes nearly a year after a deadly shooting at an Airbnb in Orinda, California. Five people were killed in the shooting, which happened during an unauthorized Halloween party. San Francisco-based Airbnb said it will ban one-night rentals of entire homes in the US and Canada on Oct. 30 or Oct. 31. Previously booked one-night rentals will be canceled and Airbnb will offer refunds. Airbnb said it will also look more closely at two- and three-night reservations during Halloween. A guest may be denied, for example, if they try to book a whole home close to their own home during that period and they don’t have a history of positive reviews on Airbnb. Airbnb has taken a series of steps to crack down on parties since last year’s shooting. Last November, it started manually reviewing US and Canadian reservations to weed out suspicious rentals. The company’s efforts have intensified as it prepares for an initial public stock offering, which could come later this year. In July, the company banned US and Canadian guests under age 25 with fewer than three positive reviews from booking entire homes close to where they live. That policy was later expanded to the United Kingdom, Spain and France. And in August, Airbnb banned parties worldwide and limited occupancy at its rentals to 16 people. Airbnb has also warned guests and hosts that it could take legal action against violators. In August, for the first time, it started legal proceedings against a guest who held an unauthorized house party in Sacramento, California.