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Friday, December 4, 2020
Uber and Lyft’s stock prices soared Wednesday after California voters allowed the ride-hailing giants to continue treating their drivers as independent contractors instead of employees. Uber shares surged 11.5 percent in premarket trading while Lyft’s spiked about 14.8 percent as of 7:54 a.m. after the passage of Proposition 22, which exempts ride-hail drivers from a controversial California law that would have forced tech firms to give gig workers benefits such as a minimum wage and sick leave. More than 58 percent of Golden State voters cast ballots in favor of the measure, handing Uber and Lyft an important victory in one of their biggest US markets after spending heavily to get out of the state law’s obligations. The vote “will send a ripple impact as investors were worried if Prop 22 did not pass this would significantly impact the core DNA of the gig economy and ultimately the revenue model for Lyft and Uber,” Wedbush Securities analyst Daniel Ives said in a Wednesday research note. Tuesday’s vote will allow Uber and Lyft to escape pressure from California officials who had tried to force the companies to treat their drivers as employees under the state law known as AB5, which took
Fines are in season on Wall Street — and yes, there just might be a connection with election season. Big banks are lately paying record penalties to US regulators, with insiders blaming the trend on bankers looking to settle scores under a Trump administration rather than risk paying more under a less-friendly Biden White House. In the last few weeks alone, three of the biggest banks have agreed to pay out nearly $5 billion, with Goldman Sachs accounting for the lion’s share after agreeing to pay the feds $2.9 billion for its role in the 1MDB debacle, a years-old case that came to a seemingly sudden conclusion in the final week of October. “Goldman settled because they wanted to pay [Treasury Secretary Steven] Mnuchin$3 billion and not pay Elizabeth Warren $10 billion,” mused one corporate lawyer, referring to speculation that Biden as president might appoint Warren to succeed Mnuchin. “If Biden wins, everyone will pay more.” That sentiment was echoed by three other Wall Street insiders who told The Post big bankers are looking at a potential Biden win and realizing it could save billions to just pay up now. JPMorgan Chase disclosed Monday night that it might be paying
More than 100 truck drivers who deliver gourmet groceries to Whole Foods stores in the New York area are threatening to strike over COVID-19 safety issues, The Post has learned. Teamster’s Local 445 members claim that their employer United Natural Foods — better known as UNFI, a publicly traded supplier to Whole Foods with $27 billion in revenue — has refused to give them basic protective equipment including masks and hand sanitizer, and that the company hasn’t disinfected their trucks in months. The beef reached a boiling point over the weekend when the union’s contract ended on Saturday and they voted to authorize a strike the next day. “Initially UNFI was providing these supplies but then it fell by the wayside this summer and the drivers have been cleaning their own trucks and buying their own equipment,” said Martin Perry, a driver for UNFI for more than six years. In a statement, UNFI spokesman Jeff Swanson accused the union of “disseminating falsehoods and shamelessly exploiting the pandemic in an effort to try gaining negotiating leverage.” The company has “robust contingency plans” with third-party distributors in case of a strike, he said. “We’ve also made it known that UNFI will continue
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.
The modern era has seen much of the business world migrate from in-person deals to online transactions. While this offers a wealth of convenience and opportunity for business people, investors, and entrepreneurs, it also comes with its own share of opportunity for perpetrators of financial crime and con artists....
The wild ride that is Kodak’s stock market performance appears far from over. The company’s stock shot up by 65 percent on Tuesday after news broke that New York-based hedge fund D.E. Shaw had built up a 5.2 percent stake in the moribund camera technology firm. Word of D.E. Shaw’s stake, disclosed in a regulatory filing, sent Kodak’s stock as high as $9.87 in early trading before pulling back. By mid-afternoon, the stock was hovering around $7.75, an almost 30 percent gain on the day. Kodak saw its shares soar more than 1,700 percent at the end of July on news that it had been approved for a $765 million loan from the Trump administration to begin producing pharmaceuticals. The loan, provided as part of an initiative to reduce US reliance on foreign drug manufacturers, sent Kodak’s stock from just over $2 to almost $60 a share on July 29th. But the stock pulled back amid questions over whether the company jumped the gun on announcing the deal, potentially giving insiders an edge on profiting from the stock’s surprise boom. Kodak’s deal with the government is now on hold amid an SEC investigation, and the company’s stock closed at just under $6 on Monday after falling off steadily for weeks. Tuesday’s movement has some Wall Street insiders speculating that D.E. Shaw, a $50 billion fund that pioneered the kind of quantitative trading that uses data like trade flows to make profits, might be experimenting with what Wall Street is calling “The Robinhood Rally.” “If D.E. Shaw is taking a passive stake in Kodak now, it’s because they want Robinhood traders to know they’re taking a passive stake in Kodak,” said one hedge fund manager, referring to the popular free trading app for millennials. “This is pretty funny, and it seems to have worked.” The hedge fund didn’t immediately return a request for comment. Furthering that speculation is the amount of Kodak stock that D.E. Shaw bought. The 13G form is only required when an entity takes a stake of 5 percent in a public company but does not plan to take an active role in that company. “Taking a 5.2 percent stake in Kodak is really useful if you want to be forced to publicly disclose that you did so,” said one fund manager. “This would be almost the minimum amount of stock you would buy to alert the day traders and make them think they learned it on their own.” A major theme of Wall Street’s summer has been the rising power of Regular Joe retail traders buying cheap stocks on no-fee trading apps like Robinhood, creating unanticipated market movements as larger firms execute those trades and then buy into the action.
Amazon said it plans to house more than 2,000 employees at Manhattan’s historic Lord & Taylor building under a nationwide expansion of its corporate offices. The Seattle-based e-tailing giant said Tuesday it will hire the workers to fill the landmark tower on Fifth Avenue over the next few years as it grows its Big Apple “tech hub” — a plan that looks like a bold bet on offices, even as the pandemic forces most of its employees to work from home. Still, Amazon said it won’t start moving into the new 630,000-square-foot Midtown office until 2023. The new staffers will join Amazon’s 800 other corporate and tech workers in New York City in supporting its advertising, devices, music, video-streaming, fashion and other businesses. The e-commerce colossus is also expanding its corporate offices in Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Phoenix and San Diego with plans to add about 1,500 jobs across those cities, according to a press release. “As we expand our tech hubs and continue to invest in communities across the country, we’re excited to be creating new jobs and investing in New York with a new office in Manhattan that will allow us to accommodate the organic growth of our business teams in the city,” Ardine Williams, Amazon’s vice president of workforce development, said in a statement. Amazon planned to bring thousands of staffers to the 11-story building at 424 Fifth Ave. when it acquired it for about $1.1 billion, The Post reported in March. WeWork had sought to turn the longtime home of bankrupt retailer Lord & Taylor’s flagship store into its own corporate headquarters, but scrapped the plans amid a slew of scandals that derailed its public offering. Amazon and other tech giants have let employees work from home amid lockdowns aimed at controlling the coronavirus pandemic, which has also driven a surge in demand for online shopping that’s led Amazon’s profits to explode. The company has said employees can work remotely until Jan. 8, but Williams told the Wall Street Journal most of its staffers will eventually return to work in person. Amazon did not answer The Post’s emailed questions about what will happen after January. Amazon unveiled its latest New York expansion about a year and a half after abandoning plans for a sprawling Queens campus that would have created 25,000 jobs in exchange for about $3 billion in tax breaks and grants. The company walked away after local officials and activists criticized the incentive package.
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
As part of the “COVID recovery plan”, NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet this week announced tax concessions to big property developers and super funds to start building so-called build-to-rent properties. The sector is dominated by individual mums and dads because they can take advantage of tax concessions on stamp duty, land tax and negative gearing which are denied to large investors. But with confidence low among these traditional investors, NSW is offering developers of properties with at least 50 residential units a 50 per cent reduction in land tax and some other benefits providing they promise to rent out the apartments for at least 20 years. In the long-term, the proposal should help even up the playing field for investment and meet Sydney’s housing shortage but its value as a stimulus measure will depend on whether developers have the stomach for risk-taking in the current environment. The Consumer Price Index this week revealed Sydney rents had fallen by 3 per cent in the past year, because of an oversupply of new apartments and a reduction in demand from international visitors. That is great news for tenants but it raises questions about whether private investors will step up. A
Rich Americans have drastically slashed their personal spending during the coronavirus crisis — and poor workers have suffered as a result, researchers say. The top 25 percent of income earners are responsible for more than half of the nation’s drastic plunge in consumer spending since the start of the pandemic, according to a new study from Opportunity Insights, a Harvard-based research group. Big spenders cut back most when it came to high-touch goods and services with a bigger risk for catching COVID-19, such as restaurants, hotels and transportation, the researchers found. That had a big trickle-down effect on the businesses and workers that rely on their money. Small merchants in the most affluent zip codes lost more than 70 percent of their revenue when the virus struck, while those in the poorest areas lost just 30 percent, the study says. The layoffs that accompanied those losses followed a similar pattern — over 70 percent of low-wage workers at small businesses in rich areas lost their jobs within two weeks of the start of the crisis, compared with less than 30 percent in the lowest-rent ZIP codes. “Businesses in more affluent areas not only laid off more low-wage workers but are also posting fewer jobs to hire new workers, suggesting that the recovery may take longer in such areas,” the Opportunity Insights researchers wrote. But rich people weren’t spending less because they needed to pinch pennies, according to the study. Spending on landscaping and other luxury items that don’t require physical contact did not drop, and professional services firms saw much smaller losses, suggesting the broader reduction “was driven primarily by health concerns rather than a reduction in income or wealth,” the researchers said. The data reveal new dimensions of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, sparked by a pandemic that forced restaurants, retailers and other businesses to scale back operations or close altogether. The crisis led to record unemployment and the biggest economic contraction since the Great Recession before many states began to ease their lockdowns. The study is based on a real-time database Opportunity Insights built to track the economic fallout from the coronavirus using data from credit card processors, payroll companies and other private sector sources. The federal government regularly reports economic data — such as the record 13.6 percent plunge in consumer spending in April — but they are released on a lag and aren’t detailed enough for granular analyses, according to the researchers.
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:
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